gladiolus

How to Grow and Care for Gladiolus Flower

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Interested in learning how to grow the gladiolus flower? This article will tell you everything you need to know.

Gladiolus flowers (Gladiolus) are the perfect addition to any garden. They come in many different colors, including red, pink, orange, and white. Although they are a type of flower that is more difficult to grow than other flowers, with these tips you can be well on your way to achieving success!    

Keep reading to learn more about why this flower might be right for you – and to uncover all the tips you need for gardening success. 

What is the Gladiolus Flower?

The gladiolus flower, named after the Latin word “gladius,” for sword, is a gorgeous perennial flowering plant. It belongs to the iris family and is sometimes referred to as the sword lily. 

Native to South Africa, Africa, the Meditteranean region, and Asia, gladiolus flowers are now grown just about all over the world. 

These flowers produce gorgeous corms enveloped in fibrous growth. The inflorescence can bear one or many different flowers with just about every single color represented. They can be pink, red, light purple, white, orange, and more. 

Growing Gladiolus

Gladiolus flowers are best grown from bulbs planted directly in the garden either in the fall or first thing in the spring. 

Perfect for raised beds and borders, gladiolus flowers can even be grown in containers if you choose short enough varieties.

Keep in mind that tall gladiolus varieties, though beautiful to look at, can be more vulnerable to wind damage. You’ll want to plant these in a more sheltered location. 

Gladiolus plants are generally hardy in zones 8 to 10 but this varies depending on the variety. In cooler growing zones, they can easily be grown, but you will need to dig them up in the fall if you do so.

After planting, it will typically take around 60 to 90 days for your plants to bloom, though this can vary depending on the soil conditions.

Feel free to cut gladiolus for cut flowers when one or two have opened. Be sure to leave five inches of growth on the plant so that it can make food to store in the bulb for the next year. 

How to Plant Gladiolus

When it comes to planting gladiolus, you need to select a location that receives full sunlight and has good drainage. Ideally, the sites should be somewhat protected from the wind. This will help guard the somewhat top-heavy stalks from being toppled over by an errant gust!

Prepare your planting bed by turning the soil under to a depth of around eight inches. Use a rake to level the area and to remove large stones and clumps of grass.

Although gladiolus flowers can be grown in just about any kind of soil, most plants will perform best in soil that has been amended well with lots of organic matter.

Compost is the perfect choice, as it offers lots of nutrients and an ideal pH. You can add it to your planting area at any time, including as a side dressing or topdressing once your gladiolus flowers have already been planted. 

It may be wise to conduct a soil test prior to planting, too, as this will tell you what amendments, if any, are needed.

planting gladiolus bulbs

Planting gladiolus bulbs is easy. Simply space them about six inches apart and then plant in holes that are roughly four inches deep. The pointed side of the bulb should be facing up.

After planting the bulbs, water thoroughly and apply a light layer of mulch (about one to two inches thick). This will help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture. 

Caring for Gladiolus

Here are some tips to help you provide the best possible care for your gorgeous backyard flowers.

Watering 

Although gladiolus flowers don’t need much water once they’re established, in the first year or so of active growth, it’s essential that you keep your gladiolus flowers well watered. 

About one inch of water per week is needed, which you’ll need to supplement during dry weather. You can use a rain gauge to help you determine whether you need to add more water 

Consider installing a drip or trickle irrigation system. This will help you deliver water at a low pressure at the soil level, which can help prevent diseases caused by wet foliage. 

If you must water with overhead sprinklers or with a hose, do so as early in the day as possible. That way, the plants will have time to dry off before nightfall. 

Keep the soil moist but not totally saturated. 

Weeding

Especially after you’ve just planted your gladiolus flower, it’s essential that you keep weeds under control.

They will compete with your flowers for nutrients, water, space, and oxygen – plus, they can harbor pests and diseases. Control them to the best of your ability, either by using a mulch to prevent germination or by cultivating often.

As we mentioned earlier, mulches will help keep weeds down while also conserving soil moisture. They can help maintain an even soil temperature, an essential feature in extremely hot or extremely cold weather. 

When you’re growing ornamental plants like gladiolus, the best mulch option will be one like shredded leaves, which will not only look nice but will also improve the quality of the soil as it breaks down. When you apply mulch, keep it a few inches away from the stem of your plant to avoid rot. 

Fertilizing

The best time to fertilize is just after new growth appears. You can use a light fertilizer but keep any granular fertilizer products away from the crown of the plant as well as the foliage. Getting these kinds of fertilizers on your plant can cause burn injuries.

Similarly, be cautious using slow-release fertilizers. While these can be effective for gladiolus flowers, using them at higher rates can lead to root rot. 

Pests and Diseases

There are a few pests and diseases to which gladiolus plants are prone.

The most common disease is bacterial leaf spot, which creates translucent spots with yellow edges that get larger and become angular over time. This disease spreads most actively in cooler temperatures, causing flowerheads to become disfigured. Proper watering can mitigate the impacts and incidences of this disease but you may find that you need to completely remove all infected plants.

Another disease to watch out for botrytis. A fungus, this pathogen causes grey mold to form on the leaves, buds, stems, and flowers of plants. Like bacterial leaf spot, it thrives in cool, wet weather. Proper watering and air circulation are essential for combatting this disease, too.

One final disease to be watchful for is aster yellows. Despite the name’s implication that this disease only affects asters, it can target all kinds of ornamental plants in the flower garden. It causes stunted growth or, ironically, excessive growth, along with deformed petals. 

Spread by the pest leafhoppers, this disease is best controlled by following guidelines for removing and preventing leafhoppers. Getting rid of weeds can also help, as these harbor all kinds of pests. 

Leafhoppers, as mentioned, spread all kinds of diseases to your flowers. They can also damage plants by injuring the leaves and stunting their growth. You can use insecticidal soaps on leafhoppers but again, removing weeds and other plant debris is the best line of defense.

Aphids are also problematic pests for gladiolus flowers. They can be black, red, green, or peach in color. These sucking insects feed on the undersides of leaves and deposit a sticky residue, honeydew, behind as they eat. This can attract ants. 

You can get rid of aphids by introducing natural predators to the garden, like predatory wasps and lady beetles. Alternatively, you can get rid of aphids by giving them a strong blast of water from the garden hose!

Other pests to watch out for include slugs, cabbage loopers, spider mites, and thrips.

Other Tips for Growing Gladiolus

Gladiolus flowers don’t need to be pruned but you can cut them back as needed to use them as cut flowers in a vase indoors.

However, in the fall, just before the first frost hits, you should cut back any foliage. Although it will die back on its own, you’ll need to dig up the bulls anyway – this can make it easier to access them. 

Remove any foliage still attached to the bulbs, allow them to dry, then store them at room temperature until the following spring. Then you can replant them!

Types of Gladiolus Flower

When it comes to growing gladiolus flowers, you won’t find any shortage of flowers to choose from! There are more than 250 different species you can select with the vast majority of them originating in sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia.

Some of the best gladiolus varieties are as follows.

Flora 

Gladiolus ‘Flora’ is by far one of the most breathtaking gladiolus varieties to be held. Thief lower produces deep purple blooms late into the summer, with plants growing up to five feet tall. It performs best in hardiness zones three through ten, preferring full sun to partial shade. 

Claudia 

‘Claudia’ is a red gladiolus variety that is perfect for use in edging. Only growing to about two feet tall, it is hardy in zones five through ten. 

Passos 

Want a plant that will really draw attention to your garden? If so, you might want to consider growing ‘Passos’ gladiolus plants. These flowers have purple blossoms with bright red centers. 

Growing up to four feet tall, the flowers can have edges that are pale violet. They bloom in late summer and are hardy in zones three through ten.

Impressive 

‘Impressive’ is hardy in zones five through ten and is incredibly unique. It has pale pink flower petals, each of which has a darker interior also shaped like a flower for an unusual mirror-like effect!

Yellowstone 

As you might be able to gather from the name alone, ‘Yellowstone’ is a variety of gladiolus that produces bright yellow blooms you’ll be able to witness starting as early as midsummer. These flowers bloom until the first frost, with the plants growing easily in zones two through ten. 

Abyssinian Sword Lily 

Though the name of this gladiolus variety is a bit of a mouthful, trust us when we say it’s one worth growing in your garden. It can grow up to three feet tall and has lovely white star-shaped flowers. The flower edges are a deep purple, with blooms appearing in the late summer. It is hardy in zones seven through ten.

Alaska 

‘Alaska’ is the perfect white gladiolus variety. It blooms for about two weeks at a time with each individual plant growing to about four feet tall. Each spike can produce a whopping 12 blooms! It grows best in zones 8 through 11 and can attract all kinds of pollinators, including butterflies, to your garden. 

Growing gladiolus flowers is a rewarding project for the gardening enthusiast. They are easy to grow and require little effort, but can produce beautiful blooms in a variety of colors if you have patience and time. 

If growing your own plants sounds like an appealing idea and you’re up to the challenge (don’t worry – it’s minimal!), consider planting some gladiolas this year!

Up next: Gladiolus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

References

References:

Iowa State University: The Planting and Care of Gladioli

University of Missouri Extension: Summer Flowering Bulbs – Gladiolus 

North Carolina State University Extension: Gladiolus

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*image by mulevich&orestligetka.ukr.net/depositphotos

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