Gladiolus and its Meaning
Gladiolus, which are also at times called the sword Lilly, which comes from shape of the leaves of the beautiful flower, are a fantastic flower used for celebrations, cut flowers and places for show in the garden or yard.
The flower has become a symbol of several disparate things, including passion associated with infatuation, moral integrity, honor, faithfulness and strength.
This is why, as far as the symbolic related to passion, it is the flower of the 40th wedding anniversary.
It is also the birth flower for August, apparently because of its significance of being representative of remembrance, which most parents have concerning their children.
What is a Gladiolus?
Like some other flowers that many consider bulbs, technically gladiolas are not bulbs in a botanical sense, but are rather a flower grown from what are called corms.
What a corm is is a section of the stem located at the bottom of the plant which is short and thick. Gladiolas are propagated from corms by most gardeners, with new varieties being grown via seeds by those developing them.
You can of course grow gladiolus from seed, but the majority choose the corm route.
While most people almost always call the flower gladiolus, or glads, they plural spelling, among others, is primarily gladiolas, which is almost always pronounced the same, or very close to the same as its singular name.
Gladiolas is a perennial.
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Where to Plant Gladiolus
There are three things to consider when deciding on where to plant your gladiolus: how much sun the area gets, whether there is well-drained soil or not, and if you want them to be supported.
As for the sun, gladiolus love the sun, and placing them in an area with from six to eight hours usually works. An exception may be a very hot climate, so check your zone to adjust accordingly. Gladiolus will bloom even in the shade, but the flowers aren't as large or nice looking, and the stocks don't grow as strong as when they receive more sun.
Glads grown in the sun also seem to produce better corms for the next season because they store up more energy.
When considering soil conditions, the easiest and best soil type is one that drains well. If that isn't possible on your land, you can plant your gladiolus in raised beds.
Finally, as far as where to plant your glads, if you have a fence or a building that includes the prior better practices for where to plant them, then growing them there helps when they get to their full bloom stage and are tall. If you aren't able to do that, an unobtrusive trellis would be a good alternative.
When to Plant Gladiolus
The best time to plant gladiolus is in late spring once the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed.
For a longer blooming season, another thing some gardeners do is plant their gladiolus every couple of weeks or so. You can also choose glads with different maturity lengths to create a similar effect.
In that case you have to take a little more time to plan where you want to put certain corms, based upon how long each variety takes to bloom.
Another trick some people do is to plant corms of various sizes. While I've never done that, the smaller corms reportedly bloom later than larger corms, resulting in blooming at early and later parts of the season.
We'll look more at smaller corms in the next section.
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How to Plant Gladiolus
Now that you know the when and where of planting gladiolus, let's look at the how of planting gladiolus corms.
First let's look at corm size. While the strategy of planting small and large corms may work, when it comes to corm size, you do want to be aware that corms that are less than 3/4 of an inch in diameter may not be able to produce flowers. So keep that in mind when thinking about utilizing any corm that is very small.
Experienced gardeners look for corms about an 1 1/4 inch or more in diameter to produce the best flowers. The best corms are those that are plump and taper to a point, rather than those that are flat and wide.
Plant your corms with the pointed side facing upwards. Place them about four inches down, or about four times the diameter of the corms you're planting. The fatter the corm the deeper you should plant them.
Gladiolus corms should be spaced from about six inches to eight inches apart when planting them.
When you cover the corms with soil, tamp down on the ground to firm it up.
Planting & Growing Flower Bulbs : How to Plant Gladiolus
Planting Gladiolus for Cut Flowers
If you're planting gladiolus for the purpose of cut flowers, one thing you could do a little differently, and which would help you a lot later, would be to plant them in rows.
This way they're easier to get to, as well as stake or trellis.
When your gladiolus are blooming, it may be time to cut them.
You should only cut gladiolus in the early morning or later evening. They don't respond as well if cut in the heat of the day.
Look for spikes with at most three flowers open. One or two is optimal if you can find them. That works great because once they're placed in a vase or container, they open up in order, creating a wonderful effect.
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How and Where to Cut Gladiolus
As for where to cut, leave at minimum four leaves on the plant if you are going to use the corms again.
When cutting the stalk, make the cut a diagonal one, placing the plant immediately in lukewarm water.
After you gather all the glads you want, bring the container to a dark, cool place in order to harden off the blooms.
You can place a floral preservative in the water before you make your gladiolus arrangement.
When the flowers on the lower part of the cuttings begin to fade, at that point snip them off. With the stem, cut about an inch or so off on a daily basis at the base of the spike every several days.
Assuming you've planted your gladiolus in the right place, the major part of care after that is to ensure they receive adequate water. Whether by rainfall or by watering them, glads need at least an inch of water on a weekly basis to produce the best plants and blooms.
To help cut down on that job you can place about 4 inches of mulch around the plants to retain the moisture as well as minimize the number of weeds around the flowers.
As mulching can never totally keep soil free from weeds, it is helpful for gladiolus to get a good weeding off and on during the growing season.
Even though the roots of gladiolus are relatively tough and can take some disturbing, it will slow down the growth of the plant if they are broken off when cultivated.
So be careful and give the plant a little space when taking care of weeds closer to it. There you may want to do it by hand it is practical and you don't have an abundance of glads in your garden.
Do shallower cultivation the closer you get to the gladiolus stem.
Great Gardens: Maintaining Gladiolas
Gladiolus and Insects
The major insect threat to gladiolus is the thrip; an extremely small, black, winged bug.
What the thrip does is suck the juice from the glad, which ends up giving it a somewhat silvery, streaky appearance, which will eventually end up giving the plant a brown color.
Other symptoms of thrips are the flower spikes on the plant won't open, or there could be flowers coming out deformed.
The most efficient way to combat thrips is before you ever place your corms in the ground.
Thrip treatment should begin when you're about to store corms, not after they're planted in the ground.
Your first defense against the pesky creatures is in how cold your place of storage is. if you can store them at from between 35° and 40° F, the thrips should all die: problem solved.
But if you don't have that type of control over the storage temperature, there are alternatives.
Corms and Hot Water Treatment
Another quick and easy remedy for thrips is to place your corms in very hot water for about two minutes. Don't allow the water to boil, but to be at about 160°F. Dry the corms before you put them in storage if you choose to use this method.
Thrips and Disinfectants
Disinfectants can be an effective deterrent to thrips as well. In this case get a gallon of water and put 4 teaspoons of a disinfectant in the water. Soak the corms in the water for six hours. Again, dry before storing.
Carbaryl and Thrips
Finally, thrips can also be managed by dusting your corms with carbaryl. Place the dust in an enclosed bag, along with the corms, and just shake them. Only a couple of teaspoons of carbaryl for each 100 corms should do the trick.
Thrip Treatment in the Field
If you have trouble with gladiolus you've acquired, or possibly you didn't know about the thrip challenges, you can deal with them once they're discovered among your gladiolus flowers.
In this case use a deterrent which has acephate or carbaryl in it. Spray the plants once to see the results. Repeat again if necessary. Brand names for these, among others, are Sevin for carbaryl and Orthene for acephate.
Great Gardens: Keeping bugs off your Gladiolas
Gladiolus and Diseases
The best preventative defense against disease with gladiolus is also before you plant the corms.
All you do here is go through the corms and eliminate those that don't feel or look right. Soft corms shouldn't be planted and just tossed. Weird and odd shapes should be considered suspect as well.
Look for the more full-bodied, firm corms as your choices to plant. That goes a long way towards eliminating glad diseases.
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When caring for your corms, if you come across stunted or yellow plants, you must assume they've been hit with a virus infection. At that point I'm unaware of any measures that can be taken to preserve the plant. It's best to remove and destroy them.
Storing Gladiolus Corms
If you live in an area with dry, warmer winters, the best storage for gladiolus is the ground they're in. Check your zone and locality if you're not sure about it.
Assuming you can leave them in the ground, as the flowers begin to die off, remove the individual flowers until they're all gone. At that point cut back the flower stocks.
You can leave the foliage as it is in order to help the corm when the next season comes.
Mulch your plants with straw or hay for protection during the winter months.
For the rest of us, gladiolus corms must be removed from the ground and stored over the winter for replanting in the spring.
Gladiolus success is centered around corms, and corm success is centered around being stored in the correct manner.
Remember before you store them the tips concerning thrip prevention above.
The first step is to remove the stocks from the ground after a killing frost, along with the accompanying soil. Cut them about an inch above the corms and allow them to sit in a warm place until they dry out. A place which includes circulation works the best.
How to Store Gladiolus
Once the corms are dry, them look them over and remove and throw way the older corms on the bottom, while keeping the new, larger corms further up.
As a side, even though smaller corms aren't as effective for full plants, those you find attached to larger corms can be utilized by a patient gardener.
Called cormels, these little corms can be planted and replanted in a separate place over a couple of years, which at that time they should be ready to generate some significant blooms.
Even with these smaller ones, they should be at minimum about a half an inch in diameter when attached to the larger corms to end up producing well over time.
Almost any type of storage container with some ventilation will work great for corms, including pantyhose, cloth sacks, plastic mesh bags, or an open, lined box. Dry peat added to the box can help.
The most important thing is to be able to story them in a temperature range of 35 to 45 degree F while keeping them dry. Just don't allow them to freeze.
Planting Gladiolus from Seed
Usually when I write about how to grow flowers successfully, I include seed propagation at or near the beginning of the article. In the case of gladiolus, I deliberately left it near the end, because you do it with them a little differently.
Here I'm talking about seeding gladiolus for the purpose of growing corms, not growing plants. If you were to sow seed thinking a plant would sprout up, you would be disappointed.
Sowing Gladiolus Seed
Sow gladiolus seed in a flat container that includes drainage, which is about 8 inches to 10 inches deep. Fill it with peat moss, loam, and a healthy dose of sand. A combination of other materials which includes a similar effect would be okay as well.
Sow the seeds in the early part of spring, placing them about an inch apart from each other. Cover them with close to 1/4 inch of soil. Keep it moist and the seeds should start to sprout in about a month, maybe a little less.
Place the seed container outside in a location that gets some sun during the summer, and do nothing until they die off in the fall.
Then you simply repeat the storage process mentioned above, along with the planting instructions when it's time to sow them in the ground.
The way gladiolus enhances a garden makes it a great choice for gardeners around the world.
And while you don't have to do the storage part of it because you could treat it as an annual if you choose to acquire croms from the store every year, I think it's part of the enjoyment to gather up and story your own croms for the following year, as it's part of the satisfaction of gardening for serious gardeners.
But either way, the enormous variety and colors of gladiolus make it a no-brainer as to being an important part of anyone's landscaping strategy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, SEMO on March 08, 2012:
Really enjoyed this hub.
Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on March 08, 2012:
Voted up, interesting, beautiful and useful! You have given the vegetable and flower gardener in me more reasons to ache for an early spring. Glads are my wife's favorite flower and now I know why mine don't always grow as well as they should. Super article.
Trudy Cooper from Hampshire, UK on March 08, 2012:
Great in depth hub with very useful and detailed information which I will use for myself.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 07, 2012:
What a detailed and useful hub! It's a great reference for gardeners. My father loved to grow gladiolas in our garden when I was a child, and I loved all the different flower colors. We haven't had gladiolas in our garden for many years, but your hub has reminded me how beautiful they are. I'll plant some this spring.