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Gladiolus is also commonly referred to by the name of its genus – Gladiolus, the plural form of which can be Gladiole, Gladioluses or Gladioli. Gladiolus is also known as the Sword Lily, due to its sword shaped leaves, or Corn Lily.

gladiolus The genus Gladiolus comprises 260 species, 250 of which are native to sub-Saharan Africa, mostly South Africa. About 10 species are native to Eurasia. The impressive flower spikes of Gladioli come in a wide array of beautiful colors.


The Gladiolus flower signifies remembrance. It also expresses infatuation, telling the receiver that he or she pierces the heart. It also stands for strength of character, faithfulness and honor.

Some Interesting Facts About Gladiolus Flowers

  • An ancient name for the gladiolus was xiphium, from the Greek word xiphos, also meaning sword.
  • The Gladiolus flower is the birth flower for August.
  • Gladiolus represented the Roman Gladiators, before the African Gladioli became popular in the West.
  • African Gladioli were imported in large quantities to Europe from South Africa during the 18th century.
  • Most of the more than 10,000 named Gladioli cultivars probably were derived from just seven species native to South Africa and first brought to European gardens in the late 17th century.
  • The Mediterranean and British Gladiolus flowers were used to treat physical ailments.
  • Some parts of the Gladiolus plant are poisonous if ingested and handling some species may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
  • The English used the gladiolus flower’s stem base (corms) as a poultice and for drawing out thorns and splinters; powdered corms mixed with goat’s milk were commonly used to soothe the symptoms of colic.
  • Scab, Fusarium Rot and Yellows, Penicillium Storage Rot, Leaf Spots and Blights, Stromatinia Corm Dry Rot, Virus and Phytoplasma Disease are the Common Gladioli diseases.

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About Gladiolus Flowers and Plants

Gladiolus bulbs are not true bulbs. Gladiolus bulbs, in botanical terminology, are referred to as corms. A corm is a shortened and thickened section of the stem that appears at the base of the plant. On the corm are buds for each layer of leaves. Except for production of new varieties, Gladioli are not cultivated from seed.

Gladiolus plants are attractive, perennial herbs and semi hardy in temperate climates. They grow from rounded, symmetrical corms that are enveloped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.

The fragrant Gladiolus flower spikes are large and one-sided, with secund, bisexual flowers.

Each Gladiolus flower is subtended by 2 leathery, green bracts. The sepals and the petals are almost identical in appearance, and are termed tepals. They are united at their base into a tube-shaped structure. The dorsal tepal is the largest, arching over the three stamens.

The outer three tepals of the Gladiolus are narrower. The Gladiolus perianth is funnel-shaped, with the stamens attached to its base. The Gladiolus style has three filiform, spoon-shaped branches, each expanding towards the apex.

The gladioli thrip, a very tiny, black, winged insect, is a real threat to Gladioli flowers and plants. It sucks the juice from the plant, leaving a silvery appearance, eventually causing the plant to turn brown. Gladioli thrips also cause deformed flowers and prevent flower spikes from opening.

Growing/Planting Gladiolus

Gladiolus can be propagated by dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets).

  • Plant Gladiolus as early in the spring as the soil is fit to work.
  • Gladiolus corms can readily be purchased at your local garden center or nursery, though they can easily be grown from seeds.
  • Sow the seeds in early spring, in a well-drained flat 8 to 10 inches deep, that is filled with two thirds loam and one third leaf mold or peat moss, with a good amount of sand added.
  • Plant the seeds an inch apart and cover with about 1/4-inch of soil. If the soil is kept fairly moist, the seeds should sprout in a few weeks.
  • Set the container of seedlings outside in a fairly sunny location during the summer months and don’t disturb until the leaves have died down in fall.
  • At this time, take out the small corms, store for the winter, and plant in a border about 3 inches apart in March.
  • The blooming season can be stretched by making succession plantings, by planting bulbs of several sizes, and by using varieties which take different lengths of time to mature.

Gladioli Plant Care

  • Apply a 2 to 4-inch layer of mulch around the gladiolus to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
  • Remove individual flowers as they fade, and cut back flower stalks once all flowers have gone by.
  • Leave foliage intact to mature and rejuvenate the corm for next year.
  • Mulch beds with a layer of hay or straw for winter protection.
  • Remove excess soil, cut the stalks to within an inch of the corms and let them cure for 1 to 2 weeks in a warm, airy location.
  • Then remove and discard the oldest bottom corms and store the large, new corms in plastic mesh bags in a well-ventilated, 35 to 45 degree F room. Replant in spring.

Gladiolus Bulb Care

Gladiole suffer when forced to compete with weeds.

  • Remove the weeds.
  • The new corm and the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season.
  • Deep cultivation when near the roots breaks off the new roots and slows up growth.
  • Thrips cause deformed flowers and prevent flower spikes from opening at all.
  • Thrips on bulbs should be killed before planting. In the garden, start dusting or spraying with Fungicide when leaves are six inches tall.
  • Water is essential for growing Gladiolus successfully.
  • Rain seldom supplies enough moisture, but start watering when there are five leaves on the plants.

Storing the Bulbs

  • Leave 1 inch of the stem and cut.
  • Store Gladiolus at about 70 degrees for a month to dry the corms.
  • Divide the bulbs, clean the debris.
  • Let them be at 70 degrees for a week.
  • Then store at 50 degrees.(Do not wash the bulbs with water)
  • Store them in a box or tub lined with peat

Want to learn more about growing gladioli and other flowers? It is always a good idea to invest in a good book on Gardening


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