Photo by: Shannon Marie Ferguson / Shutterstock.

Gladiolus flowers are a gold standard in the florist trade, but they are also easy and economical to grow at home. Avid glad fans often fill entire rows or garden beds with them for use in bouquets, and others choose to keep them with other perennial flowers in the garden—where hummingbirds really love them!

On this page: Basics | Types | Planting | Care | Pictures | Cut & Display Glads | How & Where to Buy Glad Corms

On this page:

BASICS

Botanical name:

Gladiolus xhortulanus

Common names:

Common gladiolus, garden glad, and sword lily (because of the long, pointed leaves)

Zones:

Perennial in zones 8-10. Can be grown as annuals in zones 2-7. Some G. nanus types are hardy to zone 4 or 5.

Plant type:

Although often labeled as “summer bulbs,” gladioli are herbaceous perennials that grow from bulb-like corms covered with a fibrous papery skin.

Exposure:

Full sun

Height:

1 to 5 feet

Bloom time:

From early summer until frost, depending on the cultivar and when the corms are planted.

Flower characteristics:

Glads come in nearly any color and shade (except for true blue) in both solid and multicolored forms. Depending on the cultivar, the petals may be frilly, ruffled, semi-ruffled or plain, and the size can range from miniature (under 2 ½ inches in diameter) to gigantic (over 5 inches). The flowers are typically arranged on only one side of the stem and open in succession from the bottom up, with the largest flower at the base.

TYPES OF GLADIOLUS

You’ll find countless cultivars of glads in local garden centers and catalogs, all derived from various combinations of more than 250 species, most of which are native to southern and central Africa and Eurasia.

The three main glad groups are:

  • Grandiflora: The largest group of garden cultivars. These hybrids are the showiest of the bunch, with blooms up to 6 inches wide and the most extensive range of colors.
  • Nanus: Another group commonly grown in the garden. Miniature hybrids that tend to be more cold-tolerant than their taller cousins.
  • Primulinus: Have daintier hooded flowers and very narrow leaves.

PLANTING GLADIOLUS

Gladiolus corms ready for planting. Photo by: Longfield Gardens.

When to plant:

Start planting glad corms as early as a month before the average last frost date in your area. Depending on the cultivar, gladiolus take an average of 90 days after planting before they flower. Stretch the blooming season by succession planting corms at two-week intervals through early July and by mixing varieties that mature at different times. Make your last planting about 12 weeks before the first frost date.

Where to plant:

Plant glads in flower beds and borders, vegetable gardens, cut flower gardens, and even containers. All they need is a sunny location that is protected from wind to avoid damage to the tall flower stalks. Use them to fill spaces and add vertical interest in an established flower garden, as they will bloom in late summer when many other flowers fade.

Planting depth and spacing:

Gladiolus corms can vary in size, depending on the type. For best results, follow the recommendations given on the package. Always plant corms with the flatter side facing downward, and the pointed end facing up.

Soil:

Glads aren’t fussy and will thrive in many different soil types, but well-drained soil is a must. Before planting, work the soil several inches deeper than the planting depth of the corm and amend it with organic matter if necessary.

For more on planting and storing bulbs:

Bulbs 101

GLADIOLUS CARE

Staking:

Glads that grow 3 to 4 feet or taller will probably need to be staked or caged to prevent the stalks from bending and breaking. Set the stakes in the ground at planting time to avoid damage to the corms.

Watering:

After planting, water glads thoroughly and then keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. During dry weather, soak the ground thoroughly to supply the equivalent of an inch of rainfall per week. To help conserve moisture and control weeds, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around your plants. (See How to Mulch and Avoid Mistakes.)

Pest problems:

The biggest threat to gladioli are thrips, tiny flying insects that feed on the foliage and flower buds. Thrips are hard to spot without a magnifying glass, so watch your glads for signs of thrip damage, which includes silvery streaks and small white patches on the leaves and buds that fail to open.

Winter care & storage:

After a glad blooms, the original corm begins to wither away and a new one forms for the next year’s growth. In areas where gladiolus aren’t hardy, you can overwinter the newly formed corms until the following spring by digging them up in fall once the foliage has been killed by frost. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Cut the flower stalks off just above each corm, brush or wash off the soil, and then allow the corms to dry in a well-ventilated area for a couple weeks.
  2. Separate the new corms from the old ones, layer them in a cardboard box with newspaper in between, and store them in a dark, dry, cool area (ideally 35 and 45 degrees F).
  3. Some corms also produce cormels—smaller plantlets that can be separated from the parent and grown into new plants. However, cormels often won’t produce blooms for several years and are best discarded.
  4. If you have a variety of glads, label the corms by color or cultivar before storing.
  5. Check your corms periodically to make sure they are in good condition. If they have started to sprout new growth, move them to a cooler spot. If you notice signs of rot, the packing material may be too moist.
  6. If you don't want to fuss with digging up and storing the corms each year, simply treat them as annuals and buy new ones every spring.

GLADIOLUS PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: grjo02022 © Visions BV, Netherlands / Johan Groot.

Gladiolus ‘Black Beauty’

Why we love it: Nearly black blooms with deep burgundy highlights are as plush as velvet. Especially dramatic when paired in the garden or a vase with a pure white glad, such as ‘White Prosperity.’

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 70 to 100

Also try: ‘Espresso’ and ‘Black Jack’, which also have luxuriant burgundy-red flowers.

Photo by: Longfield Gardens.

Gladiolus ‘Green Star’

Why we love it: In the mixed flower garden and in floral arrangements, this striking glad with ruffled blooms the color of lime sherbet is a refreshing complement to fuchsia, dark purple, orange, and other bold flower colors.

Height: 3 to 4 feet tall

Days until bloom: 70 to 75

Also try: ‘Kiev,’ a showy chartreuse-green glad with pink highlights and impressive 4-inch-diameter blooms.

Photo by: visi04474 © Visions BV, Netherlands / VisionsPictures & Photography.

Gladiolus ‘Peter Pears’

Why we love it: Velvety blooms the color of peach sorbet open to reveal bright strawberry-red centers. Its tall upright spikes and strappy foliage also add a strong vertical element to the garden.

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 60 to 100

Also try: ‘Boone’, a hardy zone 5 glad with apricot flowers and yellow throats marked with red.

Photo by: Shannon Marie Ferguson / Shutterstock.

Gladiolus ‘Priscilla’

Why we love it: Lovely, ladylike, and utterly enchanting, with frilly white flowers and light yellow centers, all fringed in hot pink.

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 70 to 75

Also try: ‘Charming Beauty’, a miniature glad with bubble-gum pink florets and bright pink accents.

Photo by: Roger Cope / Alamy Stock Photo.

Gladiolus ‘Princess Margaret Rose’

Why we love it: Towering spikes of yellow-orange blooms edged in red heat up the summer garden with all the tropical colors of a Tequila Sunrise.

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 60 to 100

Also try: 'Jester', with ruffled apricot-yellow petals and bright orange-red throats.

Photo by: Del Boy / Shutterstock.

Gladiolus nanus ‘Prins Claus’

Why we love it: This hardy miniature glad puts on a dramatic display year after year, first showing off its pure white petals then opening to reveal bright splotches of fuchsia. As a bonus, the corms of this zone 4 perennial can overwinter in the ground.

Height: 24 to 30 inches tall

Bloom time: May through July

Also try: 'Elvira’, another cold-hardy glad with pale salmon-pink blooms accented by smudges of deep pink.

Photo by: JRJfin / Shutterstock.

Gladiolus ‘White Prosperity’

Why we love it: Pristine snow-white flowers and ruffled petals up to 4 inches across make this glad one of the most versatile in the garden or vase. Each statuesque spike bears 18 to 20 flowers.

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 70 to 75

Also try: ‘Albus’, a diminutive pure-white nanus glad under 2 feet tall.

Photo by: visi08411 © Visions BV, Netherlands / VisionsPictures & Photography.

Gladiolus ‘Wine and Roses’

Why we love it: Even more romantic than red roses, a poetic composition of soft, ruffled pink blooms embellished with wine-red hearts framed by a halo of white. Also matures early, revealing its loveliness just a couple of months after planting.

Height: 4 to 5 feet tall

Days until bloom: 65 to 70

Also try: ‘Mon Amour’, another dreamy tricolored glad in softer tones of pink, pale yellow, and ivory.

HOW TO CUT & DISPLAY GLADIOLUS FLOWERS

  • Generally, glads will remain attractive for at least a week in a vase; but for the greatest longevity, cut the stems when only a few flowers are open at the bottom of the flower spike. The rest of the florets will open gradually over the next few days. Pull off the bottom florets when they fade.
  • Cut the flower stalks in the early morning or late evening—when temperatures are coolest and the stems are well hydrated. If you plan to store and replant your corms, leave as many leaves as possible on the plant to help nourish the corm for the following spring.
  • Although glads look stunning arranged in a tall vase, you can also cut the blooms from the stems and arrange them in a shallow vase or bowl for an attractive, low-profile centerpiece.

HOW & WHERE TO BUY GLADIOLUS CORMS

  • You can purchase glad corms individually, but it’s often more convenient to buy a color-coordinated mix that will look harmonious in a vase or the garden with little effort. Many bulb suppliers offer an array of popular color schemes, such as pastels, bright summer blends, rainbow mixes, and more.
  • Look for corms that are at least an inch in diameter and ones that are relatively tall and plump rather than wide and flat. Larger corms will produce larger, more robust blooms.

Online resources include:

RELATED:
Summer Bulbs
How to Grow and Care for Crocosmia
Cottage Garden Design Ideas

JOIN 95,000 GARDEN LOVERSSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Get plant information, gardening solutions, design inspiration and more in our weekly newsletter.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Shop Garden Products

From tools to furniture, these garden products are sure to delight

Discover unique garden products curated by the Garden Design editors, plus items you can use to solve problems in your garden right now, and best sellers from around the web.

Shop Garden Design!