Gladiolus, a flower to rediscover


Gladiolus is among the most beautiful bulb flowers of all.

Key Gladiolus facts

Type – bulb plant

Height – 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 cm)

Exposure: full sun  –  Soil: ordinary  –  Flowering: summer → fall

Planting and caring for gladiolus from spring to winter means to perform several small steps along its life cycle that will increase its blooming. In summer, we admire the magnificent flowers, and in winter we care for the roots and keep them from freezing…

Planting gladiolus

Gladiolus is planted in spring and until the beginning of summer to a depth of 4 inches (10 cm) with a spacing of about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) between bulbs.

Planting and care for gladiolusFor beautiful blooming, choose a mostly sunny spot and rather light soil.

If you plant your gladiolus in spots that have different levels of shade, the blooming will be in stages. Those with the heaviest shade will bloom last.

Well drained soil is a mandatory criteria when planting gladiolus.

Caring for gladiolus

How to cut a gladiolus flowerThis flower bulb prefers warm places, or else it won’t bloom.

  • Choose a space in full sun.
  • Water only in case of prolonged dry spells or heat waves.
  • Remove wilted flowers regularly (deadheading).

Its flowers are particularly alluring, which makes it the star of cut flower bouquets.

Gladiolus are also very beautiful flower bed or edge plants when grouped in small clusters.

You can also grow them in rows, to produce cut flowers destined to adorn bouquets.

How to cut a gladiolus flower

Gladiolus bouquetTo use gladiolus in bouquets, you can cut the flower-bearing stems, but you must leave some of the green leaves on the stem to keep nourishing the bulb.

If the stem is cut too low, the gladiolus might not flower again in the following year.

  • During the cutting, since you’re already busy with the plant, add fertilizer so that the bulb may thicken and increase the following year’s blooming.
  • Wait for the leaves to be completely wilted before cutting them off or pulling out the bulbs.

Enhance the blooming of gladiolus

Regular watering and adding flower fertilizer will induce spectacular and abundant flowering.

  • Best add fertilizer in spring.
  • Prefer bulb flower fertilizer.
  • In summer, during heat waves or prolonged dry spells, water in the evening without wetting the leaves.
  • Remove each flower when it has wilted in order to boost flower-bearing.

Gladiolus bulbs in winter

Gladiolus bulbs in winterWhen gladiolus leaves have turned yellow but no earlier than that, cut the leaves to a stub. Indeed, the yellowing of leaves shows the transfer of nutrients from leaf to bulb, preparing stocks for the following blooming season.

In fall, pull out the bulbs, clean them and dry them with a brush, store them in a cool, dark spot over the winter, ready for replanting in the following spring.

If your climate permits and that the weather stays mild, you can leave them in the ground all winter long. But only do this if it doesn’t freeze in your area.

Propagating Gladiolus

Gladiolus will produce offshoots called bulblets. These are tiny bulbs that appear to the side of the mother bulb. Offshoots are genetically identical to the mother plant.

Gladiolus propagationTypically, you would let them grow into larger bulbs right where they are. This leads to a dense, lusher cluster of gladiolus flowers. In time, you won’t even need to stake the flowers since they’ll hold each other up.

However, there comes a point where there are too many bulbs. They compete for nutrients and water. Also, you might want to plant some bulbs elsewhere or give a few away to friends and neighbors.

To do that, when you pull the bulbs out for winter, simply break the clumps of bulbs into single bulbs.

Another way to propagate gladiolus is through seeds. These appear in fall if you don’t cut flowers off. Each seed will be a mix of two parents, so you might not have the same traits as the mother flower. This is due to cross-pollination.

Smart tip about gladiolus

When preparing a bouquet, remove the top buds at the tip of the stalk because they won’t open and bloom.

Landscape with a field of gladiolus

Images: 123RF: Katerina Nikolaevna, Tatiana Gerich, CC BY 2.0: Barbara Eckstein, Anita Ritenour; own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois; Pixabay: Светлана Гурьева