I may be a granny but this blog is science based garden information with a lot of gardening experience thrown in. There's a bit of reminiscing, ranting, story telling and wishful thinking thrown in too. Have fun reading and don't be afraid to comment.
Growing gladiolus in the garden
Gladiolus are the birth flower of August. Fifty years ago most gardeners grew glads
because they were excellent cut flowers and provided color in the summer
garden. Every farmers market had people
selling large bouquets of colorful glads. I remember walking the aisles of the farmers
market in Pontiac and buying large bunches of glads to take home to arrange. Glads are still grown in mass quantities for
the floral trade and used in professional arrangements but the average gardener
has all but forgotten the gladiolus and that’s a shame.
Glads have the reputation of being a formal flower, and as
such don’t seem to fit into the relaxed, more naturalistic gardens of
today. But there are many varieties of
glads and one doesn’t have to be a wizard to weave some of them into today’s
gardens with charming results. With a
huge range of colors and flower styles, glads offer everyone some of the most
gorgeous flowers around for the summer garden.
Varieties of gladiolus
There are hundreds of varieties of glads. Choose those whose color interests you or
whose size or hardiness are right for you.
That said, here are some glad varieties that might interest you. “Black
Beauty” is a dark, red-black glad that pairs well with “Sophie” a pure white glad. “Nori”
is close to true blue with a white center.
“Yellowstone” is pure clear
yellow. “Princess Margaret Rose” is yellow with rose edges, “Coral
Lace” is coral pink with ruffled edges,
“Green Star” is lime green, “Jester” is
yellow with a red throat, “Vista” is
shades of lavender and white.
Heritage varieties of glads allow you to grow something
beautiful and keep a variety alive and thriving. “Firedance”
is small flowered but is a lovely peach with orange shading. “Starface”
is orange and yellow with a red star marking on the lower petals. “Lucky Star” is a rare fragrant glad that
is white with shadings of red and yellow in the throat. “Lilac
and Chartreuse” is those colors delightfully combined. “Atom”
is a small flowered red glad with each petal outlined in silver. “Boone”
is a cheerful small flowered yellow flushed with red. The older smaller flowered glads are easy to
blend into perennial beds.
Hardy forms of glads are sometimes called nanus
gladiolus. They are generally white with
colored throats and are small flowered. “Charming Beauty” is a soft pink nanus
glad. Acidanthera are a close relative
of gladiolus with narrower leaves. The
flowers are similar to nanus glads, generally white or pastel pink with darker
throats, although other colors exist, and they are fragrant.
Glads are usually sold as corms, which are a bulb like
structure covered with a papery brown husk.
The color of the glad flower sometimes appears as a faint tint on the
inner, firm area of the corm color but you can’t rely on corm color to tell you
the flower color. At best it can give you a hint of which glad is which if you
mix up your varieties.
Corms are sold in the spring for spring and summer
planting. The size varies a bit between
varieties, with the corms of miniature and small flowered glads being smaller
on average than other glads. Glad corms
are graded by size and generally top size corms are 1¼ inch or larger
across. Smaller corms will produce
flower spikes that are a bit smaller but can be economical. Cormels are baby corms that are often
attached to the mother corm when you dig them in the fall. These tiny corms can sometimes be purchased
very cheaply but they may not bloom the first year they are planted.
You can buy corms in packages in stores but these have often
been subjected to warm storage conditions that promote early sprouting, rotting
and mold. You can purchase a wider range
of glads that have generally been handled and stored in better conditions from
catalogs or on line. When choosing
packaged glads look for firm, plump, non-moldy corms with no sprout or only a
tiny sprout showing. Avoid soft,
shriveled, moldy corms and those which have long yellowish sprouts.
If you are the economical person who intends to save your
glad bulbs each year you should know that the original corm will lose vigor and
may not bloom well after the third season.
That’s fine because each year when you dig your glad corms for storage
you should find new cormels on the bottom of the parent corm. These will have the exact type of flower as
the parent corm. Save these and plant
them and your glad varieties should last a long time.
Gladiolus have long narrow, sword like leaves. The size of the plants can vary from about 12
inches high to about 3 foot with the flower spikes making them even higher. One flower spike is usually produced from
each corm. The flowers all face one
direction on the spike and begin opening from the bottom and progress upward.
Glad flowers are from an inch across to sometimes 3 or more inches across. They come in every color from white to the
darkest red-black and every mixture of color.
There are some glads with frilly, ruffled petal edges and some with
doubled petals. Depending on the variety
glads bloom from 65-100 days after the corm is planted with good growing conditions.
Plant your corms in a sunny spot, glads prefer sandy or
sandy loam soils but will do all right in heavier soils that are well
drained. Plant corms about 3 inches
deep with the scar or flat side of the corn down. Glads should not be planted outside until all
danger of frost has passed. If you are
in a short season area or want early blooms you can start them inside in pots a
month before the last expected frost. You
may want to plant several batches of glads two weeks apart to prolong the blooming
Most people who want glads for cutting plant them in rows
about 4-6 inches apart in the garden. If
you are blending them into a perennial border plant them in groups of 3-5 bulbs
and make sure they won’t be covered by expanding foliage of other plants as
they grow. In windy areas you may find
the taller glads will need staking or the support of a fence.
Mix a good slow release fertilizer into the soil as you
plant the glad corms. Glads require good
consistent watering to flower well. If
it doesn’t rain they need an inch of water or more, depending on soil drainage
per week. Mulching plants after they are 2-3 inches tall is a good idea. If you don’t cut the flower spike for a
bouquet cut it off after it finishes blooming.
Allow the leaves to yellow and die naturally before digging the corms or
removing the foliage.
Glads do produce seed if you leave the faded blooms. You can save the seed and plant it in the
spring. It will take at least 2 years to
get a bloom from the seed grown glad.
Storing corms over winter
Most varieties of glads are not hardy above zone 7 although
there are some varieties that are hardy to at least zone 6. That means that if you want to save the glad
corms you’ll need to dig them before the ground freezes and store them inside. (But you don’t have to take this step if it’s
too much trouble, glad corms are inexpensive and you can buy more the next
year.) If you are in zones 7 or higher
simply mulch the ground over the corms with 5-6 inches of mulch before winter. Most glads will survive the winter and return
to bloom again this way. Treat the glads
sold as semi-hardy for those in zone 5-6 the same way.
For those in zone 6 and lower dig the bulbs after the leaves
have yellowed or before a hard freeze.
Cut the tops off to about an inch above the corm. Let the soil dry and brush it off the
corms. Remove any old shriveled looking
corms and keep the plump new ones. Store
the dry clean bulbs in net bags or paper bags, not plastic. You can also store them in containers of dry
wood shavings. The crisper of the refrigerator
will do fine for storage, otherwise find a cool place to keep them between
35-45 degrees F.