Gladiolus, (genus Gladiolus), also called gladiola, plural gladioli, gladiolus, or gladioluses, genus of about 300 species of flowering plants of the iris family (Iridaceae), native to Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean area. Several species are widely cultivated for cut flowers and as garden ornamentals.
The flowering spike, which springs from a bulblike structure, the corm, can reach 60–90 cm (2–3 feet) in height. It bears numerous funnel-shaped flowers all clustered on one side of the stem, each with six petal-like floral parts. The leaves are sparse and swordlike.
Popular Gladiolus Varieties
You can purchase varieties individually or in mixes. Some popular varieties and mixes include:
- ‘Jester’ with yellow ruffled petals and a deep red center.
- ‘Black Beauty’, with large, deep maroon colored flowers.
- ‘White Prosperity’, with snow white blossoms.
- ‘Pastel Mix’, with pink, white, yellow and peach colored flowers
- ‘Parrot Mix’, with contrasting petals and throats of various colors.
Unusual Gladiolus Varieties
For something a little different, look for the more unusual gladiolus types on the market. The ‘Peacock Orchid’ gladiolus features orchid-like white flowers with a deep red throat. They only grow to be 2 feet tall and have a pleasant fragrance.
The Nanus group of gladiolus only grow 2 to 3 feet tall and are surprising hardy winter to zone 5. They can be left in the ground, or dug up and stored like hybrid types. Nanus gladiolus are also known as ‘Butterfly gladiolus’ for their butterfly-like petals. Hybrids of this species have a broad range of colors but aren’t as hardy as the true species.
In mild winter areas, such as southern California and parts of Arizona, there are also winter-blooming gladiolus varieties. These varieties are not as readily available as the hybrid gladiolus but will add color during a normally quiet time of the year in the flower garden.
How To Plant Gladiolus
Light: Gladiolus grow and flower best in full sun. Gladiolus corms will flower in part shade, but the colors will not be as vivid as when planted in full sun, and the plant won’t grow quite as well.
Soil: Gladiolus like well-drained, sandy loam soil. The corms will rot if the soil is too heavy and wet. If you have clay soil, grow in raised beds and loosen the soil to 12 inches deep before planting.
Spacing: Space gladiolus corms 6 to 10 inches apart in the garden and plant corms 2 to 6 inches deep depending upon the size of the corm (plant bigger corms deeper).
Planting: Plant gladiolus corms in spring 2 weeks before your last expected frost date. To enjoy flowers all summer, plant your Glads every 2 weeks until early July. This will stagger the plantings and flowering times. You can also extend the flower season by growing early, mid and late-season Gladiolus varieties.