(Species: Gladiolus - Family: Iridaceae)
Gladiolus and its origins
Originating in sub-Saharan Africa, gladiolus is a bulbous perennial and part of the Iris family. They are now native in the Mediterranean region, Asia and many parts of Africa including South Africa.
Its name is taken from the Latin word for “sword” and they are sometimes referred to as the Sword Lily thanks to their sword-shape or linear leaves. Although they date back to ancient times, they did not start to appear in Europe until the late 17th century.
In the language of flowers, Gladioli can symbolise ‘when lightening strikes’
Seasonality: Gladiolus in flower
Flowering from July to October, Gladiolus plant spikes are tall and colourful, holding blooms of funnel-shaped flowers. The spikes are large and one-sided.
Commonly grown to produce cut flowers thanks to their showy, vibrant appearance and delicate fragrance, they can also add life to a garden.
Gladioli come in a wide variety of colours pinks, red, purples and whites, some species feature contrasting markings to distinguish them.
Each stem can vary from producing one to several flowers in any bloom and they can commonly reach 75-120cm in height.
How to Plant: Gladiolus
Gladiolus is planted in early spring, just as soon as the soil is ready to work after winter. They can be planted anytime from March until June and should be placed in an area of direct sunlight.
Gladioli are semi-hardy plants and thrive in a soil that is well drained but still retains enough moisture. The soil should be well fertilised and prepared in advance, before planting, if necessary. Plant 10-16cm below ground and add sand to the soil to improve drainage, if required.
Flowering will take place three months after germination, during which time the soil should be kept moist, watering regularly. Another option to retain moisture, is to apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch, this will also help to control weeds.
If you cut the flowers, ensure that 10cm of the stem and the leaves below remain attached to the corm, to help it rejuvenate for the following year.
Propagation of Gladiolus
Gladiolus propagates by division. After the flower has bloomed and the remainder has been given a chance to die back, the corm can be removed, divided and replanted.