Flowers often have long multisyllabic names that are hard to remember. The Gladiolus (gladius, Latin diminutive for “a sword”) flower tends to be one of those that twists tongues and challenges our memory banks.
Fortunately, a fun way to remember the name of these classy swords is the phrase it most sounds like, “Glad-to-know-you’s.” But to pronounce Gladiolus correctly, string these syllables together, “Glady” “Oh” “luss.” The plural form is pronounced, “Glady” “Oh” “less” “is.”
The Gladiolus is a plant that grows from an onion shaped bulb planted in the Fall. The body of the plant looks similar to an Iris, with long flat leaves that fan outward and one or two flower stalks. The Iris produces a single flower or two on its flower stalk, whereas the Gladiolus produces a tall flower stalk with a row of vertical flowers.
It is rare to see a Gladiolus flower stalk with all of its buds blooming at the same time. It is far more common to see the blooms start from the bottom of the stalk and bloom upwards as the bottom flowers die.
As impressive as these plants are, they are picky about their environment, so the gardener should be forewarned that they may need to move this plant around until the best spot is found.
- They grow best in full sun, the more sun and hotter it gets, the better.
- The dirt should be black garden soil with a mix of humus.
- The bulbs should be planted in the Fall, but the plant and bulb can be moved in the Spring, if need-be.
- Ignore package instructions regarding spacing of these plants. They usually give 6 inches of spacing, which is far too much. This is a plant that does best, and looks best when there are many of them close together. Plus, when they are planted close together, you’ll have a longer blooming season and the plants will support each other.
- Plant shallowly. 2 inches below the soil and mulch is more than enough.
- Put up cages/hoops to support and train the flower stalks and leaves upward. They love to lean towards the sun and even the best of the sturdier varieties need a little help. If a flower stalk tips over, it is not simply bent, it is broken and will not bloom as well, so put it in a vase.
- In Northern Virginia, these are perennials that don’t require special overwintering efforts.
Gladiolus’ come in a rainbow of colors and types of blossoms (single/double), which makes it easy for the gardener to coordinate with other plants and color themes in their garden. Plus, since the different Gladiolus’ tend to bloom at different times during the summer, the gardener can easily have two months of flowers.