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You are here: Articles > Gladiolus: Growing and Caring for Gladiolus

Gladiolus: Growing and Caring for Gladiolus

The Gladiolus is a very beautiful flower and they are very easy to grow! They are easily one of the most popular flowers for garden use and this article will cover how to successfully grow and care for the Gladiolus. The plants, ranging from 2 to 6 feet in height, have very sturdy sword shaped leaves and produce flower spikes with trumpet shaped florets borne in double rows.

Gladiolus in AustraliaA member of the Iris family, gladiolus have a great range of flower colour and shape. Flower shapes range from those with plain petals to those that are deeply ruffled and cut. The colours cover the spectrum and there are solid colours as well as bicolour types. Florets range in size from 1 inch in diameter up to a huge 8 inches in diameter!

Where to plant:

Gladiolus can grow on a wide variety of soils, though sandy loam is preferred. With any soil it is important that drainage is adequate. You can improve drainage by adding organic matter if puddles remain for more than 24 hours after the soil is saturated.

Compost / manure is an excellent soil additive, but it must be mixed into the soil very well so there is little or no contact with the Gladiolus. Contact with the manure could encourage rots in the plants. Organic matter can also help loosen up the soil, making it easier to work.

The preferred pH for Gladiolus is 6.0 to 6.5. Generally, any soil that produces good vegetable crops will produce good Gladiolus. To provide the best growing conditions, break up and till the soil about two weeks before you plant them.

Glads that are required to compete with larger plants for water, nutrients and sun may well have poor growth. Select a location that provides full sun to get strong stems with large, bright flowers. It is a good idea to stake the plants to protect them from strong winds and to maintain straight spikes and stems. Glads also need good air circulation while growing to reduce insect and disease problems.

Gladiolus grow from underground food storage structures called corms. Corms are solid masses of tissue, rather than being layered like true bulbs. Corms have growing points on their upper surface, and are actually compact stems.

Each year a new corm forms on top of the old one, which will shrink and die. The new corm forms soon after leaves emerge. One or more corms may be formed from an old corm. Cormels can also be formed. Cormels are the very small corms formed around the base of the corm. They often are used in propagation of a glad variety, and when planted will form small corms the following year.

How to plant:

When to plant your glads largely depends on exactly where you are. It is a good idea to consult your local nursery to find out the best time to plant them in your climate.

Before planting, treat your glad corms to help prevent disease problems later in the season. Either dust or dip in fungicide. Soak the corms, following label directions for concentration and timing.

Plant the gladiolus corms 10 to 12cm (4 - 5 inches) deep and in rows spaced apart at 38 to 60 cm (15 to 24inches). To plant corms, dig a trench or hole. Space each corm at least 10cm (4 inches) apart. For large, show-quality flowers, more space is needed. Two to four times the corm diameter is a good spacing rule.

Caring for your gladiolus:

During the winter glads require a minimum of care. It is important to control weeds while plants are growing. Frequent, shallow cultivation is required, since deep cultivation may damage roots. This cultivation will also keep the soil loose and help plant growth. Herbicides are available to control grasses in glads. Mulching will help control weeds and reduce moisture loss.

Make sure you provide enough water throughout the growing season. Lack of water may cause shorter spikes, smaller florets, and smaller corms for next season. Moisture availability is very important when flower spikes are beginning to form. At least one inch of water is needed each week for good growth, provided the water soaks in six to eight inches deep.


Several diseases may affect gladiolus stems, leaves and corms. Most of these disease problems can be controlled by selecting good planting sites and using clean corms. Be sure corms are properly cured before they are stored, and check them periodically during the storage period. Getting rid of infected corms will help keep other corms clean.

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