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Gladiolus: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gladiolus Flowers | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Grow Gladioli: The Complete Gladiolus Flower Guide

Beautiful multicolor gladiolus flowers in vase.
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Tienuskin/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Gladiolus spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Hardiness Zone
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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Gladioli

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The gladiolus is a classic perennial known for its tall flower spikes and large, colorful blooms! A great cutting flower, the gladiolus looks spectacular in summer bouquets. Come autumn, glads need to be lifted in zones 7 and colder. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for gladiolus in all seasons.

About Gladiolus

Part of the iris family (Iridaceae) and commonly known as “glads,” these lovely flowering plants are available in a multitude of colors and sizes—from the smaller hybrids that fit perfectly in containers to the large-flowered Grandiflora hybrids, which send out huge spikes of blooms in a range of colors. 

The most common gladioli typically reach between 2 and 5 feet in height, sporting flowers ranging in size—from “miniature” blooms less than 3 inches in diameter to “giant” flowers greater than 5 inches across! The taller varieties, which need to be staked, are often placed in the back of a garden to complement shorter plants nicely.

Gladiolus Winter Hardiness

The accepted hardiness zone for the classic Grandiflora gladioli (your typical garden glad) is zone 8 and warmer. Still, it’s well known that by covering the corms with a good mulch, you can keep them alive in zones 6 and 7 for certain varieties such as “Nanus Hybrids.” In colder zones, your glad corms should be lifted, dried, and stored for the winter. 

Planting

For the best blooms, plant glads in full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day) in well-drained soil that’s moderately fertile. They will not do well in heavy, soggy soil. Mix compost (humus) into your soil to improve consistency and fertility.

When to Plant Gladiolus

  • Start planting gladiolus corms in the spring once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 55°F (13°C). See your local frost dates here.
  • From your last frost date to early summer, plant another round of corms every ten days or so. This will result in continuous blooms through early fall!
  • Depending on the variety, it takes between 60 and 90 days from the time glads are planted for the corms to root, grow, and bloom.
Gladiolus corms in a metal bowl
Gladiolus corms

How to Plant Gladiolus

  • Ready your garden by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to about 12 to 15 inches deep. After loosening the soil, mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost or aged manure.
  • To ensure large-sized blooms, plant corms that are 1¼ inch or larger in diameter.
  • Set the corm in the hole about 4 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. Cover with soil and press firmly.
  • Space the corms 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • If you grow gladioli primarily for cut flowers, plant them in rows. It’s easier to tend the plants and to harvest the flowers.
  • If planted with other flowers in borders or annual beds, plant the corms in groups of 7 or more for the best effect.
  • Water the corms thoroughly at planting.
  • If you’re planting tall varieties, be sure to stake them at planting time. Be careful not to damage the corms with the stakes.
Growing

How to Grow Gladiolus

  • Put a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around your gladioli to keep your soil moist and help prevent weeds.
  • If you get less than 1 inch of rain a week, water your plants regularly throughout the summer. Otherwise, water them moderately when they are growing to keep the soil moist.
  • Remove the faded/dead flowers to ensure continuous blooms. Once all the flowers on a stalk are gone, cut the stalk off at about 2 to 3 inches above the soil.
  • Be sure to leave the plant intact so it can mature and grow the corms for the next season.

Winter Protection for Gladiolus

  • If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 8 or warmer, put down a layer of hay or straw for winter protection. Gladiolus can remain in the ground through winter, provided a hard freeze (28°F or colder) isn’t common in your area. 
  • In colder regions (Zone 7 or colder), dig up gladioli corms once the foliage has faded after the first fall frost. A light frost will kill the foliage but not the rest of the plant. Be sure to dig up the gladiolus corms before a hard freeze (28°F), or the plants could be fatally damaged.
  • All that said, many gardeners who live in the “border” zones 6 and 7 have tried leaving them glads in the ground and found that they survived; this is a judgment call based on your microclimate, your variety of gladiolus, and climate shifts.

purple and red Gladiolus flowers

Digging Up and Storing Gladioli Corms

To dig up the gladioli corms for winter storage, follow these tips:

  • Use a spade and dig up the entire plant, grasping the top to pull it out of the soil. Avoid bruising or injuring corms while digging. Shake off all loose soil (do not wash them off) and discard damaged corms. Cut the stalk down to 1 to 2 inches above the corm. Save the small cormels separately if you so desire. These will bloom in 2 to 3 years if you replant them each spring.
  • Allow the corms to dry in the sun for 1 or 2 days if the weather agrees. Sift out excess soil and place corms in wooden flats or trays. Cure in a warm and airy location for 2-3 weeks. Remove and throw away the oldest bottom corms (from the base of the new ones).
  • Don’t remove the husks on the corms.
  • Dust the corms with a fungicide (“bulb dust”) to avoid disease problems. Place dust and bulbs in a paper bag and shake vigorously.
  • Store the corms in paper or cloth bags, pantyhose, or old onion sacks. Stack or hang the containers so air can move among them. Store the corms at 35 to 45°F (2 to 7°C) in low humidity. A cool basement is quite suitable. Do not allow corms to freeze.
  • Replant these corms in the spring for another year of beautiful blooms.

Learn more tips for storing gladiolus through the winter.

Harvesting

To cut glads for bouquets, follow these tips:

  • Cut the flower stalks early in the morning or at night, not during the heat of the day.
  • Use a sharp knife and bring a bucket of lukewarm water to the flower bed; cut diagonally through the stalks and place in the bucket.
  • Cut stalks with only one or two open flowers. The rest of the buds will open after you put them in a vase. Leave at least four leaves on the plant in the ground if you want to reuse the corms.
  • Place the bucket with the flowers in a cool dark place for a few hours before arranging them in a vase.
  • Remove lower fading flowers and cut about 1 inch off the bottom of each flower stalk every few days.

Purple gladiola flowers

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Wit and Wisdom
  • Gladiolus is one of the August birth flowers.
  • Gladioli are sometimes called “sword lilies” due to their blade-like leaves. In fact, “gladiolus” itself comes from the Latin gladius, meaning “sword.”
  • In the language of flowers, gladiolus signifies remembrance. Learn more flower meanings!
Pests/Diseases
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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