There are more than 250 species of gladiolus around the world with many being native to Europe and South Africa. While there are wild species of gladiolus that can grow in home gardens, most gardeners grow hybrids that are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10.
Gladiolus are also known as 'sword lilies' for the shape of their leaves. In Latin, gladius means “sword”.
'Glads' make a showy cut flower and great accent plant in a flower or vegetable garden. Some gardeners will plant cut flower gardens and grow gladiolus in rows for the specific purpose of growing them for bouquets and indoor arrangements.
Gladiolus varieties come in all colors of the rainbow, except blue.
Gladiolus grow from corms planted in the spring and early summer. Varieties are sorted by flower size and color. Miniature Glads will have flowers smaller than 2.5 inches in diameter, while the blooms of other varieties can range up to 5.5 inches in diameter.
The most important characteristics to look for in varieties, though, is flower color and texture. Varieties come in solid, bi-color, streaked, ruffled and double forms.
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.
Growing Gladilous for Cut Flowers
Gladiolus can be grown exclusively as cutting flowers or as garden plants. When growing them for cutting, plant in rows spacing corms 5 inches apart. Some growers will place trellis netting over the gladiolus to keep the flower stalks from bending or breaking in a storm.
When cutting gladiolus for indoor arrangements:
- Cut the bottom of the stalk at an angle.
- Pinch off the spent lower flowers, and recut the flower stalk to allow fresh water to rehydrate the flowers. (This also helps to reduce the height of the flower stalk, which will look better in the vase.)
- Mix them within a vase filled with colorful flowers, such as hydrangeas and zinnias. Choose greenery such as ferns and hostas, whose broad, dark-green leaves provide a nice anchor for the showy Gladiolus stalks.
- Mix and match! You can always find the right color combination because there are so many varieties in the color palette of gladiolus.