Gladiolus are grown for their showy spikes of flowers which
come in many colors. There are large-flowering types as well
lads may be used as background plants in the
garden, or in rows, or as cut flowers for the home. If care is
given to a planting schedule, flowers can be available from
early summer until frost. To achieve this, the corms are planted
at various times, usually at 2- or 3-week intervals, from as
early as mid-February until the last of April.
Set the corms 4 to 5 inches deep and 5 to 6 inches apart in
groups or rows.
Gladiolus prefer well-prepared garden soils
with good drainage. As soon as plants are 6 to 8 inches tall,
apply fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, at the rate of 3 to 4 pounds
per 100 square feet. Organic fertilizer sources, such as cottonseed
meal, also work well. Water thoroughly when soil
appears dry, and stake if necessary.
To save gladiolus corms for next year, dig the corms after the
foliage has dried in late summer or fall. Remove the soil and
snap off the dead tops. The old or original corm may be
removed and discarded at this time. Spread the corms out on
the garage or storage-room floor and allow to dry for 3 to 4
days. Place the corms in boxes with dry peat moss or sawdust.
If a large number is involved, make some boxes that are 3 to 4
inches deep with bottoms made of hardware cloth. Store in a
dry, cool place at a temperature of 45 to 50 degrees F. Check
them periodically during the winter for signs of rotting or
rodent damage, and discard those affected.
At least two species of gladiolus are considered heirloom plants
in our area and may be left in the ground and grown as perennials.
Gladiolus byzantinus, sometimes known as cornflags,
mark many old home sites and cemetery plots in Texas and the
South. Their magenta and rarely-white flower spikes are
smaller than the hybrids usually available in florists and nurseries.
Another interesting gladiolus is Gladiolus natalensis,
sometimes known as the parrot gladiolus. Flowers of this species,
which is native to Africa, are larger than those of G.
byzantinus, and are a brilliant combination of yellowish green
Both of these gladiolus may be grown as perennials,
and usually increase in numbers each year. They are commercially
available, however, only from specialty bulb sources.