Long sword-like leaves give the gladiola its name, which comes from the Latin word gladiolus and means long sword. Its relationship to lilies probably encouraged the nickname "Sword Lily". The gladiola is actually a form of iris in the family Iridaceae. However, happy gardeners who know how to grow gladiolas fondly call their easy-growing flowers, "glads".
Glads have as many variations in color and flower texture as they do in name. Although many gardeners begin growing gladiolas for their striking addition to cut flower bouquets, the glad also adds both vertical impact and robust color to your outdoor flower garden.
Although gladiolas are often sold in packs of "bulbs", glads actually grow from underground corms, which are another type of storage container for the flower's nutrients. Because glad corms are very efficient storage receptacles, it's easy to grow gladiolas in less than ideal soil. However, sun-loving glads do need a soil mixture that supplies good drainage.
Like all "bulb" flowers, plant glad corms at a depth of at least twice their size. Plant corms pointed end up and scarred end down.
Planting depth is important to success in growing gladiolas. Too shallow glad plantings result in crooked flower stems instead of the straight flower sheaths that make gladiolas famous. Plant the average glad corm four to six inches deep and small gladiolas corms at slightly shallower depths.
Proper cultivation is also essential to success with gladiolas. Glads don't compete well with weeds, but because of shallow planting depths, gladiolas corms and roots are susceptible to damage from too deep cultivation. A good way to keep your gladiolas both safe and weed free is to provide a light layer of mulch around your glads.
If you're successful in learning how to grow gladiolas, you'll have lovely long flower stalks in 60 to 100 days.
Cut glad's for flower arrangements as soon as the lowest florets on a stem begin to show color. Cut flower spikes at an angle, using a sharp knife. Leave at least four leaves on the growing stem to allow the corms to continue development. Immediately put your gladiolas stems in water and keep them in a cool, dark area for a few hours before arranging them. After arranging, unopened florets will continue to "bloom" until the whole stem has opened. Extend the life of your gladiola bouquet by giving the stems a fresh cut and changing their water daily.
Gladiolas are a hardy perennial in zones 7 to 10. If you live outside of winter hardy areas, lift your glad corms and over winter them for spring replanting. Dig gladiolas corms six to eight weeks after the glads have bloomed, but only if leaves have yellowed and are dying back. If the foliage is still green, wait until the first frost, to allow the gladiolas corms to continue storing nutrients.
After you lift your glads, air-dry the gladiolas corms for a week or two on trays. Then store them at 35°F to 45°F, either on the trays or store them in hanging mesh bags. Storing gladiolas corms in old nylons is an alternatively inexpensive way to safely over winter your gladiolas.