Botanical name: Gladiolus
Common name: Gladioli, glads
Gladioli hybrids are stalwarts as a cut flower. While best-known as big, bold and colourful, there are smaller, less showy species are are equally worth growing in borders. In addition to these, the collector can revel in the more delicate species suited to pot cultivation. Gladioli are generally lifted in winter and stored or protected in frost-free conditions, but cultivation does vary.
Sword-like leaves and upright flower spikes (hence the translation of 'gladiolus' meaning 'little sword') bear individual blooms shaped like funnels that open outward from the base. The colour range is impressively wide. While the species and some of the subgoups have dainty small flowers, the large hybrid gladioli (famously loved by flamboyant Australian comedian Dame Edna Everage) are perfectly blousy.
Gladioli generally like a sunny well-draining site in neutral to slightly acid soil (pH6.5-7.0). Drainage is especially important if corms are to overwinter in the ground succesfully.
Lift corms and protect from winter cold and wet. As a general rule, they will be able to withstand slightly colder temperatures if the ground isn't soggy or heavy clay, but most gladioli corms are best lifted and stored dry and frost free over winter.
Did you know?
You will sometimes see numbers after the name of a Gladiolius cultivar name, for example '457'. These indicate flower size and colour when growing for exhibiting and showing blooms in competitions. Some gladioli are also classified by height size: giant and large; medium; small and minature. Learn more about growing gladioli for the show bench at The British Gladiolus Society website.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.