7 Tips for Growing and Using Gladiolus
Of all the flowers you can grow in your garden, glads are surely among the easiest. Simply tuck the corms into the ground in spring and come back 90 days later to harvest the flowers. There’s no pinching or pruning required. No tying or staking. No fertilizing or deadheading. Gladiolus don’t need a gardener fussing over them. They are determined to bloom and eager to just get on with it!
Read on for some tips that will help you get maximum enjoyment from these carefree summer bulbs.
Gladiolus corms are surprisingly inexpensive, and every corm will give you a 3 to 4-foot stalk with 10-12 orchid-like blossoms. There are dozens of gorgeous varieties to choose from, including some with ruffles and some with petals that display two or even three different colors. It’s fun to grow a rainbow of different hues, from romantic pinks and lavenders to bold oranges and wine-reds. The cost is low and planting is a snap, so dare to experiment!
Get Creative with Planting Locations
Glads are shallow-rooted, and their sword-like foliage grows up rather than out. This means you can squeeze lots of flowers into a very small space. If you are growing in a raised bed or standard garden bed, plant the corms in a grid, spacing them 5” apart (center to center) and 4” deep. You can expect to fit about 50 corms in a 2’ x 4’ garden bed. In a flower bed, plant the corms in groups of 7 or more. Container planting is another option. And consider planting some corms in 2 or 3-gallon nursery pots. When midsummer comes, you can transplant these glads to fill gaps in your flower beds.
Plant in Batches
Gladiolus corms bloom approximately 90 days from planting. So, if you were to plant all your corms on the same day in mid-May, all your glads would bloom at about the same time in mid-August. For a much longer season of blooms, you can divide the corms into 3 or 4 batches and plant them 2 weeks apart. Get the first batch into the ground right before the last frost date and plant the rest at 2-week intervals. This way you can be picking glads well into September.
Provide Support If Needed
Not all glads need to be staked, but it’s the best way to keep the stems nice and straight. Individual stems can be supported with thin bamboo canes. If you’re planting in a grid, you can corral the stems with stakes and twine. If you’re growing lots of glads, consider using a flower farmer technique: a grow-through grid of wire or poly netting suspended 12-18″ off the ground.
Know When to Pick
Gladiolus stalks are ready for harvest when the bottom 2-3 blossoms are open. If picked sooner, the upper flowers may never mature. For best results, make an additional cut to remove the very top two buds on the stalk. Put cut stems directly into water and move them to a cool location.
Grow as an Annual or Perennial
Gladiolus corms are winter hardy in zones 7-10. In colder areas, you can dig the corms in fall and overwinter them indoors. Alternatively, you can treat your glads as annuals and purchase fresh corms each spring. If you want to overwinter the corms, cut only as much stem as you need, leaving plenty of foliage behind to help the corm replenish its energy for next year.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shorten the Stems
Glads can be intimidating. The 3 to 4’ stems look elegant on their own in a tall vase but it can be challenging to pair them with other cut flowers. The solution is to shorten the stems. Reducing the stem length (a few inches from the top and more from the bottom) transforms this flower into an elegant spray of orchid-like blooms. Give it a try yourself and see what fine companions glads become, mixing beautifully with dahlias, lilies, hydrangeas, sunflowers and even roses.
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