My Life in Blossom

How to Grow Gladiolus

How to Grow Gladiolus

Gladioli are beautiful flowers that come in lots of colors. They look great in bouquets or arrangements. If you want to grow them at home, they require very little care. Gladiolus, also known as sword lilies, are large perennial plants with impressive spikes of trumpet-shaped blooms in a surprisingly wide range of colors. They’re often found growing on attractive fans of sword-shaped or linear leaves. Their rich and cheerful colors and breathtaking vertical lines make them an impressive sight. Gladiolus flowers are easy to grow if they’re given proper care. They’re especially good for growing in pots or in flower arrangements. They’re also good for planting in beds or borders.

How to Grow Gladiolus

Cultivation and History

Gladiolus is native to tropical Africa and Asia; however, it has become naturalized in many parts of the world. It was first brought to Europe by the Romans, who used it as a garden flower. The modern name comes from the Greek word “gladius,” which means sword.

When to Plant Gladiolus Bulbs

The best time to plant bulbs is early spring, before temperatures rise too high. If you live in a cold climate, wait until after the first frost. 

You will need:

• A pot with drainage holes

• Potting mix (soil)

• Watering container

• Seeds

• Plant labels

• Flower food

• Mulch

Step by Step

The best way to plant Gladiolus is by digging a hole twice as wide as the root ball and three times as deep. Place the roots in the bottom of the hole and cover them with dirt. Water well and wait for new leaves to appear.

1. Fill your pot with potting mix (soil). This should be done before planting seeds.

2. Label each pot with the variety name, date planted, and location where you plan to place it.

3. Place your seeds in the center of the pot. Cover them with potting mix (or soil), making sure there are no air pockets.

4. Keep the pot covered until germination occurs.

5. After germination, remove the cover and water well.

6. When seedlings appear, thin out weak ones.

7. Continue watering as needed.

8. In late fall, harvest the corms by cutting them off the stem.

9. Store them in a cool, dark area.

10. Replant new corms every year.

11. To increase yields, divide your corms every two years.

Where to Plant Gladiolus Bulbs

If you live where you can expect heavy rainfall, consider planting your bulbs in a container with drainage holes. This will allow excess water to drain out of the pot. If you don’t have access to this type of container, try using a large plastic trash bag. Place the bulb in the center of the bag and fold the top down over the bulb. Tie the ends together tightly to hold the bulb in place.

How to Plant Gladiolus Bulbs

You can still grow gladiolus bulbs indoors if you don’t have access to a greenhouse or garden space. Just remember that they’re not hardy outside Zone 8 (the northernmost part of the United States). You’ll want to start seeds inside six weeks before planting out. The seeds germinate best if planted in a small pot filled with peat moss and perlite. Once the seedlings emerge, transplant them into larger pots and move them outdoors once the weather warms.


Gladiolus bulbs can be propagated from the corms. Remove the outer skin (or tunica) of the corm and place it between two pieces of paper towel. Place the corm in a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Keep the bag in a warm location out of direct sunlight for several weeks. The corm will begin to swell and form roots. When the corm has developed roots, carefully separate it from the paper towels. Plant the corm in a pot filled with fresh compost and water. It should take root within a few months. You may want to repot the bulb every year or so, depending on its size.

From Sections

The corms will form new roots from the base of the stem and begin growing fresh leaves.

From Seed

Gladiolus seeds are tiny and easy to lose. Keep them dry by storing them in a paper bag inside a sealed plastic container. If you live in a humid climate, place the seed packet in a rice bowl to absorb moisture. To germinate, soak the seeds overnight in warm water. After soaking, drain the seeds and cover them with damp newspaper. Place the container in a sunny window. Check daily to see if the seeds sprout. Once they start to emerge from the soil, remove the newspaper and replace it with a light cloth. When the seeds sprout, transfer them to individual pots filled with potting mix. Water the seeds thoroughly and let them sit undisturbed for several days before planting.

How Long Does it Take for Gladiolus to Bloom?

It takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks from planting to bloom. If you don’t get enough rain during this period, you may want to consider moving your plant indoors.

Pruning and Maintenance

Cut back the foliage when your Gladiolus is finished flowering to encourage bushy growth. Remove any dead stems as well. As the plant matures, prune it to maintain an attractive shape.

Managing Pests and Disease

Take action immediately if you see pests or disease symptoms on your plants. These problems can spread quickly if not controlled.

Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew attack the foliage of gladiolus plants. Powdery mildew is caused by fungi that thrive in cool temperatures and high humidity. Spray your plants with an organic fungicide containing sulfur or copper. Be careful not to spray these chemicals directly onto the leaves because they could burn the plant tissue.

Aphids cause small black spots on the leaves of gladiolus plants, which eventually turn into large brown areas. Use insecticidal soap mixed with water to control aphids. Do not use horticultural oil, which contains petroleum products.

An Interview with Harry Simpson