How to care for gladiolus

Written by dena e. bolton
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How to care for gladiolus
Gladiolus plants are easy to care for. (ti_to_tito/iStock/Getty Images)

Gladiolus is a beautiful and elegant-looking flower. With more than 300 species of gladiolus, you can choose from a wide variety of colours, ranging from white to deep reds washed in black and even a gladiolus with a green bloom. Many grow to be at least 1.2 metres (48 inches) tall and giants grow to even greater heights. You can easily learn how to care for gladiolus and can soon have huge bursts of colour in your garden.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Plant gladiolus corms in the spring. Stagger your planting by sowing a few corms beginning in March and more every two weeks until May. This staggered planting will give you a nice succession of blooms.

  2. 2

    Plant the corms 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) deep and 15 cm (6 inches) apart in rich, well-drained soil.

  3. 3

    Stake taller varieties. You can use individual stakes or buy a grid support that allows the flowers to grow up between the open grids. You can also plant your gladiolus behind medium-sized plants that will offer a natural support.

  4. 4

    Fertilise with a balanced fertiliser during the growing season only if your gladiolus is not planted in fertile soil. If you have planted your gladiolus as recommended, there is no need for any additional fertiliser.

  5. 5

    Water regularly during dry periods. Gladiolus tends to be rather drought-tolerant; however, even these flowers need extra water during extremely dry periods. During these times, water about once a week for 20 minutes.

  6. 6

    Cut back the fans almost to the ground after the flowers are spent.

  7. 7

    Lift the corms at the end of the season and before the first frost. Dry in a warm, airy place for two to three weeks. Clean and store in a dry place until ready to plant in the spring. The corms may be left to over winter in the ground in warmer conditions; however, apply a protective layer of mulch.

  8. 8

    Divide when you lift your corms at the end of the season or every three or four years if you do not lift corms. Division is done by lifting the corms and removing the small cormlets attached to the parent plant. These cormlets will flower the second year.

Tips and warnings

  • Varieties that bloom in the very early spring can be planted in the autumn.
  • If using in a flower arrangement, cut the stalk just as the second bloom is starting to open. Do not remove the leaves if possible. Change the water daily and remove spent blooms.
  • Gladiolus is particularly susceptible to attacks by thrips. Use an organic insecticidal soap to control. Apply every three days to kill any thrips that may be hatching from eggs.

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