Colourful bloomsSometimes called gladioli bulbs (more correctly gladioli corms), these South African members of the Iris family are ideal for colour impact. Most garden centres stock gladioli in whites, pinks, oranges, reds (best for impact), bicolour and the rare blue flowered varieties.
PlantingMost Gladiolus flowers last approx 2 to 3 weeks, so if you're sneaky and stagger your plantings at weekly intervals you can stretch out the length of time they will be in bloom. Plant from the start of April till the end of May in an area that receives upwards of 4 hours of sunlight a day. Plant the bulbs 4 to 5 inches deep (10 to 12cm) and at an approximate spacing of 4 inches, ideally your soil will be rich with free drainage to prevent rotting of the bulb over winter. Group the bulbs in clusters of 5 or more of the same colour for impact, except in a cottage garden where the mixing up of Gladiolus colours is quite acceptable. It is advisable to water well in dry weather as the foliage can be extremely thirsty. Look after the cultivation requirements and you will be rewarded by sword-like leaves topped by trumpet or funnel shaped flowers in vertical rows which bloom from the bottom upwards. The sword-like leaves inspires the Latin name Gladiolus which means little sword, in fact some people refer to them as sword lilies.
Flower arranging usesGladiolus flowers can be cut for indoor arrangements by using 3 to 5 different colours bunched together, just be careful not to remove all the leaves from the bulb as this will severely weaken its bloom next season.
Miniature hybridsWhen purchasing your Gladiolus bulbs in the garden centre ask for Primulinus or miniature hybrids as these varieties grow to about 2ft (0.6 metre) and do not require staking like some of the larger varieties.
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