I’m running behind on getting my gladiolus corms (bulbs) planted this year, but am not really worried about that, as they usually will bloom within two to three months after being set out. Because the large hybrid types look a bit stiff in flower borders, I usually place them in a sunny row in the vegetable garden instead, planting the corms about 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart.

Annual or Perennial?

However, I do grow the smaller-flowered ‘Atom’ as a perennial in one of my flower beds, where it returns reliably every year. I have plans to add ‘Boone’ as a boon too!

Gladiolus 'Atom'Yes, even though gladioli are supposed to be annuals, they often will survive the winter to pop up again in spring here in USDA zone 5, if I forget to dig their corms in autumn. Assuming they don’t get tilled to pieces in the meantime! However, if you live in a zone lower than 8, you really should dig those corms in the fall and store them in a cool, dry place indoors until spring—just to be on the safe side.

Potential Problems

Last year I planted both regular glads and the Abyssinian type and some critter promptly dug them up again. After that happened a couple times, I got smart, and laid a long heavy board over the row, leaving it there until the corms actually began to sprout. I’m guessing the critter was a skunk looking for grubs, since they often will choose to dig wherever the soil is moist—i. e. wherever you’ve just planted and watered something!

summer bouquet with gladioliFortunately, gladiolus corms are inexpensive. I paid $5 for a marked-down bag of 35 this year. And, provided you can out-think the skunks, these flowers don’t require a lot of care, though I would recommend strewing slug bait around them at the time they are beginning to bloom to prevent any holes in those showy blooms. Since the stalks occasionally will topple over under the weight of those flowers, you also may want to position stakes on either side of the row and run some twine between them at a height of 20 inches or so.

Although some gardeners disdain glads for their ease of cultivation and flashy “glad rags,” many of us still adore them. In fact, back when we were teenagers, those flowers were the first thing we always sold out of at the farmer’s market. Though our mother’s homemade bread probably ran a close second!

Get pet and wildlife safe slug bait hereGladiolusIf you are selling glads or picking them for your own bouquets, it’s a good idea to cut each one just after its first (lowest) bloom opens. That way, your customers can see what color they are getting and still enjoy those blooms for a long time.

Glads from Seed

And, yes, you actually can grow the flowers from seed if you stratify those seeds first, by placing them between damp paper towels in your refrigerator for 3 months. However, it usually will take several years for corms produced that way to grow large enough to bloom. And I always tend to lose the tiny things before that.

Still, such seed sowing could allow you to acquire some of the unusual African types I mentioned in a previous article. That should make you gladder than glads!

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Photos: The photos included in the article are my own.