Gladiolus and gladiators

The more glamorous of the two, sprays of colorful blooms adorn the plant. Poppies are much more informal. But that doesn't mean they can't put on a big floral show.

Gladioli symbolize strength, victory, and pride. The flower is associated with ancient Roman folklore about famous fights to the death in the arena. Courageous gladiators fought for the reward of being victoriously showered with gladioli.

colorful glads in a vase

(photo courtesy of Juanita Floyd)

Tips

To keep cut flowers attractive for as long as possible:
Place them in water immediately after cutting.
Use a clean vase.
Trim 1-2 inches off the stems, cutting at an angle.
Be sure there are no leaves in the water.
Top off water daily.
Change the water if it turns cloudy and trim stems again.

About those vases

Because they have pores where bacteria can remain, ceramic vases are not suitable for these flowers. The bacteria will clog their pores, keeping them from absorbing enough water. Buds will then begin to droop.

When to plant

Plant corms in the spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 55°F. Begin with your last frost date and continue planting approximately every 10 days into early summer. This schedule will provide continuous blooms through early fall. Depending on the variety, it takes 60-90 days from planting for the corms to root, grow, and bloom.

Here's a pack of mixed pastel gladiolus corms to get you started.

lavender glads

How to plant

To attain the nicest flowers, plant glads in full sun. Gladiolus likes well-drained soil that’s moderately fertile. They don't do well in soggy soil.

Prepare the planting bed with a tiller or garden fork. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12-15 inches. Mix in a 2-4 inch layer of compost or aged manure.

To ensure the biggest blooms, plant corms that are 1¼ inch in diameter or larger. Set them 6-8 inches apart and about 4 inches deep with the pointed end up. Cover with soil and press firmly.

If you're planting a cutting garden, plant rows. That makes cultivating the plants and harvesting flowers easier. If you're growing them with other flowers in a border or bed, plant corms in groups of 7 or more to achieve the best display. Water thoroughly after planting.

When planting tall varieties, be sure to stake them at planting time, being careful not to damage the corms with the stakes.

blooming glads in glass vase
(photo by Juanita Floyd)

How to grow

Use 2-4 inches of mulch to keep soil moist and help prevent weeds. If you get less than 1 inch of rain a week, water your plants regularly throughout the summer. Otherwise, water moderately while they're growing, keeping soil moist.

For continuous blooms, remove the spent flowers. Once all the flowers on a stalk are gone, cut the stalk about 2-3 inches above the soil. Leave the plants intact so they can produce corms for next year.

lavender glads

Winter protection

In USDA zones 7 and 8, mulch with a layer of straw before winter. In zones 5 and 6, except for hardy gladiolus varieties, dig up the corms and store them before the first frost. Clean, cut stalks a half inch above the corm, and cure for one to two weeks in a warm place with good air circulation. When dry, remove the old corms and any small cormels. Store the new corms in mesh bags in a well-ventilated spot where temperatures remain from 30°-50°F.

A light frost will kill the foliage but not the rest of the plant. Be sure to dig corms before a hard freeze.

The poppy

white poppy with yellow center

Living in California for nearly 40 years, Coulter's poppy (Romneya coulteri) is a variety I've grown quite often and particularly admire. This big, flamboyant flower is native to Southern and Baja California where it grows naturally in dry canyons and coastal areas. It's sometimes seen in locations that have recently burned.

The popular ornamental is grown for its large showy flowers. In fact, stems may exceed 6 feet tall. They grow from a network of underground rhizomes. The bloom is a large, solitary flower with six crinkly white petals centered with bright yellow stamens. This plant bears the largest flower of any species native to California besides Hibiscus lasiocarpos var. occidentalis. In 1890, it was nominated as the State Flower; however, the colorful California poppy won the honor by a landslide vote.

This plant is deciduous in the summer and dormant in the winter, requiring more than a little patience to establish. It can then spread aggressively and may need to be controlled. Do this by pulling up unwanted shoots.

Happy growing!

Here's a pack of 10,000 California poppy seeds to get your very own wildflower meadow off to a great start.

california poppies

(my wildflower side yard in Northern California)

california poppies in the wild

(California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve; User:Vision, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

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