How To Grow Gladiolus Top Care Tips for Success

Gladiolus Wind Song Pink

How many times have you admired a beautiful spike of gladiolus, or an eye popping arrangement of glads, and wished you too could grow similar flowers?

Learning how to grow gladiolus isn’t as difficult as one might imagine.

Gladiolus Soil

Growing gladiolus can be done in any soil that will grow weeds, from a heavy clay to a light sand.

Among the few requirements of gladiolus care, are lots of sunshine and plenty of water. One of our most widely quoted authorities says that the best fertilizer for glads is water.

However, they as well as the weeds do much better with a fertile soil. A slightly acid soil seems to be to their special liking.

It is important to select the best varieties and best gladiolus bulbs available. Your climate determines the varieties which will give you best results.

Although some of the very best gladiolus flowers and spikes may be grown in Canada and Alaska, it would be asking too much to expect some varieties to mature in the short growing season there.

Glads go from planting to flowering in 65 to 100 days, depending on variety and locality. Begin planting in the spring as soon as the trees begin to leaf out.

Gladiolus Planting

One rule is “plant when the oak leaves are the size of a gopher’s ear.” For season-long bloom, you may plant at two-week intervals, or you may use various size corms or bulbs.

How to plant gladiolus – Depth of planting depends on the type of soil in which corms are planted. Sandy soils require greater depth than heavier soils.

It is best to plant the larger or number one size at a depth of from six to eight inches for light soils, and proportionally less in heavier soils.

Gladiolus red and pink
A good plan is to plant in a trench, covering the corm with only an inch or two of soil. Then as cultivation continues, the soil will be covering the plants as they emerge. This practice also reduces the amount of weeding to be done.

Gladiolus Patch Weed Free

Be sure to keep the patch weed free. This is essential, not only because weeds take as much food from the soil as do glads, but also because thrips, those nasty little insects, seem to attack in fields or patches where there are weeds, more than in patches kept clean.

Several weed control chemicals have been on the market for a time long enough to determine which is best suited to your particular problem.

For the home garden it is good to be wary of any without first determining whether there might be damage done to the glads.

Some of the newer herbicides do not kill weeds or anything else, but does prevent seeds from germination?

Thus it may be used with little fear of damage on plants that are established or those that are propagated by corms or bulbs.

Insects and Diseases

Most glad growers treat their bulbs for thrips before sale, so it is not necessary to dip or soak before planting.

But to be on the safe side use a chemical to insure that no thrips or bacterial diseases are going to be carried into the patch from new bulbs.

When the plants are about ten inches high, begin spraying or dusting with a good insecticide (Malathion), I like a natural insecticide, even though you have no trouble with thrips.

These little pests when mature are only about a sixteenth of an inch long. They suck the juices from the buds, which look as though they had been burned. The florets do not open properly, or if they do, they have a sickly appearance.

Should you use of animal fertilizers on gladiolus?

It is better to avoid animal fertilizers as they are apt to cause diseases on the corms. A complete fertilizer, such as a 4-10-5 mixture, is better.

Watering Gladiolus

Glads like lots of water, but they don’t like wet feet. See that they have at least one inch of moisture per week, but do not let them stand in water.

When gladiolus flower spikes begin to show in the leaf sheath, give the plants a feeding with liquid fertilizer, and you will be amply repaid in amazingly larger spikes.

The spikes may be cut when the first floret opens. Indoors in water they will open to the very tip of the spike.

In cutting be sure to leave at least four leaves on the plant, as they are the “factory” that makes the new bulb.

The corms may be dug eight weeks after the spike has bloomed, or six weeks in the case of late blooming varieties.

Cut the tops off as close to the corm as possible without injuring it. Do this immediately after digging.

Do not leave the tops lying in the field. Clean the dirt from the corms and spread in an airy place where they can be dried or cured quickly. Commercial growers have drying rooms where a temperature between 90 and 95 degrees can be maintained.

When the corms are thoroughly cured they are ready to have the old bulbs and roots removed.

Save the tiny cormelts or bulblets clinging to the base of the new corm, as they will be your best means for propagating the variety.

Plant them in rows only an inch or two deep and cultivate the same as the corms.

Many will bloom the first year. Store corms in trays with screen bottoms to allow free passage of air. If possible, store at temperatures of about 40 degrees.

Corms have been known to be undamaged at temperatures as low as 26 degrees, for a short time.

Choosing Gladiolus

Every year at gladiolus shows throughout the country hundreds of new varieties are introduced to the public.

It is interesting to see the progress being made in the development of better varieties as well as new types, such as the double hybrids.

In past years miniature and small glads became increasingly popular, as they lend themselves so well to table arrangement for small homes and apartments.

For the glad fan who is just beginning, it is definitely advisable to start with named varieties, rather than the so-called “rainbow” mixtures.

Too few times does this latter actually give you rainbow colors.


It is not necessary to buy the highest priced bulbs for most of the tried and true varieties have been on the market long enough to be available at a comparatively low price.

Once you have embarked upon the sea of glad growing you will surely want to try your hand at hybridizing. This is one of the really fascinating glad sidelines.

In the meantime, before you have become bitten by the hybridizing bug, try your hand at arrangements and showing at local gladiolus shows. To win a blue ribbon – then perhaps a grand championship – is indeed a real thrill.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

sam June 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

so the gladiolus only produce 1 spike of flowers per bulb/season? When cutting the spike, cut all but 4 leaves off also? Then wait for plant to die off and then begin the storing process? Am I getting all of that right?

Karen Kaszynski August 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

After I dig, dry and separate old bulb from new bulblets, will I cover them with sand or soil for the winter in the tray w/screen bottom. This is my first try so I want to store them safely for use next year.
Thank you.

Joseph Big August 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

This is the first time I have grown Gladiolus. They have grown to a height of 4 plus feet. Should they be that tall? Also do I remove the bulbs in the fall. I live in New York, will they freeze?