Growing Gladiolus for Cut Flowers and Arrangements
Growing Gladiolus as Cut Flowers
Gladiolus offer gardeners many creative possibilities in the flower garden, but it is as a cut flower that they excel. Many gardeners grow gladiolus as part of a cutting garden scheme, a type of flower gardening concept in which flowers are grown so that they may be cut and brought into the house as bouquets. They're easy to grow and provide a dramatic focal point in a cottage garden scheme, a flower bed or border, or when used as part of a bouquet.
Native to South America, gladiolus bulbs are properly called corms. They come in a dazzling rainbow array of colors, from pure white to the richest deep purple. New hybrids offer taller or shorter types, and you can purchase them very inexpensively at discount stores or save up and buy an expensive new hybrid. With so much variety and choice, gladiolus provide gardeners with many opportunities to work them into the flower garden.
Requirements for Growing Gladiolus
Like many flowers, gladiolus require full sun, which is defined as six or more hours of bright, direct sunshine every day. Choose your garden spot carefully. Not only do glads need full sun, they also need well-drained soil. If the area is too wet, the corms rot in the ground and fail to grow or produce flowers.
Buy gladiolus bulbs in the spring. Most garden centers have them available in early March, and you can stock up on them when the selection is at its peak. Wait until the ground is easily workable in spring before planting them.
When planting gladiolus bulbs, plant them with the pointy-side up. Gladiolus corms look like chocolate kisses. The roots grow from the flat side, and the stem and flower emerge from the point end. Make sure the pointy end points up when you plant them.
Gladiolus corms should be planted at least 6 inches deep. One trick to growing great gladiolus bulbs is to plant them about 6-8 inches deep. This provides more support for the tall, sword-like stem. A common complaint among gardeners growing gladiolus as cut flowers is that by the time the flowers emerge, they are so heavy they topple over, dragging the entire flower stalk into the dirt and defeating the purpose of growing them in the first place. After all, if they're pointing down, you can't enjoy them! By planting them a little more deeply, you provide support for the stems.
If you do want to offer support, try a peony hoop or a plant hoop. Such hoops may be purchased at a garden center for a few dollars. They consist of a metal or plastic circle and movable tripod "legs." Place the tripod legs firmly into the soil with the circle centered over the spot where the flowers are growing. Peony hoops or circular plant supports should be added to the flower bed before the plants have grown more than a few inches tall. The idea is to let the flowers grow up and through the circle. As they get heavy, they lean onto the circle but do not fall over.
Water peony corms very well after planting. Typically they don't need a lot of fertilizer, but a well balanced 10-10-10 or a 5-10-5, or an organic compost mixture works fine to add nutrients to the soil.
Growing Gladiolus for Cut Flower Arrangements
Gladiolus make excellent cut flowers and can last up to two weeks indoors in flower arrangements. One trick to growing gladiolus as part of a cutting garden is to space out the planting of the corms in the spring into two week intervals. If you begin planting gladiolus bulbs in April and continue at two week intervals until late May, you should have blooms ready to cut and use throughout the summer. Try planting a variety of colors and types, and don't forget to add other flowers to your cutting garden such as snapdragons, carnations, and others.
Gladiolus Attract Hummingbirds to the Garden
One of the best surprises for me when growing gladiolus is how much hummingbirds love them. I love to attract birds to the garden, and I add flowers and plants that I know birds enjoy. I added gladiolus bulbs to my back flower garden and the cottage garden style around my potting and garden shed. Sitting on my back deck one day, I was surprised by how frequently hummingbirds visited the peach and red colored gladiolus blooming in the flower garden. The tall, tubular-shaped blossoms do indeed attract hummingbirds, so plant gladiolus as part of your gardening scheme to attract birds to the garden.
With their beautiful flowers, tall and dramatic foliage and ability to attract hummingbirds, gladiolus make a lovely addition to the garden. Use them in flower arrangements or simply enjoy them in the garden, but do add some to the garden this year.
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