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Gladiolus Flower Information and Meaning

Updated on September 16, 2010

Sword Lily

The plant is also commonly referred by its genus name – Gladiolus (plural: Gladioli, Gladiole or Gladioluses). Gladiolus is also known as the Corn Lily or Sword Lily due to its sword shaped leaves. The name gladiolus means “little sword”. Gladiolus plants are perennial herbs and semihardy in temperate climates. The beautiful flower spikes of Gladioli come in a wide array of colors and are large, one-sided, with secund, bisexual flowers.


Colors & Parts of Gladiolus Flower

The flower is available in the middle of summer. You can enjoy its blooming in pink, red, cream, green, coral and yellow colors. Its hallmark is the vast array of shapes and heights. They are among the most popular flowers grown for cutting. The blossoms of these flowers are trumpet-like and are graceful, while its petals can be ruffled, frilled or waved.

Each of the corm sends up an upright cluster of stiff leaves. The erect spikes of the flowers, from 1 – 4 feet tall, grow through the sword-shaped leaves from the corm (bulblike swollen underground stems). The flowers are borne on upright spikes, one per corm normally, opening from the bottom upward and usually with several opens at a time. The flower each consists of 6 tepals of unequal shapes and sizes. The flowers are bilaterally (as opposed to radially) symmetrical.

The North American Gladiolus Council classify the individual flowers by size, from miniatures with flowers of diameter under 2 ½ inches to giants over 5 ½ inches in diameter. The taller cultivars should be protected from wind and need to be staked. They should be planted in full sun, although partial shade is also tolerated.

Some parts of the plant are poisonous, if ingested or handling some species may cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. The common Gladioli diseases are Fusarium Rot and Yellows, leaf spots, Scab, Pencillium Storage Rot and Virus, Stromatinia Corm Dry Rot, Blights and Phytoplasma disease.

Gladiolus Planting and Care

The gladiolus species are rarely found in cultivation, instead, those gladioli in the trade that you are apt to find are hybrids of complex, often long forgotten parentage. Through hybridization, hundreds of garden varieties have been produced, now you can find flowers in almost every color except true blue. They work well in any flower garden with variuos flowering perennials. Usually it is easier to care for the plants when they are grown in neat rows or groups. This makes pulling weeds much more easier than if they were planted sporadicaly throughout the garden. Wild species of gladioli are native to Mediterranean region, western Asia, the Middle East, Madagascar and (especially) South Africa.

Corms of gladioli are often lifted after flowering and then replanted the following spring since the corms survivve summers poorly in hot south and winters poorly in the cold north. The corms also cannot survive where the soil freezes deeply. Planting various sizes of corms yields various colors and sizes of gladioli, resulting in more variety to the flower garden. If you want to buy the corms, it is essential to find healthy ones. The better quality and healthy corms result in much fuller blooms and better gladioli. Flat or thin corms should be avoided because those corms will not yield good flowers.

Symbolism and Meanings

The flower of gladiolus signifies remembrance. It also expresses infatuation, telling the receiver that she or he pierces the heart. This flower also stands for strength of character, honor and faithfulness. The gladiolus flower is the birth flower for August. The flower represented the Roman Gladiators, before African Gladioli became popular in the West. The classic flower spikes of gladiolus adorn plenty of gardens. The beautiful bloom makes one of the best bouquets.

In China and certain parts of the world, Gladiolus is used in funerals and other important ceremonies. It is believed by the Chinese that this flower will help people who have passed away to find their destination in heavens.


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