You may have seen a bunch of gladioli or two cropping up in your selection over the past couple of weeks. The season is on and I have been gathering information from the growers and customers and my mother in law for this blog on these intriguing beauties.

A supremely popular choice in the 50’s & 60’s the name comes from the from Latin ‘gladius’ meaning small sword. Their stems produce narrow, sword-shaped, grooved leaves, enclosed in a sheath.

From the Iris family and mainly originating from South Africa, Gladioli are grown from corms and due to only having 30 chromosomes are mainly infertile. From corm planting to flower there is a 100-day span so traditionally New Zealanders would plant them in the middle of September to have them flowering for Christmas day.

Gladiolus is easy to hybridise, so new plants appear every year as old ones decline in popularity. A lot of the common large-flowering varieties were hybridised after 1940 in England and the Netherlands.

In ancient and not so ancient times, mashed gladiolus bulbs were used to draw out thorns and splinters and reduce infection. It was also long believed that dried seed pods that were crushed and added to goats milk were effective against colic.

In the Language of Flowers, Gladiolus means ‘Generosity’, or ‘I’m sincere’.

Dame Edna Everage, housewife mega-star, throws Gladdies out into the audience at the end of each show. Edna may have overdone it with her love for gladioli in the 80’s and 90’s which may have subsequently impacted a downward trend in their popularity. However gladioli have made a huge comeback in recent years and their growing favour has been obvious at the markets and with customers alike.

Red Gladdies are also a popular choice of flower for the Chinese New Year and they are the flower associated with 40th wedding anniversaries.

Flower Care:

  1. Keep cool at all times.
  2. Strip leaves from the lower half of each stem and wash any dirt off.
  3. Recut at least 4 cm off each stem with sharp secateurs and place in water immediately. If your gladioli have been left out of water cut off twice as much off the end of each stem as you normally would.
  4. Cut flower food is optimal – the sugar contained within the food will help buds to open.
  5. Replace water every 2 days.
  6. Gladiolus tips bend upwards, and as they are often transported flat spike tips can be crooked. They will bend back after a few days in an upright position, or you can snip the tips off.
  7. Pull off the fading bottom flowers to promote the rest of the flowers to open and last longer. Expect 5 – 8 days from your gladioli.

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