The Latin name for this flower means “sword.” And the bulbs of this plant were worn around the necks of Roman gladiators for strength. Yes, it's the gladiolus.
This South African native, iris family corm is mostly grown as a cut flower in our country. But this flower is also a great addition to a perennial or cut flower garden.
There are many large and colorful hybrid gladiolus used in the cut flower industry. But I also like the heirloom and species types. They have smaller, more delicate flower stalks and are tougher plants.
The 'Nana' species have 2-foot-tall flower stalks with small, orchid-like flowers in colors ranging from pale yellow to rose. It's hardy to zone 4!
'Atom' gladiolus grows less than three feet tall with fiery red flowers, fringed in white. The heirloom peacock gladiolus features small, white flowers with a purple throat and a sweet fragrance.
In the garden, gladiolus like a well-drained soil and full sun. Plant corms in spring after all danger of frost has passed. If you're going to use them as a cut flower, plant in rows so you can easily cut and care for them.
Keep well-watered and spray Neem oil to control thrips insects that attack and discolor the leaves and flowers. Stake to support tall varieties keeping the flower stalks straight. When three blossoms are open on the stalk, cut it at the base and bring it indoors for the rest of the flowers to open. In fall, dig and store the corms indoors. Even hardy selections will grow better if dug, stored and replanted each spring.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about fall cauliflower. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.