Gladiolus Planting Guide

These familiar flowers are known as sword lilies, natal lilies or simply glads depending on your part of the country. Gladiolus have been hybridized to offer a wide variety of color shades and combinations, and several sizes. When glads are used in the garden the most successful designs usually include groups and often repetition of those groups. For example, several groups of 5 or 7 glad plants within a mixed border can be stunning.

Choosing a Growing Site

Gladiolus love the sun and bloom best when provided with lots of light. Because of their height, and their tendency to catch the wind when in bloom, glads are best suited to locations out of the wind. Or plan to stake.

Soil Prep

Glads will grow well in average soil and adapt to most soils except heavy clay.

When to Plant Gladiolus

Plant outdoors when frost danger has past. 

How to Plant Sword Lily Bulbs

When planting large gladiolus or sword lily bulbs, like the ones shown above left, plant 6" deep and 5-6" apart. The bulbs for nanus or hardy glads tend to be smaller and those are best planted 3-4" deep and 3-4" apart. After planting, tamp down soil and water well. The bulbs will begin to develop roots and sprouts within a few weeks.

During the Season

Glads require little care during the growing season. Check plants as they grow to see if staking is needed. Keep soil relatively moist and do not allow to dry out completely.

At the Season’s End

For gardeners in zones 8-10 tall glads are perennials, successfully overwintering outdoors. In zone 7 and colder areas, lift bulbs before first frost, cut off spent foliage, let dry a few days and store for winter in frost free area. An unheated garage often works well.

Winter hardy glads can be left in the ground permanently. At the end of the season, snip off the spent stems. Next spring will bring fresh sprouts and blooms.

Insider Tips

  1. Gardeners who want glads to be available for arranging late summer into fall, plant several times a season at two week intervals.
  2. For tall gladiolus, staking is usually a good idea. The ideal time to stake is when buds have formed; then you can place the stake against the back side of the flower stalk.
  3. If you plan to save your glad corms for next season, consider dusting them with a powdered fungicide before storing as a precaution.
shop gladiolus
shop gladiolus

Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average

Depth: Plant 4-6" deep, depending on type

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Borders and mixed beds

Tip: Plant in groups for greatest impact

GUIDE: Gladiolus Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: