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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.
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.
Glads will grow well in average soil and adapt to most soils except heavy clay.
Plant outdoors when frost danger has past.
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.
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.
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.
Light: Full sun
Depth: Plant 4-6" deep, depending on type
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Borders and mixed beds
Tip: Plant in groups for greatest impact
They Start Out Looking Like This:
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