I’m Doing Gladiolas Wrong

Don’t tell mine.

Gladioli, aka “sword lilies,” are delightfully showy bulb plants that take over my garden and wow my neighbors every late summer and fall. Despite the name, they’re more closely related to irises than lilies. My parents planted mine here about fifteen years ago, and they’ve been going strong ever since.

Turns out we’ve been growing them wrong the entire time.

Image: Blog title image, featuring pink flowers and the title of the post.

According to every book on perennials I own, gladioli are hardy to USDA Zone 8. Maybe Zone 7, if you’re heavy-handed with the mulch. In these zones, you can leave their roots (known as “corms”) in the ground year-round. If you live in Zone 6 or aren’t hot on mulching in Zone 7, however, all the experts warn that your gladioli corms will die of freezation if you don’t dig them, clean them, and store them in a non-freezing garage or basement over the winter.

I have never dug a gladiolus corm in my life.

That’s not actually true; I dug a few to thin them this fall.

Image: a brown bulbous plant corm sitting on a pile of soil.

(A “corm” is a swollen stem used to store plant sustenance. This makes it technically different from a “bulb,” which is a swollen root used to store plant sustenance. Now you know.)

I also learned from The Experts(TM) that plants that grow from corms, like gladioli, crocuses, and windflowers, don’t keep the same corm year to year. They grow one or more new corms and shed the old ones. While digging gladiolus corms to store them, one is supposed to remove the old corm.

Image: A reddish new gladiolus corm, sitting on top of its dark brown, somewhat rotted-looking old corm.

I have never done this either.

What I have done is watched my gladioli bloom profusely each year, deadheaded them daily in August and September, and occasionally thinned them when they’ve gotten extra hot on making baby corms. What I was supposed to have done, apparently, is to dig them up, give them a nice mani-pedi, and put them up in a luxury hotel for six months.


Don’t tell my gladioli.

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