Gladiolas – Week 5


Gladiolas And Sunflowers

Gladiolas and Sunflowers (Photo By: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

Picture a bright, sunny, hot summer day. You are driving down a country highway, enjoying the freedom of the ride, the beautiful day, the expansive scenery. Up ahead you see a roadside stand with baskets of freshly picked produce and buckets of tall, elegant flowers in a mixture of bright, cheery colours. Adorable little girls dressed in calico dresses, crisp white aprons and matching bonnets wait hopefully for a customer to stop by and examine their wares. Of course you cannot resist and before you have left this pastoral scene – which seems to have jumped off the pages of a hardcover classic – you have purchased a massive armful of those statuesque flowers, commonly known as Gladiolus, for less than the cost of 2 baskets of freshly picked peaches.

I have always associated Gladiolus with farmer’s markets and roadside stands, available from late July to the end of August (for which it is the birth flower). Where there was sweet corn, there always seemed to be Gladioli and so I assumed they were native to the area I grew up in – Southern Ontario, Canada. In fact these flowers are native only to South Africa and were introduced to gardens in North America and Europe in the 18th century. Gladiolus is the genus or generic name for a perennial bulbous flowering plant from the Iridaceae (Iris) family. The name comes from the Latin word Gladius which means sword, and references the sword like shape of the leaves that enclose the flower stems. It is sometimes referred to as Sword Lily, but the most common English names are Gladiolus or Gladiolas. Gladioli is the plural.

The Gladiolus represents faithfulness and honour, strength and moral integrity. It can also mean infatuation, expressing to the receiver that they have “pierced” the sender’s heart with passion. This flower also implies remembrance, which could be one reason why it is used so often in sympathy arrangements.

Gladiolas And Sweet Peas

Gladiolas And Sweet Peas (Photo By: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

Pinks and Purples: gladiolas and wild sweet peas in stainless steel container

There are about 260 species of Gladiolus, most of which are native to South Africa. About 10 species are native to Eurasia. They are a perennial herb and can be found today in any country with a temperate climate. The plant stems are unbranched and usually produce up to 9 narrow, sword shaped leaves, enclosed in a sheath. The flower spikes are one sided and can be found in almost any hue with the exception of true blue. There are over a dozen blooms on each spike. Gladiolus are wonderful as a cut flower and if you purchase them just as the lowest bloom is beginning to flower, they can last for as long as 14 days.

To maximize their vase life, remove any blooms that have wilted as this will encourage other buds to open. Trim the top two or three buds and this will also encourage the other flowers to open. Gladiolus are thirsty flowers and require a lot of water, so check water levels regularly. Do not use floridated water as it could cause tip and leaf burn.

Gladiolas and Sunflowers: Recipe and Instructions

Brilliant red and deep fuschia for the glads, red-orange for the sunflowers, ruby edged cordeline leaves – an unexpected yet delightful colour scheme for this classic country flower – as seen in the photo at the top of this week’s story.


  • Cordeline leaf stems
  • Approximately 16 gladiolas
  • 5 – 6 sunflowers – small to medium size. Large sunflowers heads are too heavy.
  • 1 or 2 large green leaves – hosta or aspidistra
  • 5 – 6” square glass container
  • Cord for tying
  • Plant food


  1. Cut about 1/3 of the stems off each glad. Remove foliage and the top 2 or 3 buds from the stem – these buds will rarely open.
  2. Hold a Cordeline leaf stem vertically in your left hand if you’re a righty and vice versa if you’re a lefty. Add the glads one stem at a time, rotating counterclockwise with each stem so the stems spiral out, alternating colours around the center coredline leaf. Secure with cord.
  3. Place the sunflowers in a ring around the lowest bloom. Secure with cord.
  4. Fill in empty spots around the sunflowers with folded cordeline leaves. Secure with cord.
  5. Wrap the inside of clear vase with one or two large leaves, add water and plant food.
  6. Trim stems to a length that allows the sunflower heads to sit over edge of container.

Alternative colour story: Create a citrus colour scheme by combining bright yellow sunflowers with lemon yellow and bright yellow gladiolas and lime green hosta leaves. Positively juicy!

About the Gladiola and Wild Sweet Pea arrangement: An example of what I do when I have extra stems, an empty container and a handful of flowers picked up along my morning walk.

Quote of the Week: There are always flowers for those who want to see them. Henri Matisse

Next week: Sunflowers

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  1. Karen Johnston
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    What an absolutely beautiful arrangement. Did you know another bit of info on the Glad? That groundhogs also love the glad. Yes thats right!! Our groundhogs name is Fred. He visits Campbell’s vegetable garden every day in the early a.m. and heads right for my glads. Chomp, chomp, off goes the heads. Out of the 150 that I planted, I only have 6 that made it. We’ve tried everything except..well it goes bang. Any suggestions?

  2. susan armstrong
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello Liz :)
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful Gladioli arrangements! I to thought Gladiolas were native to Southern Ontario. My memories of Glads are filled with trips to and from the farm. It usually takes us a lot longer to make our way back home to the Niagara region because of all the wonderful roadside stands along the highways. By the time we make our way into the front door our arms are bursting with a rainbow of Glads. The challenging part is always finding enough tall vases to accommodate there glorious height.

  3. Posted August 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    glads make me think about granny:)

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