A Comprehensive Guide to Gladiolus Growing Stages

Gladiolus (sword lilies) are beautiful flowering plants that add vibrancy and elegance to gardens and floral arrangements. If you’re interested in cultivating gladiolus in your garden, it’s vital to understand the various stages of their growth. So, what are the gladiolus growing stages?

The gladiolus plant grows through the following phases, planting, rooting, corm development, foliage production, stem & leaf development, flowering, deadheading & rejuvenation, dormancy & corm storage.

Eager to learn how your gladiolus plant grows? Keep reading.

Stage 1: Planting and Rooting

The first stage in the gladiolus growing process is planting and rooting. This stage is crucial for establishing a solid foundation for the gladiolus plants to grow and thrive.

Gladiolus plants require ample sunlight to develop and produce vibrant flowers. Pick a sunny location in your garden that receives direct sunlight

These plants prefer well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Before planting, loosen the soil and remove weeds or debris.

Gladiolus plants grow from small bulb-like structures called corms. Select healthy corms that are firm and free from any signs of damage or disease.

The planting time for gladiolus is typically in spring, around two weeks before the last expected frost.

When planting gladiolus corms, ensure the pointed end faces upward. Dig a hole about four inches deep in the prepared soil. Then, place the corms into the hole with the pointed end facing upwards. Space the corms about six inches apart to allow sufficient room for growth.

After planting, gently backfill the hole with soil, ensuring the corms are adequately covered. Water the planted area thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture to the corms.

Stage 2: Corm Development and Foliage Production

During stage 2 of gladiolus growth, the corms establish their root system, absorb essential nutrients, and produce vigorous foliage.

After planting the corms, they begin to develop a network of roots. Gladiolus roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil, providing the necessary plant growth resources.

As the corms establish their root system, the foliage starts to emerge from the corms. The foliage consists of long, sword-shaped leaves that grow upwards from the corms.

These leaves play a crucial role in photosynthesis, capturing sunlight and converting it into energy for the plant.

Provide consistent watering during this stage to ensure proper corm development and foliage growth.

Stage 3: Stem and Leaf Development

During phase 3 of the gladiolus growing stages, the plant focuses on developing tall and erect stems. Also, the leaves continue to expand and provide energy for the plant.

The stems reach heights ranging from 2 to 6 feet, depending on the specific variety of gladiolus. They serve as the structural support for the plant and provide a framework for the flowers that will develop later.

Concurrently with stem growth, the leaves of the gladiolus continue to expand. The foliage consists of long, sword-shaped leaves. The leaves emerge from the base of the plant and extend along the length of the stem.

Ensure your gladiolus plant receives at least 7 hours of direct sunlight daily to support healthy stem and leaf development. Insufficient sunlight can result in weak and spindly stems, negatively affecting the overall growth and flower production.

Regular watering promotes robust stem growth and leaf expansion. Provide the gladiolus plants with a balanced fertilizer to supply them with essential nutrients.

Depending on the cultivar and growing conditions, the stem and leaf development stage can last several weeks. 

Monitor the growth of the stems and leaves during this stage and make necessary adjustments in watering, sunlight exposure, and fertilization to ensure optimal development.

Stage 4: Flowering

During stage 4 of gladiolus growth, the plants reward gardeners with a vibrant display of colorful flowers.

Flowering in gladiolus plants occurs in mid to late summer, around 70 to 90 days after planting the corms. The exact timing depends on the specific cultivar and growing conditions.

Gladiolus flowers are not produced immediately after planting but require some time for the plant to establish its foliage and develop sufficient energy reserves.

The flowers can be in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, and white. This diversity allows gardeners to create beautiful color combinations and arrangements.

Gladiolus flowers emerge from tall, vertical spikes known as flower stalks or inflorescences. Each flower stalk can bear multiple blooms, with the lower flowers opening first and progressing upward along the spike.

The flowers are arranged in a compact, sequential pattern, adding height and visual interest to the plant.

Consider planting corms at different intervals to extend the flowering period and enjoy gladiolus blooms over a longer duration. This practice, known as succession planting, involves staggering the planting of corms by a couple of weeks.

Regularly remove any spent or fading flowers through a process called deadheading. This encourages the plant to direct its energy towards producing new blooms rather than seed formation.

Provide adequate water and fertilization to support the health and vitality of the flowering plants.

Stage 5: Deadheading and Rejuvenation

Deadheading is among the gladiolus growing stages. Deadheading refers to the removal of faded or spent gladiolus flowers. It is important to deadhead the flowers as they begin to fade.

Removing spent blooms prevents the plant from directing its energy toward seed production. Instead, the plant can focus on storing nutrients in the corm for the next growing season.

Use a pair of clean and sharp gardening shears or scissors to deadhead gladiolus flowers. Cut the faded flowers just above the first or second set of leaves on the flower stalk. Make clean cuts to lower the risk of damaging the plant and promote healthy regrowth.

Adequate water supply ensures that the plant receives the necessary hydration to support ongoing growth and corm development.

Deadheading provides the following benefits.

  • It improves the overall appearance of the plant by removing unsightly faded flowers.
  • It helps redirect the plant’s energy toward corm development and storage, promoting stronger and healthier corms for future growth.
  • It encourages the plant to produce additional flower spikes or side shoots, leading to more blooms and an extended flowering period.

Stage 6: Dormancy and Corm Storage

After the gladiolus plants have completed their flowering cycle, they enter a period of dormancy. This is a natural resting phase for the plant when its growth slows down or temporarily stops. The foliage of the gladiolus plant begins to yellow and wither as it prepares for dormancy.

Reduce watering when the foliage starts to yellow and die back. This helps mimic the conditions of the plant’s natural habitat and aids in the transition to dormancy. Gradually decrease the frequency and amount of water provided to the gladiolus plants during this stage.

Once the leaves have completely withered, it is time to dig up the gladiolus corms. Use a garden fork/shovel to lift the corms from the soil carefully. Take caution not to damage or break the corms during the digging process.

After lifting the corms from the ground, remove any remaining foliage attached to them. Trim off the yellowed or dead leaves, stems, and other plant debris. This process helps prevent the spread of diseases and ensures a clean storage environment for the corms.

Allow the gladiolus corms to dry in a well-ventilated area. Please place them in a single layer on a clean, dry surface, such as a wire rack or newspaper. The corms should be exposed to air circulation, which aids in the drying process and helps prevent rotting or mold growth.

Once the corms are completely dry, store them in a cool and dry place until the next planting season. Choose a location free from moisture, excessive heat, and direct sunlight.

Ideal storage conditions include temperatures around 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 10 degrees Celsius) with low humidity levels.

Wrapping Up

Understanding the gladiolus growing stages is essential for successful cultivation and optimal flower production. Following the planting and care guidelines specific to each stage allows you to enjoy a stunning display of gladiolus blooms in your garden year after year.