Ultimate Gladiolus Growing Stages Guide (Step By Step)

Growing gladiolus is a process that requires care, patience, and attention to detail. Each growth cycle stage has different factors to consider and challenges to overcome.

Gladiolus is a favorite among gardeners as they provide the garden with an abundance of striking colors which can be harvested for vases in the home.

Not only are they great for brightening the place up, but they will attract various wildlife to your garden, such as bees, birds, and butterflies which will help with pollination.

The lifecycle of gladioli starts with a corm (which is similar to a flattened bulb); after planting, the corm roots will shoot out of the base.

Following root growth, a head will start to appear, which later makes way for stretching, where a stem will grow tall and produce a bud. After the gladioli have produced a bud, the flower will open.

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this guide will take you through the process step by step, providing you with tips and tricks along the way to ensure your gladioli reaches its full potential.

Get ready to get your hands dirty and watch your plants bloom beautifully!

How Long Does Gladiolus Take To Grow?

Generations of gardeners have adored the rainbow colors of gladiolus, and you can see why with the 3-foot (91 cm) flower spikes showcasing bright summery blooms.

The gladiolus is grown from a corm which is similar to a bulb, and can be planted directly in the ground or in containers.

Gladioli are native to Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean area. They are perennial cormous plants from the iris family and produce sword-shaped leaves and tall flower spikes.

You can expect to see vibrant flowers in the first year that grow to a height of up to 4 feet (121 cm) and 1 foot (30 cm) wide. One great feature of the gladiolus is that the corms multiply underground and can produce 30-100 cormlets (baby bulbs) per year.

After planting in early spring, you can expect to see blooms in 60- 90 days (roughly from July to frost), and some varieties will shoot more than one flower stalk per corm.

Although the gladiolus grows up to 4 feet (121 cm) high, the root system descends to just 6 inches (15 cm) deep in the soil. For this reason, supporting the gladiolus with a stake is recommended.

Gladiolus blooms make an excellent cut flower arrangement and can be harvested when the buds are immature and kept in a vase to open up over time.

Common nameCitrus Lemon
Scientific NameGladiolous sp.
Family NameIridaceae
TypePerennial cormous flower
OriginAsia, Mediterranean, Africa
Maturity Size4 feet
USDA Hardiness zone8-10
Light RequirementsFull sun
SoilWell drained, pH 5.5-6.5

Take a quick look at this time-lapse video on the lifecycle of this gorgeous gladiolus:

7 Gladiolus Growing Stages

The initial stage of the gladiolus lifecycle is as a corm which is similar to a bulb of a tulip. Once planted, the bulb produces roots that anchor into the soil.

As the temperatures rise, the corm forms a head where it sprouts green sword-shaped leaves.

After the foliage has matured and the summer months arrive, the gladiolus sends up a flower spike that carries buds.

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After 60-90 days of planting, you can expect to see the buds fully opened, and roughly 20 flowers of the gladiolus will open one by one from the bottom up.

You will have a beautiful display of these flowering stems for two weeks from when they start to bloom around the start of July. This is dependent on what variety you grow, as some gladiolus are long-lasting.

1. Planting/Rooting

The first step in the gladiolus lifecycle is to plant the corms. This is a critical stage in the development of your plants and should not be taken lightly.

Gladiolus are best planted in well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Prepare the area before planting your corms by adding compost and loosening the soil to 12 inches (30 cm) deep.

Loosening the soil will provide oxygen to the corms and enable the roots to form properly.

Plant the corms in the late winter or early spring when the ground is not too cold or too hot. Space the corms 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) deep and 5 inches (12 cm) apart, with the pointy end facing upwards.

You can plant gladiolus into containers, and they will require the same spacing.

Once the corms are in place, gently cover them with a light layer of soil or compost. After planting, water the corms thoroughly.

After roughly 3 weeks, the roots of the gladiolus will start to grow and the bulb will prepare itself for the heading stage of its lifecycle.

2. Heading and Foliage Production

Heading or foliage production is the second stage of the gladiolus lifecycle. You will start to see the sword-shaped leaves shoot from the corms point.

During this stage, it’s important that the gladiolus receives enough bright indirect sunlight to send energy to the corm.

The strong afternoon sun will encourage the gladiolus to concentrate on producing more foliage rather than flower stalks. The foliage stage will continue for a couple of months before the peak summer heat hits.

When the foliage reaches 6-8 inches (15-20cm) tall you can give the sprouted corms a feed of fertilizer. Use a balanced fertilizer that is 13-13-13 NPK (13% Nitrogen 3% Phosphorus 3% Potassium).

Gladiolus also does well with organic fertilizers such as cottonseed meal.

3. Flowering

After two months of foliage production, the gladiolus will start the exciting stage of its lifecycle: flowering. This is the moment you have been waiting for and all your efforts have paid off!

At this point, the gladiolus will require full sun to provide the plant with the energy to flower.

You will notice the flower stalks will start to grow out of the base of the plant where the foliage has grown, and they will shoot up tall and contain a head of buds.

Leaf production would have slowed down by this point, and the plant is now concentrating on producing flowers and preparing for reproduction.

As the gladiolus is in full sun, a regular watering regime should be carried out to prevent the bulb from drying out.

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Check the moisture content of the soil by using a moisture meter or by feeling the top two inches of the soil.

4. Stretching and Bud Formation

Stretching occurs after the flower stalk has surfaced from the base of the plant. The gladiolus flower stalk will continue to stretch and reach for the full sun and this is where you will witness the true height of the flower stalks.

This stage will continue for two weeks, and the area where the flower stalks are growing should be kept clear to enable them to reach their maximum height.

The flower stalks will reach up to 4 feet (121 cm) and buds will appear from the top of the stalk.

The buds form evenly around the stalk and as they begin to show color, they will be ready for harvesting. You can see how many flowers you will get at this point as the buds finish developing.

5. Flower Development

The flower development stage can continue for two weeks and follows the stretching and bud formation stage.

At this time, the buds are fully developed and start to open. It’s recommended to reduce the watering at this point.

Less water will help the flowers to open up bigger as they reach for the sun for energy. If you have planted your gladiolus in a pot, this stage is a great time to move it into a darker location.

As the buds start to open, they will last longer when not in full sun.

Many people will harvest the flower stalks at the end of the bud development stage. You can harvest the flower stalks and they will continue to open whilst they are kept indoors in a vase of water.

6. Deadheading

One of the most important stages of growing gladiolus is the deadheading stage.

This is crucial not only to keep your display of beautiful colorful flowers looking great, but also to the deadheading process helps with the corm development underground.

Deadheading encourages more flower stalks to grow and can be done in the mid-morning when the flowers are still open. Use a clean sharp pair of scissors to remove the flower stalks at the base, and be careful not to cut the foliage.

7. Rejuvenation

The rejuvenation stage of the gladiolus lifecycle is when the plant has stopped producing flowers and buds. This is the time when you can tidy up your plant display by removing dried stalks and spent leaves.

As you tidy up the beds or containers where the gladiolus have grown, you are making sure they are kept healthy and free from any risks of pests and diseases. Every spent bloom of the plant will turn brown and drop off.

While it seems all the work has been going on above ground level to provide you with an amazing flower display, the corms underground will have multiplied.

As the autumn months arrive, you can either leave the corms in the ground over winter or dig them up and divide them.

By dividing the gladiolus cormlets, you’re ensuring they have enough space for the following season. If you want to save the cormlets to plant out the following spring, you can do so by keeping them in the fridge during winter.

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5 Tips For Growing Gladiolus

In case you missed a few details in this article, here are five key points to keep in mind when growing gladiolus:

1. Store the Gladiolus Cormlets During Winter

At the end of the gladiolus lifecycle, when the flower production has finished, you can prepare your next batch to be planted for the following spring.

As autumn arrives, and the leaves have turned yellow you can cut them back to ground level.

Once the old foliage has been removed, you can gently remove the soil from around the corms. This is a delicate job, as you don’t want to pierce any of the cormlets with a heavy garden fork.

Gently scrape away the soil and remove the corms.

Once you have removed the corms, you can divide them and let them dry out for a couple of days.

After drying keep them in a bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them the following year.

2. Mulch the Corms at the Start of Winter

If you decide to leave some of the corms in the ground during the winter, be sure to mulch over the surface of the soil.

A layer of mulch will protect the corms from harsh winter frosts and prevent them from rotting.

3. Loosen the Soil Prior to Planting

This is definite when growing gladiolus. They must have aerated soil to produce a good root system. You don’t need to dig deep to turn over the soil – just 12 inches (30 cm) will be sufficient.

When you till the soil add some organic matter or compost to help with aeration and let the soil sit for a couple of days prior to planting. This helps all the disturbed organisms find a new place to start producing nutrients.

4. Avoid Pests and Diseases

Get a head start in avoiding pests and diseases by selecting healthy corms to plant. Any damaged or bruised corms should be avoided as they are prone to disease and fungal infections.

Healthy corms will have smooth husks and be firm. The base of the corm will be firm and should have no dark spots or discoloration.

5. Watering

Avoid watering in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point.

Water early in the morning or late evening. This will enable the ground to stay moist for a longer period.

A good watering regime is to water weekly to supply the equivalent of 1 inch (2.5cm) of rainfall during the dry season.

To End

Growing gladiolus gives you a bright showy display of a variety of colors during the summer season. With their low maintenance requirements, they are a great plant to grow for beginner gardeners.

Gladioli looks fabulous as entry plants and you can fill an empty garden bed with the corms at the beginning of the spring. By leaving them in the ground you will save a job for the following season or you can multiply your stock at no extra cost by dividing the cormlets at the end of the growing season!

Lucy Young

Meet Lucy, a seasoned gardener with a green thumb and a wealth of experience cultivated over 10 years in her own backyard oasis. Now, she channels her passion into writing, sharing invaluable gardening knowledge on her website. From nurturing plants to expert pruning techniques, Lucy's articles are a treasure trove for both seasoned enthusiasts and budding gardeners. Join her on this leafy journey as she sprinkles insights, tips, and tricks to help you create your own flourishing paradise. Get ready to dig into her gardening wisdom and unlock the secrets of a thriving garden!

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