They may not be a top seller in Europe, but gladiolus is a flower with tremendous popularity in Australia, particularly around Christmas time. Consisting of large spikes up to 100cm long bearing up to 10 or more flowers, gladioli can be a striking addition to large arrangements. They come in white, pink, red, purple, orange, yellow, and are one of the few green flowers. Flowers open from the bottom up. There are also smaller scented forms, called the Nanus group or Painted Ladies, as they may have striped flowers. The large flowered types form the Grandiflorus group.
Gladiolus is commonly grown as a field crop in Queensland in winter and Victoria and NSW in spring/summer.
Types: Grandiflorus, Nanus.
What to look for:
- The bottom two flowers should be showing strong colour and be partly open;
- A further 5 flowers up the spike should be showing colour;
- No signs of petal damage or creases.
- Bent spike tips are not a problem;
- Avoid spikes with brown marks or stripes on the sheaths covering the flowers and buds.
- Keep cool at all times.
- Strip leaves from the lower half of each stem and wash any dirt off.
- Recut at least 4 cm off each stem with sharp secateurs and place in water immediately. Gladiolus is often transported dry so cut off twice as much off the end of each stem as you normally would.
- Preservative is essential – the sugar contained within a preservative will help buds to open.
- Replace water every day.
- Gladiolus tips bend upwards, and as they are often transported flat spike tips can be crooked. They will bend back after a few days in an upright position, or you can snip the tips off.
- Mildly sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
The name ‘Gladiolus’ comes from the Latin for the “small sword’ the Romans used to conquer most of western Europe, in reference to the shape of the leaves. In ancient and not so ancient times, mashed gladiolus bulbs were used to draw out thorns and splinters and reduce infection. It was also long believed that dried seed pods that were crushed and added to goats milk was effective against colic.
In the Language of Flowers, Gladiolus means ‘Generosity’, or ‘I’m sincere’.
Dame Edna Everage, housewife mega-star, throws gladdies out into the audience at the end of each show. These flowers were very popular in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 50s and 60’s and have enjoyed a resurgence partly because of the Dame’s patronage. Red varieties are popular at Christmas time due to the red flowers and green foliage.
Red Gladdies are also a popular choice of flower for the Chinese New Year.
Botanical Name: Gladiolus hybrida
Common Names: Gladdies, Spear Lily, Sword Lily
Stem Length: 30 to 100 cm
Country of Origin: South Africa
Available Colours: Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow