Colorful and Fragrant, These Tubular Flowers Bloom in Almost Any Warm Month

June is that happy month when we toast our dads and grads. It’s also the month when the glads, Gladiolus varieties, are at their peak of bloom. These tall spikes of tubular flowers can be forced to bloom in almost any warm month (or in a greenhouse), so florists have them available for a long time. They also come in an amazing array of colors, so they are perfect for any decorating or gardening scheme. Most of the florist varieties are hybrids known as grandifloras, but the history of gladiolus hybridization is long and murky. At least seven species have been used to “improve” the flowers and their color range. The sturdy flower stalks, up to five feet or so in height, will produce as many as 30 large, flaring flowers. They are available in many shades including white, every shade of yellow, orange-from apricot to salmon, pink to red, lavender to purple, even bronzy or green hues. The flowers open progressively from bottom to top of the spike and last for several days, making the display in the garden long-lasting. And as cut flowers, they will also grace your interior spaces for a week or more.

In our climate zones these bulbs (really corms) can be left in the ground and will reliably bloom year after year in late spring to early summer. If you want to really feature them in your garden for a longer season, dig and replant them every year or two. Stagger the planting time to extend the season. Corms planted in late February through late March will then bloom successively as well.

There are a couple of other gladioli to consider for the garden. The Abyssinian sword lily, G. callianthus, blooms later in the summer and is smaller in stature. The two- to three-foot stems carry up to 10 ivory-colored flowers. Selections will have chocolate brown or purplish markings. This species gladiolus is also fragrant. Nice. Another daintier species is G. tristis. Its purple-veined, yellow flowers are also fragrant after dark.

Glads-doesn’t the name just make you smile? Pick some for your own dad or grad and they will, too.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to

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