cut flower of the month
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(Plural: Gladioli, Gladioluses, Gladiolus)
Sword lily, Corn flag
Note: The term “gladiola” is
often—but mistakenly—used as a common name for Gladiolus,
which can sound like “gladiolas.” In formal English, “gladiola”
and “gladiolas” are not recognized words.
The flower spikes of
traditional large-flowered Gladioli (Grandiflorus
hybrids) typically have 10 to 16 funnel-shaped blooms (and
buds), in alternating facings, mostly on one side of 3- to
4-foot-long stems. Blossoms often have ruffle-edged petals.
Miniature Gladioli (a.k.a. butterfly Gladioli)
are known botanically as Gladiolus Nanus Group, which
includes G. x colvillei (kol-vil-ee-eye). The flower
spikes usually have no more than seven blooms, which often have
blotched colorations and ruffly petal edges. Stems typically are
less than 24 inches long.
leaves are long and sword shaped and are enwrapped around the
stem ends and each other.
are available in a
wide range of reds, oranges, yellows, greens and violets—every
hue except blue. Bicolor varieties also are available.
Six to 10 days is the
typical vase life for cut Gladioli, depending on variety,
care and stage of maturity at the time of sale.
year-round from U.S. and Holland growers. Depending on location,
some growers’ production spans May through December while others
produce from around November through May.
immediately upon their arrival, and check flower quality.
Next, recut stem ends with a sharp blade, removing at least
1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place stem
ends into a hydration solution to help the flowers absorb water
more quickly and easily, then place them into a flower-food
solution prepared with nonfluoridated water.
(Gladioli are extremely sensitive to fluoride in
water, which can cause deterioration of petal edges, failure of
florets to open and develop normally, “burning” of the
bud/floret sheath, and yellowing or darkening of leaf edges.)
Experts used to recommend
storing Gladioli (especially Florida-grown Gladioli)
at 40 F to 45 F to prevent chill damage to the tips of the
florets, but more recent research shows these flowers can be
refrigerated safely at 33 F to 35 F. Allow them to hydrate for
at least two hours before selling or arranging them. Except for
design time, keep these flowers refrigerated until they’re sold
Check flower-food solution
level daily; Gladioli are heavy drinkers.
are geotropic, which means that stem tips curve upward in
response to the forces of gravity, so place these flowers
upright in their storage containers. Refrigerating Gladioli
at 33 F to 35 F also lessens this geotropic response.
Many florists remove
immature buds at the tips of the flower spikes, in an attempt to
help lower buds open fully by preventing the distribution of
nutrients to upper buds that likely will never open. The
effectiveness of this technique, however, has never been
supported by scientific research.
Some florists also remove lower flowers as they fade, in an
effort to help upper flower buds open. Research shows that this
action, in fact, reduces upper flower buds’ ability to open.
Ethylene does not affect
open Gladiolus florets, but it can cause buds to shrivel
and prevent them from opening.
Provide consumers with
packets of flower food, so they can change the nutrient solution
in their containers every other day or so. Advise them to recut
the stems, as well, removing at least one-half inch of stem, and
to display Gladioli out of direct sunlight, away from
air/heat vents and out of cold drafts. Encourage consumers to
place the flowers in the coolest room at night to prolong vase
WHAT’S IN A NAME
Gladiolus is the Latin term
for “small sword,” a reference to the shape of the
leaves and the derivation of the common name “sword
The hybrid name “Grandiflorus” means large flowered and
the hybrid name “Nanus” (NAY-nus) means dwarf.
Gladiolus is a member of the
Iridaceae (Iris) family. Close relatives
include Iris, montbretia (Crocosmia), Crocus,
Freesia, African corn lily (Ixia) and
bugle lily (Watsonia).
HOME SWEET HOME
Gladioli are native primarily to tropical Africa
and South Africa but also to Europe, particularly the
Mediterranean region, and the Middle East (from Turkey
south to Yemen).
Buy cut Gladioli
when color is visible in the lowest one to five flower buds.
With some varieties, the first floret should be at least
three-fourths open. If Gladioli are cut too tight, the
flower buds might never open, without additional care
Check bloom spikes, stems and leaves for bruising, browning,
yellowing, gray mold (Botrytis) and rot.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner
Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network®
Dictionary of Plant Names,
by Allen J. Coombes
by Liberty Hyde Bailey and
Ethel Zoe Bailey
New Pronouncing Dictionary
of Plant Names
by Florists’ Review
SAF Flower & Plant Care,
by Terril A. Nell, Ph.D.
and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of
Plant Names for Gardeners,
by William T. Stearn
Photos: California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC)