Gladiolus callianthus

Family: Iridaceae
Common names: Abyssinian gladiolus and Acidanthera

Origin: Abessinia (now Ethiopia)

Flower color: white

Flowering period: July – October

Average plant height: 24 – 36 inches

Planting depth to base of bulb: 4 inches

Spacing between bulbs: 6 inches

Type of bulb: corm

Light requirements: sunny spot is necessary (afternoon sun)

Landscape uses: borders, containers.


The Acidanthera prefers a sunny border. This gladiolus-like plant has 24-inch sword-shaped leaves and produces about 10 flowers along a spike in late summer or fall. The base of each of the six petals in the star-shaped flowers is dark purple, thus creating a prominent purple blotch in the center of the flower. They also have a pleasing fragrance. The Acidanthera is native to the mountains in eastern Africa where it grows at elevations between 4000 – 8000 ft., mainly in grassy areas and amongst slippery rocks.


Gladiolus callianthus

Combining with other plants

An advantage provided by the Acidanthera is that it blooms after the other summer-flowering bulbs. The Acidanthera requires a well-drained soil and a warm spot in the garden. When the corms are stored in daylight (in the winter) they will turn green (which, by the way, has no effect on proper growth). If stored in the dark, they remain white.

Many perennial plants are especially useful for combining with the Acidanthera in the border. Particularly worth mentioning are the blue cultivars in the Aster dumosus hybrids, Aster novii-belgii and Aster amellus. Other suitable plants include late-flowering blue Aconitum species and cultivars, Salvia nemorosa, Acenthus mollis, and the blue Tradescantia cultivars.

Acidantheras are sometimes planted in pots. In this application, they can be combined with blue lobelias, Scaevola aemula and supplemented with the gray-leaved Helichrysum petiolare. Place the pot in a very sheltered location.