Family: Liliaceae
Common name: sword lily

Origin: South Africa

Flower color: almost any color you can imagine

Flowering period: July – September

Average plant height: depending on the type, 20 – 40 inches

Planting depth to base of bulbs: 4 inches

Spacing between bulbs: 5 inches

Type of bulb: corm

Light requirements: full sun

Landscape uses: borders and as a cut flower in the vegetable/cut flower garden


Gladiolus is one of the four most popular summer-flowering bulbs. People use them either for their beauty in the garden or as cut flowers during the summer months. The gladioli we are most familiar with are hybrids that have been cultivated since 1841. It is difficult to identify and count all the original species, but some botanists believe there are close to 300. Gladioli are easy to hybridize, so new plants appear every year as old ones decline in popularity. Many of the widely available large-flowering varieties were hybridized after 1940 in England and the Netherlands. The butterfly-types were introduced in 1951, and American hybrids have become more common over the last twenty years.

Large-flowering gladiolus

This is the most important group as based on the quantities and range of varieties available. Several hundred varieties in many colors and color combinations are cultivated in the Netherlands. 

Butterfly gladiolus

This group contains varieties that are not as large as the large-flowering gladioli so their flowers are also a little smaller. The color of the flower is very often in strong contrast to the rest of the plant and tends to look like a butterfly. Butterfly types are very suitable for cut flower production. 

Primulinus gladiolus

These varieties originated from the yellow Gladiolus primulinus. This group can be recognized by their flowers in which the upper petal partially covers the other petals, pistil and stamen as if it were a protective little cap. This makes it hard to see the center of the flower.

Small-flowering gladioli

  • Gladiolus colvillei 
  • Gladiolus nanus 
  • Gladiolus tubergenii