Dwarf gladiolus

Now’s the time to start ordering corms for spring planting

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Dwarf gladiolus are becoming essential components of the garden as they provide exotic-looking early summer flowers on stems only half the height of their taller, later-flowering  hybrid cousins. Shorter stature means they don’t need staking and make good gap fillers among establishing or small perennials or ornamental grasses in sunny borders. They can also be grown as cut flowers or you could grow them in pots for a lovely patio display. MediterraneanG. byzantinusand South African G. papilio‘Ruby’ will naturalise in beds and borders once they have established.

Dwarf gladiolus are derived from a range of types, namely the loose group of small-flowered hybrids variously known as Nanus,Primulinus , TubergeniiandG. colvillei. The original G. colvilleiwas bred back in 1823 by London nurseryman James Colville by crossing South African G. tristisandG. cardinalis,but nowcontain hybrids with other species in their blood.

All have butterly-shaped blooms on a single spike, although some varieties may produce multiple spikes, particularly from premium size bulbs. There are an astonishing range of colours and colour variations from subtle to vibrant, the only downside being that none are fragrant. 

In spring plant gladiolus corms 8cm (3in) deep and 15cm (6in) apart in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Plant in groups of 7-15 bulbs to generate impact. Remember to mark the spot to prevent accidental plantings before shoots emerge.  Once flower buds have formed feed them with a high potash fertiliser. After flowering allow foliage to die back naturally, keeping the planting area open to help ripen the new corms. Most dwarf kinds are fairly hardy and can be left outdoors over winter, rather than being lifted and stored, as with the larger kinds. In cold winters protect them with a mulch of bark or composted straw. 

Here are some varieties to try. Click the images for more information.