Large-flowered gladioli are so distinctive in flower there’s no mistaking them when they burst into bloom in high summer. Visually arresting, they make a showstopping statement when planted in drifts in sunny borders, the astonishing range and combination of colours radiate flamboyance, making them ideal for use in subtropical-style plantings and, of course, make valuable cut flowers.
Although captivating, these seasonal treats are not frost hardy, so after enjoying the blooms the bulbous corms need to be lifted and stored in a frost-free place in autumn, or replanted fresh next year.
If you want something with the gladiolus look, but smaller and more natural-looking, try the hardier G. communis or hybrids and selections of smaller species such as G. nanus and G. papilio, which can be kept outside year-round, particularly now our winters are predominantly milder, protected under a mulch of garden compost or bark chips.
All types are available for planting as dry corms now or, in the case of Mediterranean species G. communis, also as ready potted plants.
Plant the corms with the flat side down and the point which contains the shoot uppermost at a depth of 12-15cm (5-6in). Large-flowered hybrids should be planted around 20-25cm (8-10in) apart, the smaller types 10-15cm (4-6in). You could start them off in pots, the larger types individually in 7-10cm (3-4in) pots, smaller ones grouped in 13cm (5in) pots. Plant out in final positions when in active growth. You can also try displaying them in larger container-grown displays on the patio. The taller grandiflora varieties benefit from feeding with liquid tomato food when in flower and will need staking when the stems lengthen to prevent them toppling over in windy weather.
See the gallery below for our pick of the best to try
Gladioli to get growing now
Gladiolus communis: Hardy species with magenta blooms flowering mid to late spring. H: 60cm (2ft).
'Ruby': Relatively hardy species hybrid. Hooded flowers in late summer. H: 90cm (3ft).
'Prins Claus': Bi-coloured G. nanus hybrid. Relatively hardy. Pots or front of border. H: 70cm (2¼ft).
'Nova Lux': Grandiflora hybrid with bright yellow blooms. Stake flower spike. H: 1.2ft (4ft).