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Gladiolus is nature at its best, charismatic and gracious. Its sword shaped leaves got it the name 'gladiolus' from Latin word 'gladius' meaning sword. They are also known as the sword lily or corn lily.

These perennials floras belong to iridaceous family. They cannot be considered as true bulbs as they grow from corms. Corms are these short and thick parts of stem at the base of the plant. They contain more or less 260 species among which 250 species are from Africa and the remaining 10 species belong to Eurasia. The giant grand shape of the flower that one sees is the results of centuries of manipulation and hybridization. Originally their flowers range from rather tiny to 41mm across, with inflorescence that contains one to several flowers and don’t grow from seeds.

Easy to grow, insect free, availability and cheap investment make them extremely popular amongst other garden plants. It blossoms for a long period making it a showcase for your garden. They are ideal for men who plant flowers to brag about as all they require is an extra bit of space. These beauties are found in any colour possible with the exception of blue and flower in every season possible. With their variegated colour and mesmerizing smell they can satisfy the taste of almost everyone.

History: Gladiolus was before known as 'Xiphium' which comes from the Greek word 'xiphos' which means sword, describing the spear shaped leaves of gladiolus. This classy flower embodied Roman Gladiators and invokes the drama of these gladiators. In the 18th century African Gladioli was imported in huge quantities to Europe as people there were drawn to its beauty and other medicinal qualities. By around 1886 it was well known in the gardens of Europeans. In historic times, gladiolus has proven to be quite useful not just in gardens but in many other areas. The corms of this flower were roasted and served as food for South African tribes; the taste being something like of chestnuts. Also, the English used its corms as plasters and to remove thorns and splinters.

The centuries of experiments and breeding has led it to become one of the most successful products of horticulture. Nearly thousand new varieties of gladiolus have been introduced over the last few hundred years. African gladioli play a crucial role in the breeding and growth of other Gladiolus varieties, which are now amongst the most important cut-flower crops.

Symbolism: These splendid beauts symbolise strength of character and generosity. They also typify sincerity and remembrance. This flower represents deep infatuation expressing to the recipient that the bestower thrusts his/her heart with passion. It is said to be the perfect flower on the occasion of 40th wedding anniversary.

Mythology: There are many myths and stories associated with Gladiolus, even of its name. It is said that a roman scientist from the first century A.D. was bewitched by its beautiful sword shaped leaves and named it Gladiolus. It was also said to have owned magical powers which could shield a man from swords and arrows. For this very belief many knights, mercenaries and warriors wore talisman containing its root under their armours. Its amulets had such huge demand that gladiolus was cultivated in great amount for this very purpose.

Varieties: There are numerous varieties of Gladiolus available listing all of them would be next to impossible. If looking for showy and beautiful species to plant in the garden here is the list of  the most recommended and acclaimed ones:

White - Snow Princess,

Yellow and red – Spotlight,

violet - Blue Beauty,

Cream - White Gold,

Salmon - First Lady, Spitfire

Red-black - Black Panther,

Pink - Big Top,

Purple - Purple Supreme,

Deep rose - Burma,

Smoky - Tunias Mahomet,

Orange  - Lantana,

Red - Red Charm,

Lavender - Elizabeth the Queen,

White with red throat - Margaret Beaton,

Scarlet - Algonquin,

Brown velvet - Vagabond Prince

Cultivation:  Plant gladiolus once the soil is all ready during the spring. Gladiolus can be disseminated through rhizomes, tubers corms or bulbs. Before planting gladiolus be sure to dig plenty of plant food into the soil bed about 4 pounds per 100 feet of row .These plants do well in most types of soil but for best results a composition of two third of loam and one third of peat moss with loads of sand is recommended. Plant the seed 8 to 10 inches deep. While planting the seed keep the gap up to an inch apart, also cover the seeds with ¼ inch of the soil. They prefer well drained soil so maintain the moisture of the soil. Gladiolus prefers isolated area for full growth. To prevent any disease from the soil plant the corms in a new area every year. Also makes sure to remove the corms in the autumn season and store them in winter as they hardly do well in frost. The flower blooming period can be extended by successive plantings, by planting varying sized bulbs, and using different types of gladiolus which take different amount of time to mature.

Care: When the first leaves start to appear begin hoeing not much deep though. These rather sensitive darlings are seriously affected by weeds so be sure to remove them well and early. Another thing to be careful of is the insect called thrip. This insect is the worst enemy of gladiolus sucking out all of the plant’s juice and turning it sinfully brown. Another harmful effect of thrip is that it contorts the flower and may prevent the flower from opening at all. Therefore care must be taken to ensure that these thrips don’t go near to Gladiolus. For the success of gladiolus water plays an important factor, water them regularly.

Toxicity: Along with its medicinal values gladiolus also possesses some toxic properties. Some species and parts of gladiolus are poisonous too when consumed. The symptoms of poisoning are diarrhoea and vomiting. Some other speies of gladiolus can bring on skin infections, rashes and other allergic reactions while handling.

Uses: Gladiolus apart from being a commercial flower is also used for medicinal purposes. Some of its many uses are listed below:

It is used as a medicinal plant in Africa mentioned in the human Pharmacopoeia. In the south of Africa it is used to treat diarrhoea and colds.

It is a common element of Africa’s medicine horn, the “Lenaka”. It is considered to be able to treat constipation and dysentery. It is one of the best system regulators boosting a person’s energy.

It is used as an essential part of experiments and research in the field of horticulture.

The corms of gladiolus were powdered and mixed with goat milk to cure the symptoms of colic.

It was cultivated in farms on forests of Africa and the corm served as food after it was boiled and leached. Many small animals such as Tswana and baboon also are seen to be eating its corms.

It along with other plants acts as painkillers for headaches and lumbago. It is also minimize rheumatic pains and dysmenorrhoea. It is also for curing impotency.

Gladiolus is used for wide range of ailments such as haemorrhoids and muscle spasms.

Note: Medicinal characters of gladiolus tend to differ in different environment as the climatic condition and soil plays a vital part.

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