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Gladiolus is also commonly referred to by the name of its genus – Gladiolus, the plural form of which can be Gladiole, Gladioluses or Gladioli. Gladiolus is also known as the Sword Lily, due to its sword shaped leaves, or Corn Lily. The genus Gladiolus comprises 260 species, 250 of which are native to sub-Saharan Africa, mostly South Africa. About 10 species are native to Eurasia. The impressive flower spikes of Gladioli come in a wide array of beautiful colours.

i. Characteristic

  • Gladiolus bulbs are not true bulbs. Gladiolus bulbs, in botanical terminology, are referred to as corms. A corm is a shortened and thickened section of the stem that appears at the base of the plant. On the corm are buds for each layer of leaves. Except for production of new varieties, Gladioli are not cultivated from seed.
  • Gladiolus plants are attractive, perennial herbs and semihardy in temperate climates. They grow from rounded, symmetrical corms that are enveloped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.
  • The fragrant Gladiolus flower spikes are large and one-sided, with secund, bisexual flowers.
  • Each Gladiolus flower is subtended by 2 leathery, green bracts. The sepals and the petals are almost identical in appearance, and are termed tepals. They are united at their base into a tube-shaped structure. The dorsal tepal is the largest, arching over the three stamens.
  • The outer three tepals of the Gladiolus are narrower. The Gladiolus perianth is funnelshaped, with the stamens attached to its base. The Gladiolus style has three filiform, spoon-shaped branches, each expanding towards the apex.

ii. Growing of Gladiolus

Gladiolus can be propagated by dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets).

  • Plant Gladiolus as early in the spring as the soil is fit to work.
  • Gladiolus corms can readily be purchased at your local garden center or nursery, though they can easily be grown from seed.
  • Sow the seeds in early spring, in a well-drained flat 8 to 10 inches deep, that is filled with two thirds loam and one third leaf mold or peat moss, with a good amount of sand added.
  • Plant the seeds an inch apart and cover with about 1/4-inch of the soil. If the soil is kept fairly moist, the seeds should sprout in a few weeks. • Set the container of seedlings outside in a fairly sunny location during the summer months and don’t disturb until the leaves have died down in the fall.
  • At this time, take out the small corms, store for the winter, and plant in a border in March about 3 inches apart.
  • The blooming season can be stretched by making succession plantings, by planting bulbs of several sizes, and by using varieties which take different lengths of time to mature.

iii. Varieties

Gladiolus is found in a variety of types that include both the species and hybrid glads. The different types of species represent the geographic and ecological range of the many species in this genus. The different combination of species used to create the different hybrids has led to the establishment of several different types of hybrids as well.

iv. Plant Care

  • Apply a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch around gladiolus to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
  • Remove individual flowers as they fade, and cut back flower stalks once all flowers have gone by.
  • Leave foliage intact to mature and rejuvenate the corm for next year.
  • Mulch beds with a layer of hay or straw for winter protection.
  • Remove excess soil, cut the stalks to within an inch of the corms, and let them cure for 1 to 2 weeks in a warm, airy location.
  • Then remove and discard the oldest bottom corms and store the large, new corms in plastic mesh bags in a well-ventilated, 35 to 45 degree F room. Replant in spring.

v. Gladiolus Bulb Care

Gladiole suffer when forced to compete with weeds.

  • Remove the weeds.
  • The new corm and the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season.
  • Deep cultivation too near the roots breaks off the new roots and slows up growth. • Thrips cause deformed flowers and prevent flower spikes from opening at all.
  • Thrips on bulbs should be killed before planting. In the garden, start dusting or spraying with Fungicide when leaves are six inches tall.
  • Water is essential for growing Gladiolus successfully.
  • Rain seldom supplies enough moisture, but start watering when there are five leaves on the plants.

vi. Storing the Bulbs

  • Leave 1 inch of the stem and cut.
  • Store Gladiolus at about 70 degrees for a month to dry the corms.
  • Divide the bulbs, clean the debris.
  • Let them be at 70 degrees for a week.
  • Then store at 50 degrees.(Do not wash the bulbs with water)
  • Store them in a box or tub lined with peat

Plantation and Harvesting

  • Preparation of land is of utmost importance for production of cut flower farm. The field should be levelled and small channels must be provided for supply of water.
  • The field can be prepared in best way by dividing in parallel cut flower fields having water canals on one side and driveway on the other.
  • Wind can cause damage to the flowers. Artificial windbreaks can be used.
  • Planting time vary with the variety of the cut flower.
  • Plantation should be done in batches with some time interval which will ensure availability of products throughout the growing season.
  • Water should be provided by analyzing the condition of the soil by looking at dampness.
  • For best results micro irrigation system can be used which causes minimum damage to the shoot and flower.
  • Cut flowers are harvested a few days before full bloom to increase their shelf life.
  • Harvesting the flowers early in the morning also helps in keeping the freshness and hence increases shelf life.

Picking of Flowers

It is an important process as it plays vital role for determining the price of flowers. Following steps should be followed

  • Picking should always be done early in the morning.
  • After picking wash the flowers in clean water.
  • Flowers should be treated with life enhancing solutions to increase their life.
  • Dry flowers with natural after the use of preservatives.
  • Inspect each flower for its quality then pack in wooden / cardboard boxes.
  • Ready for delivery / distribution.

Tips for Long-Lasting Cut Flowers

Check the water level of the container or vase daily and add water plus preservative when needed. Keep flowers away from hot or cold air drafts and hot spots (radiators, direct heat, or television sets). While both drafts and hot spots increase water loss, hot spots reduce a flower’s life by speeding transpiration (water loss) and respiration (use of stored food such as sugars) and increasing development (rate of petal unfolding). When away from home, move the flowers into the refrigerator or the coldest (above 35° F/1.5° C) spot in the house. Again, this will slow down water loss, respiration, and development. Never store fruit and flowers together. Apples produce ethylene gas, a hormone that causes senescence, or aging, in flowers.

Summary to keep cut flowers longer:

  • Recut the stems and remove excess foliage. Harden the flowers by setting them in warm water in a cool place.
  • Use a floral preservative. Keep them cool and avoid drafts, hot spots, and television sets. Use a clean vase or container and check the water level daily.

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