Gladiolus L.

Latin gladiolus – a short sword, from the shape of the leaves.

Perennial herbs. Corms globose to flattened with papery or fibrous tunics. Leaves mostly basal, with distinct midvein. Spathes green, ridged, usually as long as perianth tube. Perianth tube irregular; tube evenly tapering or pouched, curved, funnel-shaped at tip; lobes almost equal or the upper three larger, the lower three often bearing arrow-shaped coloured patches ('darts'). Stamens arched above the style, equal. Seeds flat, winged.

255 species in Africa and the Mediterranean.


Medium to large plants with showy flowers; perianth tube sheathed by a green spathe.

Lewis et al. (1972), Anderton & Park (1989), Van Raamsdonk & De Vries (1989), Goldblatt, P. (1996), Goldblatt & Manning (1998).

Source: Cooke, D. (2005). Iridaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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Butterfly group

Plants 70-110 cm tall. Flowers 7-10 cm wide in an erect congested spike. Colours range from yellow to reds and pastel shades, often with a contrasting centre and ruffled segments. Summer.

Derived from the Grandiflorus hybrids.

Gladiolus 'Black Stallion'

Flowers large, maroon.

Gladiolus 'Green Evelyn'

Flowers greenish-yellow.

Gladiolus 'Lady Killer'

Flowers mauve with pale apricot throat

Gladiolus 'Yellow Supreme'

Flowers clear yellow.

Colvillei group

Plants 30-40 cm tall. Flowers 4-7 cm wide in a loose arching spike of 4-10. Perianth upturned, trumpetshaped, white to red with prominent darts; lobes usually with very wavy edges. Spring.

The original G. colvillei Sweet was an F1 hybrid of G. tristis and G. cardinalis having deep pink flowers with a cream stripe on each of the lower perianth lobes. However, other S African species such as G. carneus may have contributed to this group.

Gladiolus 'Peach Blossom'

Flowers pale rose pink, with darts of deeper pink and white

Gladiolus 'Rosea'

Flowers muted pink with cream and maroon darts.

Gladiolus 'Spitfire'

Flowers bright orange-red.

Gladiolus 'The Bride'

Flowers pure white with yellow shading along the midline of each lobe.

Grandiflorus group

Plants 1-1.5 m tall. Flowers of almost any colour, 10-16 cm wide, 10-20 in an erect congested spike. Summer.

Grown extensively for cut flowers and exhibition. This group originated with F1 hybrids of G. dalenii and G. oppositiflorus which were marketed as G. 'Gandavensis' by Van Houtte in Belgium around 1840. G. cardinalis, G. cruentus, G. papilio, G. saundersii and others have also contributed to modern polyploid cultivars such as:

Gladiolus 'Amsterdam'

Flowers pure white, ruffled lobes, cream inside tube.

Gladiolus 'Arabian Knight'

Flowers dark purple, almost black.

Gladiolus 'Blue Bird'

Flowers blue-mauve with cream-white blotch on lower segments.

Gladiolus 'Cartago'

Flowers deep orange.

Gladiolus 'Dynasty'

Flowers purple with ruffled lobes.

Gladiolus 'Eurovision'

Flowers dark red.

Gladiolus 'Fiesta'

Flowers gold, with tangerine picotee edges.

Gladiolus 'Golden Harvest'

Flowers bright yellow.

Gladiolus 'Green Spire'

Flowers pale lime green, with ruffled lobes.

Gladiolus 'Her Majesty'

Flowers ruffled lilac, shading to white in centre.

Gladiolus 'Hunting Song'

Flowers orange-red.

Gladiolus 'Icicles'

Flowers pure white.

Gladiolus 'Jester'

Flowers golden yellow with large orange-red patch on lower lobes and ruffled edges.

Gladiolus 'Lake Winnebago'

Flowers deep violet.

Gladiolus 'Legend'

Flowers rose-pink shading to white in centre.

Gladiolus 'Memory Lane'

Flowers rose-magenta with white centre.

Gladiolus 'Nova Lux'

Flowers lemon yellow.

Gladiolus 'Peter Pears'

Flowers orange-salmon with red shading in centre.

Gladiolus 'Pink Lady'

Flowers bright pink with red centre and ruffled lobes.

Gladiolus 'Plum Tart'

Flowers deep purple.

Gladiolus 'Purple 1104'

Flowers magenta with a white ring in centre.

Gladiolus 'Royalty'

Flowers deep rose.

Gladiolus 'Trader Horn'

Flowers red with white throat.

Gladiolus 'White Friendship'

Flowers white with some yellow shading in throat.

Nanus group

Plants 30-60 cm tall. Flowers 5-8 cm wide in loose spikes of 3-8. Spring.

Similar to the Colvillei group but with a greater variety of form and colours, derived from several S African species.

Gladiolus 'Alba'

Flowers white with purple anthers.

Gladiolus 'Blushing Bride'

Flowers palest blush pink, with maroon darts.

Gladiolus 'Charm'

Flowers pale mauve-pink with cream throat

Gladiolus 'Desiree'

Flowers pale pink with red darts.

Gladiolus 'Nymph'

Flowers white with dark red darts.

Gladiolus 'Oriental Lady'

Flowers purple with lilac darts.

Gladiolus 'Robinetta'

Flowers crimson.

Gladiolus 'Rubra'

Flowers carmine with cream darts.

Gladiolus 'Salmoneus'

Flowers flesh pink with a crimson stripe on each lower segment.

Primulinus group

Plants 70-100 cm tall. Flowers 5-10 cm wide with a hooded or drooping top segment, in looser spikes of 10-20. Colours range from yellow to reds and pastel shades. Summer.

Bred in the 20th century from crosses of Grandiflorus cultivars with the yellow form of G. dalenii formerly known as G. primulinus. Popular cultivars include:

Gladiolus 'Atom'

Flowers orange-scarlet with slightly frilled cream margins.

Gladiolus 'Princess Margaret Rose'

Flowers orange-red with yellow lower segments.

Gladiolus 'Royalty'

Flowers cerise, shaded paler pink in centre.

Gladiolus 'White Sails'

Flowers white, shaded yellow in throat.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Lilianae
order      Asparagales
family       Iridaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Gladiolus cardinalis Curtis
species         Gladiolus carneus Delaroche
species         Gladiolus communis L.
species         Gladiolus dalenii Van Geel
species         Gladiolus gueinzii Kunze
species         Gladiolus murielae
species         Gladiolus papilio Hook.f.
species         Gladiolus tristis L.
species         Gladiolus undulatus L.
species         Gladiolus watsonius Thunb.