First of all, the gladioluses amaze with a variety of kinds. There are almost 64000 of them in the world now, although about 42000 are already forgotten and exist only in old books and catalogues. About 100 new kinds are registered in the International List of Gladioluses every year, but there are at least five times as many that are not in this List, or are registered only in one particular country. In order to help flower-growers find their way in this sea of varieties, the North American Gladiolus Council (NAGC) accepted a common classification, which today is used all over the world.

But all the varieties that we can see in gardens, shops, and at exhibitions, are only multiple hybrids of wild gladioluses. European flower-growers noticed them in the 18 century. Actually, about 250 various species belong to the class Gladiolus, and Gladiolus Hybrid is only one of them.


Gladiolus communis

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Gladiolus communis L. is native to temperate northern Africa, western Asia and southern Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus, and widely naturalised in frost-free locations elsewhere – such as coastal parts of the southwestern British Isles. It is a vigorous cormous herbaceous perennial growing to 1 m tall with linear leaves and bright pink flowers in spring.

Gladiolus tristis

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Gladiolus tristis Boiss. A hardy easy growing species, native to southern Africa. Produces a single leaf from which the flower spike emerges. Typically 4-6 buds per spike. The flowers are intensely fragrant, especially at night.

Gladiolus dalenii

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Gladiolus dalenii Gaud. It occurs over a large region in Southern Africa and has many distinct geographic forms, which in the past were given many different species names, including Gladiolus primulinus.

Gladiolus tubergenii

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Gladiolus tubergenii Ker. This eye-catching flower is native to South Africa and blooms in nearly every colour. Come in colours from soft pink to bright purple-pink, have narrow leaves, and have two to four stalks with many side shoots. They look like the Colvillei Hybrids but have larger flowers and are somewhat taller. They are good to use in the garden but they are also suitable as a cut flower.

Gladiolus primulinus Baker. This flower is native to East Africa, the Zambezi river area. In Europe it is known since 1889. It is 20-30 inch height, blooms July to September. Gladiolus primulinus was very important in the production of miniature Gladiolus hybrids.

Gladiolus callianthus

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Gladiolus callianthus L. Gladiolus callianthus or Abyssinian Star is native to South Africa. It did not arrive in Europe until 1930. Acidanthera was the name of the genus, but they now belong to the genus Gladiolus. The similarity to a gladiolus flower is obvious, but they are more delicate and graceful. This charming flower does not resemble any of its kind. The tender white flowers have a purple heart and they dangle decoratively of a 32 inch stem. They flower one at a time and thus stay in bloom from early august till the first frost.

Gladiolus byzantinus

Photo from book by Dr. D.G. Hessayon.

Gladiolus byzantinus is known since 1629. It is a hardy, very delicate gladiolus from Spain, Italy, North Africa, Corsica and Malta, much more graceful than her larger sisters and therefore very useful in the perennial border. Suitable neighbours are lavender, grey-leaved plants. The flowers may face in two or three directions. Very nice in bouquets.

Gladiolus caeruleus

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Gladiolus caeruleus Czerniak. A graceful, fairly vigourous plant. Spikes have 6-8 buds and have two bell shaped light blue flowers in bloom at a time. The lower petals are cream colored and marked with many dark blue-violet spots.

Gladiolus carneus

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Gladiolus carneus. A large flowered, late blooming species. The single spike had 3 buds with large light lavender pink florets. Each lightly ruffled floret had 3 prominent red-pink darts on the lip petals.

Gladiolus trichonemifolius

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Gladiolus trichonemifolius. A hardy easy growing species, native to southern Africa. Produces a single leaf from which the flower spike emerges. Typically 4-6 buds per spike. The flowers are intensely fragrant, especially at night.

Hybrid Gladioluses

Gladiolus Hybrids

Cultivar "Melynbarzdis"

Gladiolus Hybrids hort. The modern summer blooming hybrids are very different from the species glads. These varieties with their large, showy flowers are the most popular of all gladioli. They are excellent for exhibition and are much used by florists as cut flowers.

The modern hybrids or Grandiflora hybrids are much larger, both in terms of flower size and the size of the flower spike. Some modern hybrids can have up to 40 flower buds and can hold ten or more 5 1/2" wide flowers open at once.

In addition to the larger size, modern hybrid glads have flowers in colors and forms not found in the species. Most modern glads have at least some ruffling of the petals and some varieties are so heavily ruffled and textured that they almost appear to be carved from wax.

Gladiolus gandavensis

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Gladiolus gandavensis hort. It was the first hybrid gladiolus. That was the hybrid of Gladiolus psittacinus and Gladiolus cardinalis originated in 1837 and firstly described in 1844. This hybrid comes in colors from red to purple pink. It blooms in last summer.

Nanus Hybrids

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Nanus Hybrids were introduced in 1855 from Gladiolus cardinalis and Gladiolus venustus. Gladioluses from the Nanus Hybrids are decorative and early-flowering. They come in white, pink, salmon and some varieties are nearly red, have narrow leaves, and have two to four flower stalks with many side shoots. They have graceful spikes with fewer than 12 buds. They are good to use in the garden but they are also suitable as a cut flower. The Nanus types are also known as "Baby Gladiolus" or some such similar name. Although the exact parentage of these hybrids is mostly lost, we know that they are the result of crossing the summer and winter blooming species together. In fact, virtually all of them are actually first generation hybrids.

Primulinus Hybrids

Photo from book by Dr. D.G. Hessayon

Primulinus Hybrids. These cultivars originated from the yellow Gladiolus primulinus. This group can be recognized by the upper flower leaf which covers the other flower leaves, pistil and stamen as if it were a protective little cap. The heart of the flower is, for this reason, difficult to see.

Butterfly Hybrids. The butterfly-type gladioluses were introduced in 1951. Common characteristics of the butterfly gladiolus are its crossed and folded petals and its interesting color combinations. This group contains varieties in which the plants are not as big as the large-flowering gladioli, therefore the flowers are also a little smaller. The color of the flower is very often in strong contrast with the rest of the plant, and tends to look like a butterfly. Butterfly types are very suitable for cut flower production.

Miniature Hybrids. They were originated in 1950s. The miniature glads should not be confused with varieties of species such as Primulinus hybrids. The flower diameter is about 2 inch. They are not plain-petaled and small but are essentially replicates of the ruffled and frilled large-flowered types. The small flowers on short spikes often make them more suitable for small arrangements.