Types of Gladiolus Flowers (with Pictures and Names) – Identification

Gladiolus flowers are showy blooms of funnel-shaped flowers growing on tall flowering spikes. The flowering perennial gladiolus plants fill garden landscapes with spectacular floral displays of red, purple, pink, orange, white, yellow, and multi-colored flowers. In addition, the beautiful gladiolus flowers have plain, frilly, ruffled, or semi-ruffled petals adorning vertical blooming flower stalks. Gladiolus flowers usually appear in summer and have a long bloom time until frost.

The large number of species and varieties of gladiolus flowers means there is a type of gladiolus flower to suit your landscape. Some of the smallest gladiolus flower spikes measure 12” (30 cm) tall and have tiny flowers measuring 2” (5 cm) in diameter. The largest funnel-like flowers on tall gladiolus flower stalks are over 5” (13 cm) wide on majestic flower spikes growing 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall.

This article is a comprehensive guide to the most beautiful gladiolus flowers. Descriptions and pictures of gladiolus blooms with showy petals, trumpet shapes, and many colors will help you choose the perfect blossoming plants for your garden.

Gladiolus Facts

Gladiolus flowers

Gladioli are tall flowering perennial plants with showy flowers and narrow leaves

Gladiolus is a genus of flowering perennial plants in the iris family Iridaceae. The gladiolus plant grows from round corms, and each flower stalk can contain between one and 30 funnel-shaped flowers. Apart from the showy flowers, gladiolus plants are identified by narrow, deep-green sword-shaped leaves.

There are around 300 species of gladioli, with most being native to South Africa. Most gladiolus hybrids are from the main species such as ‘Primulines,’ ‘Grandiflorus,’ and ‘Nanus.’ Tall showy gladiolus flowers make stunning cut flower floral arrangements.

The name gladiolus (or gladiola) comes from the Latin for sword and literally means small sword. The gladiolus plant is sometimes called sword lily due to its slender flower stalk and lily-like blooms. Some people also refer to the plants simply as glads.

All gladiolus plants are typically cold-hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11. However, some varieties of gladiolus are winter hardy in zones 5 to 10. In colder climates, gladiolus bulbs need a layer of straw for winter protection. However, if your area gets harsh winters, it is vital to dig up each gladiolus corm in the fall and store all the bulbs in a cool, dark place until spring.

Gladiolus Flower

Gladiolus Flower

Gladiolus flowers are also called sword lilies and come in a wide array of colors and color combinations

Gladiolus flowers are classed as “summer bulbs.” When the “sword flowers” are in bloom, they put on a fantastic summer color show. Gladiolus bloom continuously from early or late summer until the first frost. The flowers are identified by their funnel shape growing on one side of the tall flower stalk.

Gladiolus flowers can grow up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall. So, the tall gladiolus varieties are ideal for back of the bed planting or planting along a tall fence. Smaller gladiolus varieties are suitable for growing in a flower border to enjoy their cheerful colors throughout the summer and fall.

Gladiolus flowers have three distinct shapes, depending on the species used in the hybrid. These are the following:

  • Gladiolus grandiflora hybrids—Large, funnel-shaped flowers with up to 30 flowers on a tall spike.
  • Gladiolus primulinus hybrid flowers—Hooded-type flowers with ruffled petals and contrasting flower colors.
  • Gladiolus nanus hybrids—These miniature hybrids are the smallest of the gladiolus flowers with hooded flowers and lance-shaped narrow leaves.

The wide variety of gladiolus flower colors and color combinations means that the iris-like gladiolus plants suit every landscape.

How to Plant Gladiolus Bulbs

Gladiolus Bulbs

Gladiolus bulbs (or corms)

Plant gladiolus bulbs in spring after the last frost and choose the sunniest part of your garden. Plant the round corms 4 inches deep (10 cm) and 6 to 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) apart. The ground should be well-drained soil that is moderately fertile. Water thoroughly after planting and water regularly throughout the summer.

If you want to grow gladioli for cut flower arrangements, plant the bulbs in rows. Plant the gladiolus bulbs in clusters of seven or more if you’re going to create a spectacular floral display in a summer garden.

Further reading: Gladiolus: Planting, Caring and Growing Guide.

Types of Gladiolus Flowers (With Pictures)

Let’s look in more detail at examples of spectacular gladiolus flowers:

Gladiolus Flower ‘Prins Claus’

Gladiolus nanus 'Prins Claus'

Gladiolus nanus ‘Prins Claus’

The gladiolus ‘Prins Claus’ flowers have stunning pure white petals with vivid fuchsia leaf-shaped markings. The white blooms of this hardy gladiolus nanus hybrid grow on the ends of towering flower spikes that grow up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall. The white and pink gladiolus flowers bloom in early summer and last throughout the fall.

Gladiolus ‘Prins Claus’ flowers are winter hardy in zones 5 through 11.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Black Pearl’

Gladiolus 'Black Pearl'

Gladiolus ‘Black Pearl’

The gladiolus ‘Black Pearl’ flowers are dramatic dark burgundy red funnel-shaped flowers growing abundantly on tall flower spikes. The flowering stalks grow up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall and are ideal for flower beds, containers, and cut gladiolus flower arrangements. The dark red sword lily flowers contrast with the pointed light green linear leaves.

Gladiolus Illyricus Flowers 

Gladiolus Illyricus Flowers 

Gladiolus Illyricus Flowers

The gladiolus illyricus is called the wild gladiolus and has hooded magenta or dark lilac showy flowers with large petals. The lower petals on the pink-purple flowers have whitish streaks, helping to identify this dwarf gladiolus species. The hardy gladiolus grows up to 10” (25 cm) tall and performs well in pots or well-drained ground.

Wild gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus) is cold-hardy in zones 5 through 10.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Star of Bethlehem’

Gladiolus Flower ‘Star of Bethlehem’

Gladiolus ‘Star of Bethlehem’

The gladiolus ‘Star of Bethlehem’ flowers are spectacular snowy-white blooms with large wavy petals and a contrasting pink or lilac throat. The upward-growing white gladiolus flowers grow abundantly on straight, erect flower stalks. The stunning spikes of funnel-shaped white flowers brighten up gardens, containers, and cut flower displays.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Alatus Flipphi’

Gladiolus alatus Flipphi

Gladiolus ‘Alatus Flipphi’

The gladiolus ‘Alatus Flipphi’ flowers are deep orange and yellow hooded flowers with triangular upper petals and linear lower petals. The attractive flowers have pure orange petals that contrast with orange-tipped lower yellow petals. Long green narrow sword-shaped leaves are also a feature of the flowering gladiolus. Plant in spring to enjoy continuous blooms throughout the summer.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Red Sword Lily’

Gladiolus red sword lily

Gladiolus ‘Red Sword Lily’

The gladiolus ‘Red Sword Lily’ flowers have bright red tubular flowers with abundant flowers per stem. The beautiful red gladiolus flowers on the grandiflora hybrid unfurl, revealing frilly petals that create impressive colorful blooms. Grow red sword lily plants along fences, walls, or stalked in flower beds for support.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Byzantinus’ (Gladiolus communis)

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

Gladiolus communis subsp. Byzantinus

The gladiolus ‘Byzantinus’ flowers are stunning magenta-colored, funnel-shaped flowers, growing 2” (5 cm) wide. Each erect flowering stem contains up to 15 vibrantly colored dark pink blooms. The Byzantine gladiolus is one of the taller varieties and has slender flowering spikes growing up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall.

The Byzantine gladiolus magenta or deep pink flowers bloom in late spring or early summer. For best results, plant in well-drained but moist soil in full sun in USDA zones 7 to 10.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Priscilla’ 

Gladiolus Priscilla

Gladiolus ‘Priscilla’

The gladiolus ‘Priscilla’ flowers are striking multi-colored blooms of light yellow, pink, and white flowers. The eye-catching ruffled blossoms grow abundantly on flowering stems with over 12 flowers per stem. The strong, erect floral spikes have sword-like leaves, bloom in early summer and last two weeks. To extend the flowering time, plant every two weeks.

The gladiolus ‘Priscilla’ flowers are some of the most beautiful of all the tall varieties of gladioli. The ruffled whitish petals have a soft yellow throat and bright pink edges. The beautiful pastel-colored showy flowers grow on stems 4 to 5 ft. (1.2 – 1.5 m) tall.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Gartengladiole Apricot’

Gladiolus Flower ‘Gartengladiole Apricot’

Gladiolus ‘Gartengladiole Apricot’

The gladiolus ‘Gartengladiole Apricot’ flowers provide beautiful yellow and orange flowers during the summer months. This tall gladiolus variety has large apricot-colored flowers with slightly ruffled petals growing in a funnel shape. Because the erect flowering stem blooms from the base of the spike, the tall gladiolus plant has a long blooming time.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Carmineus’

Gladiolus carmineus

Gladiolus ‘Carmineus’

The gladiolus ‘Carmineus’ flowers are star-shaped trumpet-like dark pink flowers that grow in clusters on slender stems. The gladiola blooms appear in late summer and the fall. As one of the gladiolus dwarf varieties, the showy plant grows between 12” and 20” (30 – 50 cm) tall.

Also called cliff gladiolas, these flowering plants thrive in containers or rock gardens. The rosy-pink gladiolas are not tolerant of frost and grow in zones 8 through 10. In temperate climates, dig up the gladiolus corms in the fall or plant them in containers.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Sericovillosus’

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Gladiolus ‘Sericovillosus’

The gladiolus ‘Sericovillosus’ flowers are stunning white flowers covered in tiny dark red speckles. The red speckling on creamy-white petals gives the gladiolus flowers an overall maroon-pinkish or brown color. Long, sword-shaped leaves appear along with the showy funnel-shaped flowers.

Also called the large, speckled gladiolus, the ‘Sericovillosus’ thrives in USDA zones 8 to 10. The medium-sized gladiolus with its summer flowers is suitable for containers so you can overwinter them indoors. Alternatively, you can dig up the gladiolus corms in fall to store them ready for planting the following spring.

Gladiolus × hortulanus

Gladiolus × hortulanus

Gladiolus × hortulanus

The gladiolus x hortulanus is a flowering landscape plant with spectacular light pink gladiolus flowers. The identifying features of the gladiolus hybrid are its whitish-pink petals, yellow throat, and bright markings in pink color on the three lower petals. The beautiful blooms are ideal for romantic cut flower floral displays.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Palustris’ 

Gladiolus Flower ‘Palustris’ 

Gladiolus ‘Palustris’

The gladiolus ‘Palustris’ flowers are magenta or rosy-violet funnel-shaped flowers that grow with six blooms per stem. Also called the marsh gladiolus, the flowering spikes have short, slender sword-shaped leaves that are 1.6” – 3.5” (4 – 9 cm) long. The deep pink gladiolus flowers grow on erect stems 12” to 24” (30 – 60 cm) tall.

Marsh gladiolus flowers appear in May through July and attract pollinators to flower gardens

Gladiolus Imbricatus Flower 

Gladiolus Imbricatus

Gladiolus Imbricatus

Gladiolus imbricatus is a species of plant with slender trumpet-shaped deep pink or magenta flowers. The attractive features of the gladiolus flowers are their slightly ruffled margins and white stripes on two of the lower petals. This gladiolus species has the common name shingled gladiolus.

The violet-pink flowers grow on flower stems 1.3 to 4 ft. (0.4 – 1.2m) tall. This gladiolus, with its beautiful blooms, grows in the wild in marshy areas and is winter hardy in USDA zone 5.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Alaska’

Gladiolus Flower ‘Alaska’

Gladiolus ‘Alaska’

The gladiolus ‘Alaska’ is a large-flowered gladiolus with impressive flowers of pure white petals and stamens. The large frilly white gladiolus flowers are some of the largest flowers, growing 4” to 5” (10 – 12 cm) wide. There are around 12 showy white blooms per stem.

This tall variety of gladiolus grows between 3 and 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall. The white gladiolus ‘Alaska’ flowers thrive in USDA zones 8 through 11.

Gladiolus Hybrid Red-Lime Flower

Gladiolus Hybrid Red-Lime Flower

Gladiolus Hybrid ‘Red-Lime’

The gladiolus hybrid ‘Red-Lime’ flowers are spectacular deep orange and pale yellowish-green showy flowers. The gladiolus funnel flowers feature a couple of rounded orange petals with ruffled margins and several greenish lower petals with orange tips.

Italian Gladiolus (Gladiolus ‘Italicus’)

Italian Gladiolus (Gladiolus ‘Italicus’)

Italian Gladiolus (Gladiolus ‘Italicus’)

The Italian gladiolus is a species of gladiolus with hooded-type pink-purple blooms that have white patterns. The pinkish-purple gladiolus flowers have pale pink and white markings on the lower petals. Additionally, long purple stamens appear from the greenish throat.

Also called field gladiolus, this upright flowering perennial has about 20 flowers growing on loose spikes 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall. The field gladiolus spread between 4” and 6” (10 – 15 cm) wide.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Red Cascade’

Gladiolus 'Red Cascade'

Gladiolus ‘Red Cascade’

The gladiolus ‘Red Cascade’ has numerous buds per stem that blossom into huge red, funnel-shaped flowers. Long pointed sword leaves grow from the base, and the red flowers appear at the ends of 3-4-foot-tall (1 – 1.2 m) gladiolus flowering spikes.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Painted Lady’

Gladiolus ‘Painted Lady’

Gladiolus ‘Painted Lady’

The gladiolus ‘Painted Lady’ flowers are some of the most striking white blooms on any gladiolus plant. The star-shaped funnel-like white flowers have rippled margins giving the petals a wavy appearance. Dark crimson red spade markings on the lower petals and a dark red or carmine throat add to this gladiolus plant flowers’ dramatic appearance.

The elegant gladiolus flowers have three to 12 flowers measuring 2.5” (6 cm) long, growing on loose spikes measuring up to 20” (50 cm) tall. The gladiolus corms spread underground, creating a cluster of white gladiolus flowers.

Abyssinian Gladiolus Flowers (Gladiolus Murielae

Abyssinian Gladiolus (Gladiolus Murielae) 

Abyssinian gladiolus (Gladiolus Murielae)

Abyssinian gladiolus flowers are spectacular white funnel flowers growing in the shape of a star. Also called the Abyssinian sword lily or peacock orchid, the gladiolus flowers consist of pointed white petals with a prominent purple throat. Expect around ten magnificent white flowers on each slender flower stalk.

Abyssinian gladiolus grows 2 – 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and features sword-shaped, deep green leaves and white star-shaped flowers.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Merianellus’ 

Gladiolus Flower ‘Merianellus’ 

Gladiolus ‘Merianellus’

The gladiolus ‘Merianellus’ flower is a fiery orange-red blossom with long tubular flowers and a yellow throat. This slender gladiolus plant has loosely growing trumpet-like flowers. The flower petals are deep orangey-red with bright yellow centers. You can expect to see two to seven blossoms on each stem.

Gladiolus Flower ‘Traderhorn’

Gladiolus Flower ‘Trader Horn’

Gladiolus hortulanus ‘Traderhorn’

The Gladiolus ‘Traderhorn’ flowers are frilly orange flowers with ruffled petals that grace long, straight flower stems. The huge, showy orange flowers measure 4” to 5” (10 – 12.5 cm) across. The inside of the trumpet-like flowers has dark red markings. The ruffled flowers grow on tall, slender stems that can reach 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall.

Gladiolus ‘Traderhorn’ plants are ideal for growing at the back of a flower garden to provide a colorful vertical accent. The summer gladiolus corms in the ground are only cold hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10. In temperate climates, dig the bulbs up and store them through the winter for planting in the spring.

Gladiolus ‘Traderhorn’ flowers are excellent for cut flowers and grow well as container plants.

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