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A picture of a Sword Lily

Sword Lily

Gladiolus spp.

Also known as


Full Sun
Easy care
Moderate watering


USDA zone


Minimum temperature

Expected size








2 years to reach maturity


  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a mild fragrance

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Sword Lily Overview

Gladiolus is a large genus of around 180 species of perennials that grow from corms. Many originate from the rocky slopes, seasonally dry grassland and marshy areas of South Africa, and are grown for their spikes of showy funnel-shaped flowers that open from the bottom upwards. Over 10,000 hybrids and cultivars have been developed for cultivation, exhibiting and cutting. They are classified into 3 groups - Grandiflorus, Nanus and Primulinus. Grandiflorus produce one spike per corm that has closely packed flowers and up to 28 buds of which 12 open at any one time. These are further divided into 5 size classes, according to the diameter of the bottom flower. Nanus hybrids and cultivars produce 2-3 slender spikes with loosely arranged flowers, bearing up to 7 buds, with 3-5 open at one time. Primulinus hybrids and cultivars produce only one thin whip-like stem per corm which bears as many as 23 buds, with up to 7 open at a time. The flowers arranged in a semi-formal step-ladder arrangement. A favourite with many gardeners and exhibitors, Gladioli - or Sword Lilies, as they're sometimes known - can be grown in clumps in borders, or in rows for cutting. They like a sunny site with well-drained, fertile soil. The corms can be lifted and new ones stored over winter, or they can be left in the soil and more tender ones mulched, to protect them from frost in cool climates. Depending on the group they belong to, they will flower at different times throughout the summer.

Common problems with Sword Lily

Sword Lily Companion Plants

Plant with small shrubs, short grasses and annuals.

How to harvest Sword Lily

Flowers can be cut for the vase from the garden. Commercially grown flowers are supplied to the floriculture industry. Flowering spikes are cut without the leaves.

How to propagate Sword Lily


Separate cormlets when dormant.


Sow seeds into trays or containers in spring, keep moist.

Special features of Sword Lily

Attractive flowers

The flowers, which are borne on a spike, are funnel-shaped and make a striking show.

Pot plant

Can be grown in pots. Use good fertile potting medium, keep them well watered in the growing season, and dry while dormant.

Other uses of Sword Lily

Cut flowers

One of the top 10 cut flowers in world, although the natural bulbs are not always that showy.

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Summer Flowering Bulbs

Plant out these flowering bulbs in spring to enjoy their summer performance.

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