The earliest U.S. garden writers promoted gladiolas: how easy they are to grow, how they multiply like crazy and give you lots of return on your investment.
In modern times, we tend to leave propagation to the professionals, but there’s no need to do that, especially not with something as easy to propagate as glads.
In fact, propagating glads is not only easy, it’s fun. Digging up corms has an Easter-egg-hunt excitement. How many little corms will there be?
In the case of glads, as you can see, there are often scads of little cormlets around the mother corm, which is supposed to die off each year. This mother, shiny, firm, and huger than any gladiolus corm I’ve ever planted, looks as if it will make a fine new plant in the coming year. It might be one of the glads that never flowered; often this means plants are putting more energy into their roots and leaves.
Talking about bulb propagation now may seem odd to those of you whose ground is soon to be frozen solid or covered with snow. But bulb propagation is something that can happen in many seasons, depending on where you live. It should always be done when bulbs are dormant – but when they are dormant depends on what season they bloom. In my area, I can re-plant them right away; in colder-winter areas, you need to put the corms and cormlets up in onion bags or paper bags (they need some ventilation) in a dark, cool (but not freezing) place.
I get a certain pleasure out of seeing the baby corms, jammed in against the mother like piglets to a sow, some of them mere slivers, some of them already sending up leaf-shoots. It’s hard not to be happy when you see your garden plants have been working underground, making more plants for you.
I’d never tried propagating glads until now, though I have grown out some narcissus and tulip offsets – only a few to the flowering stage, but at least the rest give me leaves to show they’re still alive. In the case of glads, I have no doubt that at least some of these bulbs will give me flowers as early as next year. The small ones still need to grow.