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Propagating Gladiolus

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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.

 

 

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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.

11 comments

1 Frances { 09.24.09 at 2:00 am }

Hi Pomona, good luck with your babies! Someone once gave me a bag of those little cormlets when I was moving to another state. I packed the bag and totally forgot about it for several months. While getting the last of the moving boxes unpacked, the bag was discovered and the little ones planted. Withing two years we had flowers, a nice orangey coral color. :-)
Frances

2 Barbee' { 09.24.09 at 8:24 am }

Glads are so pretty, but I shy away from anything that needs storage (no dark cool place). But, I drive by a house that has a large bed of them in the front. I really enjoy theirs. I enjoyed seeing the photos you showed. Not having any, I had no way of knowing what they looked like. Always had wondered about them.

3 Mary Delle { 09.24.09 at 11:42 am }

I love seeing glads in someone’s yard. I enjoyed the pleasure you take with your glad corms. Nice to read.

4 tina { 09.24.09 at 6:23 pm }

I got some of these corms from a neighbor and do you know they come back every single year? I tried so hard for them not to but the babies sure love to grow. Good thing I enjoy glads I guess.

5 Genevieve { 09.26.09 at 8:19 pm }

Well, now I know what not to do with the orange things that came up this year. They were supposed to be a deep gothy burgundy to go with my Acidanthera! ORANGE I tell you.

Thanks for the tip. I usually just leave mine be and let them do their thing with no digging in my mild climate. They do seem to spread well on their own.

6 Pomona Belvedere { 09.29.09 at 2:19 pm }

Thanks for the info on how long it takes corms to grow – and I myself store very few things over the winter, so I understand not wanting to do that. My glads haven’t come back from corms on their own, maybe because they’re mostly in pots? Don’t have room to grow? dunno. sympathies about ORANGE, I’ve had these interesting color surprises myself. Soil? Climate? Insanity on the part of the vendors?

7 TC Lawson { 10.18.09 at 1:21 pm }

Hey I’m in montana and weve had some cold weather> I just pulled up my frist crop of glads. They are all soft. Are they worth keeping? Did they freeze?

8 Pomona Belvedere { 10.19.09 at 9:00 am }

If the corms are soft, they probaby did freeze and are unlikely to do anything for you: corms should be crisp and juicy, a bit like a small onion. Luckily if you need to replace them most glads are cheap!

9 Gill Dehning { 11.14.13 at 8:52 pm }

I live in the W. Cape South Africa which has a mild climate. I bought some lovely pink corms which come up year after year (I don’t lift them) but each time only one flower spike after 6 years. What happens to the cormlets? I would have thought not disturbing them, they would multiply madly?

10 Gill Dehning { 11.14.13 at 8:54 pm }

Oops, please email me?

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