The gladiolus features a tall, striking stalk of blooms, and proudly fills the summer with beautiful, bright colors. Though you might have already fallen in love with August’s flower, the gladiolus, you can always get to know your flowers better. The following are five fun facts we at Nanz & Kraft Florists bet you did not know about gladioli.
1. What’s in a Name? – The gladiolus not only has roots in the ground, but also in ancient history. Named for their shape and appearance, the term gladiolus stems from the diminutive form of gladius, which means sword in Latin. Translated literally a gladiolus is a little sword. Gladioli have also been called xiphium, which comes from the Greek word, xiphios, which also means sword. In addition to the name gladiolus, the flowers have been referred to as sword or corn lilies.
2. Healing Powers – The British and Mediterranean gladiolus plants were often used for medicinal purposes. For example, the English used the plant’s corms (stem base) as a bandage and to extract thorns or splinters. The corms were also powdered and mixed with goat’s milk to soothe symptoms of colic. Parts of the gladiolus, however, are poisonous if eaten, and certain species cause irritation or allergic reaction when handled. Today we primarily use the gladiolus as a decorative flower in gardens and bouquets.
3. Choices, Choices – Originally only about seven varieties of gladiolus existed naturally in South Africa. From these seven original species, more than 10,000 cultivars (or cultivated varieties) of the gladiolus exist today. This means gardeners today can pick nearly any variety of the plant imaginable. Gladioli are available in varied heights, sizes, types of blooms, colors of blooms, and patterns of blooms. There is a gladiolus to complement every garden and every bouquet out there.
4. More than Words – With a gladiolus, you do not need to include a card expressing your feelings because the plant itself carries and imparts symbolic meaning to the recipient. Gladioli express strength of character, remembrance, faithfulness, and moral integrity. The gladiolus, hence its name, is also meant to pierce the heart of the recipient, conveying infatuation. Additional meaning can be conveyed through color choice, using the standard symbolism of flower color from the Victorian era. Red typically conveys passion, white expresses purity, and yellow often means friendship.
5. They’re Not Bulbs? – Although the gladiolus is a perennial flower, which can be dug up and stored through winter in cold climates, the flower does not have a true bulb, as other perennials do. The gladiolus bulb is called a corm.