Why this traditional flower is making a stylish comeback

Chosen as the bulb of the year by the US National Garden Bureau, the glorious gladioli is back in vogue after years in the wilderness

purple flowers of Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus
(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Easy to grow, as long as you stake against high winds, and an amazing addition if you’re planning a cut-flower garden, gladioli are getting the glamorous comeback they deserve.

'Today’s glads are far showier than those that grow in the wild and the color options are simply incredible,' says Diane Blazek, spokesperson for the National Garden Bureau, which has chosen the favorite flower of Australian ‘superstar’ Dame Edna Everage as its Bulb of the Year 2022. 

'No wonder floral designers, flower farmers, and home gardeners are finding new and creative ways to put gladioli front and center,' she adds. 

Of course, knowing how and when to plant gladioli bulbs is key to enjoying this stunning flower, but what else do you need to consider? 

Why are gladioli making a comeback?

pale green gladioli

(Image credit: Harris Seeds/National Garden BureauNational Garden Bureau)

Sales of gladioli bulbs (also known as corms) have risen 98 per cent since 2018/19 according to horticultural company Thompson & Morgan (opens in new tab) as gardeners have looked for statement plants that are easy to deal with and bring color and interest to the late summer garden.

'Gladioli add height and drama to summer garden borders, work with a range of planting styles, and make fantastic cutting garden flowers,' says Olivia Drake, spokesperson for Thompson & Morgan’s horticultural team. 

'Their magnificent spires in a range of opulent shades bring a touch of Bridgerton-inspired Regency glamour to any garden. We’re finding them especially popular in the wake of the chart-topping Netflix series and the current trend to replicate the Regencycore aesthetic at home.'

Exciting new varieties

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Gardener and garden designer Sarah Raven (opens in new tab) says these retro beauties are becoming more popular each year because 'there’s a whole new generation of gladioli currently emerging, in smoky, unusual, anything-but-garish colors.'

Her favorites are: 'Deep magenta, crimson and purple tones, varieties like ‘Espresso’, the darkest black-crimson, or the rich magenta spires of Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. I love these with acid green, for a zip of brightness to contrast against all that richness.'

'Not all gladioli are whoppers,' she adds. 'Our Perfect Petite Gladioli Collection mixes two very pretty and delicate miniature varieties, ‘Flevo Disco’ and ‘Flevo Cool’. They work so well in a vase or border with other garden flowers and are not as dominant as the grandifloras.'

white blooms of Gladiolus x colvillii 'The Bride'

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

If you like the idea of including these on-trend favorites in your flower bed ideas this year, the good news is that late spring is the best time to start planting gladioli bulbs directly into the ground, spacing them out at fortnightly intervals to ensure continuous blooms. 

According to the National Garden Bureau (opens in new tab), 'you can expect the flowers to begin opening 80-90 days after planting.' So not long to wait for the spectacular show to start.

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens. Her first memories include planting potatoes with her grandfather and drawing houses. Her own garden - her fourth - at home in a 1920s house in Yorkshire, is south-facing and on the side of a valley. It’s a constant challenge