Organic Gardening on the Gulf Coast - Lessons and tips from Foley's Cooper Farm

The beauty and bounty of gladiolus flowers in our humid grow zone: Cultivating the Coast with Kitti Cooper, presented by Saunders Yachtworks

Discover the rich history of gladiolus within Foley's agricultural economy and gain valuable insights into cultivating your own


Gladiolus, sometimes known as sword lilies, are a staple of Southern gardens, known for their striking, upright spikes and delicate blooms.

In zones 8 /9, such as those found in South Alabama, the warm climate and long growing season offer the ideal conditions for cultivating gladiolus flowers. Not only do these vibrant flowers add tall coverage and color to gardens, landscapes and floral arrangements, but they also offer several benefits that make them a popular choice among local gardeners. In this article, we will explore the benefits of gladiolus and provide a guide on how to grow them in your South Alabama garden, along with tips and facts to help you succeed.


Gladiolus played a pivotal role in Baldwin County's past agriculture economy, reaching a peak in the early years with a staggering production of up to 20,000 dozen per day from a single grower. At one point, Foley even held the nationwide record for shipping 1,250,000 gladiolus flowers in a single day at one point in time.
Here's a guide on how to grow these sentimental historical Baldwin County flowers in your own backyard.


Aesthetic appeal: Gladiolus come in a wide range of colors, including pink, purple, red, yellow, white and more. Their tall, spear-like stems adorned with ruffled blooms make them a stunning focal point in any garden or flower arrangement.

Versatile garden addition: Gladiolus are versatile and can be planted in borders, flower beds or as a backdrop for other plants. Their height and vibrant colors create a striking visual impact in any garden setting.
Long-lasting cut flowers: Gladiolus are excellent cut flowers, known for their longevity in vases. Their tall spikes can make an impressive statement in floral arrangements, adding height and a burst of color.

Easy to grow: Gladiolus are relatively easy to grow and care for, making them a great choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners. They can be planted in various soil types and climates with minimal maintenance.

Symbolism: In addition to their aesthetic appeal, gladiolus carry symbolic meanings such as strength and integrity, making them a thoughtful gift or addition to special occasions.


1. Choose the right time

In Zones 8/9, you can plant gladioli corms in early spring. The soil should be warm enough by then to allow for planting, and the corms will have sufficient time to establish and bloom during the summer months. Avoid planting when there is a risk of frost.

2. Select a sunny location

Gladiolus thrive in full sun, so choose a location in your garden that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. This helps ensure healthy growth and abundant blooms.

3. Prepare the soil

Gladiolus prefer well-draining soil. Prepare the planting area by loosening the soil and mixing in compost or organic matter to improve drainage and soil fertility.

4. Planting the corms

Plant the corms about 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Planting the corms in groups can create a more dramatic display of blooms. Cover with soil and water gently after planting.

5. Watering

Keep the soil consistently moist during the growing season, but be careful not to overwater, as this can cause the corms to rot. Water regularly during dry periods to prevent dehydration, ensuring the soil remains evenly moist but not soggy.

6. Staking

Gladiolus can grow quite tall, so they may need support, especially in windy areas. Use stakes or supports to keep the stems upright and prevent them from bending or breaking under the weight of their blooms. By growing in masses they can also support one another.

7. Deadhead spent blooms

Remove spent flowers to encourage new blooms and prevent the plant from diverting energy into seed production. Regular deadheading also keeps the plants looking tidy and attractive.

8. End of season care

Gladiolus are typically hardy in Zones 8 and 9 and don't need to be lifted for winter storage. They will then multiply every year filling your planted area with more and more for many summers to come.


Succession planting: To extend the blooming season, plant corms at intervals of one to two weeks throughout the spring into early summer. This will ensure a continuous supply of blooms over the summer months.

Mulching: Applying mulch around the base of gladiolus can help conserve moisture, suppress weeds and regulate soil temperature.

Watch for pests and diseases: Common pests that can affect gladiolus include thrips and aphids. Keep an eye out for any signs of infestation and treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil as needed. Fusarium wilt and gray mold are diseases that can impact gladiolus; good air circulation and proper watering can help prevent these issues.

Fertilization: Apply a balanced fertilizer when the plants are about 6 inches tall and again when flower spikes begin to form. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to lush foliage at the expense of blooms.

Harvesting for cut flowers: For the best vase life, cut gladiolus stems when the first one or two flowers have opened. Trim the stems diagonally, remove lower leaves, and place them in a vase with fresh water.

Experiment with varieties: There are numerous gladiolus varieties available, each with different colors and bloom sizes. Experiment with different types to find the ones that thrive best in your garden and suit your aesthetic preferences.

Preserve blooms: To preserve gladiolus blooms for future use, dry them by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry place. Once dried, they can be used in arrangements or crafts.

By following these tips and growing guidelines, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of gladiolus flowers in your South Alabama garden. Their vibrant colors and impressive blooms make them a wonderful addition to any outdoor space, providing a touch of elegance and a splash of color throughout the summer months.

Happy gardening!

Photos provided courtesy of Kitti Cooper.