The name "gladiolus," is from a Latin word meaning "little sword" because of the shape of the plant's leaves. They grow from corms, which are planted flat side down, two inches apart and at least 4 inches deep. They look best if planted in clumps rather than rows, and they must have full sun.
The vertical flower spikes that open from the bottom up are used by florists to provide height in large formal arrangements. They have been hybridized extensively to produce all colors except blue.
A wild miniature variety was found near the Victoria Falls in Africa. The plants grew where there was spray from the falls and the local people called it the "The Maid in the Mist." Although this is not substantiated, some believe that gladioli were "the lilies of the field" that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount, for they grew wild in the Holy Land.
Gardeners in mild climates find them to be perennial, but in colder regions, the corms must be planted every year. It is best to leave some foliage on the plant when the blossoms are cut, so that food can be stored in the corms for the next year's growth. They can be dug in the fall and stored in paper bags for replanting the next spring.