Known as sword lilies, or just plain ''glads,'' tall, spiky gladioli come in a beautiful array of colors. For a series of dramatic flower arrangements, plant them in your cutting garden in plantings spaced two weeks apart. Begins planting your gladioli in April and by summertime, you will have a succession of stately blooms that will last well into the fall.
Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun and has good drainage. It's best to prepare the beds the previous fall to a depth of one and one-half feet. Work in well-rotted manure and an ample supply of sand, if your soil is heavy. Gladioli need soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7. And the soil should have a crumbly texture. In the spring, before planting, double-dig the bed.
1. Stake a piece of string to form a straight line. Dig a six-inch-deep furrow using the string as a guide.
2. Because gladioli like phosphorous, which promotes root and flower growth, spread some bone meal along the base of the furrow. And before planting the gladioli, give the furrow a final going-over with a cultivator to remove any stones or large roots.
3. Plant the corms four inches apart, with the base pointed down and the tip pointing upward. Gladioli grow from corms, which are compressed rhizomes, not bulbs. The roots extend from the base of the corm; the stem, from its pointy tip. Martha recommends that you use top-size bulbs. They come in a range of grades, from one to three. Martha always plants A-1 bulbs. Since the corms will not weather a cold winter, they have to be dug up and stored or bought new every year.
4. Once you have placed the corms, draw the soil over the furrow and compress the soil immediately adjacent to the furrow with your feet to form a compact path to help delineate the planting. Clearly label the gladioli.
Water them regularly, and, depending on the variety, you will have a bed full of striking, towering blooms in eighty to one hundred days. Stake tall varieties below the lowest flower after the orientation of the buds makes itself clear.