Gladiolus By The Numbers

Gladiolus plants are great for mixed borders, naturalized areas, and make for a strong vertical accent. They are impressive in large groups and provides long-lasting cut flowers.  But what I find most interesting about Gladiolus is how they are named. There are so many trade names for different varieties of Gladiolus. Names that describe their colors like pastel mix, expresso, green star, or purple flora. There are names for smaller dwarf varieties like “bambino,” and larger plants are designated by “giant” in their names.  Gladiolus can be described by their flower tepal shapes as being ruffled or smooth as well as the length of the flower spikes.  All these names are descriptive and pertain to some characteristic of the plant.

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Measure from tepal to tepal, we have a measurement of 2 3/4 inches. Therefore, the Gladiolus three-digit identifier is 254.

Biologists like to name and classify plants too. They use a more scientific approach that uses a hierarchal system.  In fact, Gladiolus is the scientific genus name for this plant. There are approximately 300 different species of Gladiolus that have been described by biologists. That’s a lot of variation for a garden plant.  Why are there so many different species?  Well, this plant can be easily crossed by growers to create new hybridized varieties.  New genetic combinations that gardeners are interested in like size, color, and tepal ruffling. These new hybridized plants will continue to grow asexually, their corms producing cormlets with identical characteristics.  It is because of this that growers needed a simple identification system to describe Gladiolus. They chose a numbering system base on flower size and color.   So let’s take a look at Gladiolus by the numbers.

The gladiolus numbering system uses three digits, and calculating your gladiolus number is easy.  You can give it a try, here’s how. The first digit is for flower size. Real simple, you need a ruler, hold the flower as flat as possible, and measure along the fullest part of the flower, from tepal to tepal.  Get your first digit from the table below.

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The second digit refers to the flower’s color and the last digit tells us something about color intensity. An odd number indicates a conspicuous mark or color contrast.

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