The World of the Gladiolus (1972)
The Rev. Dr. Clifford D. Buell

Beaver, Pennsylvania

Many people are not aware of the variety of types as well as colors in gladiolus. Not only are there browns, tans, smokies, dark violets, black reds, greens and exotic color combinations; likewise there are doubles, fragrants, face-ups, lacinated, dragons, pointed petals, etc., as well as the plain petaled and ruffled varieties widely known. Truly the gladiolus is the most versatile of the flowers we use. Let us consider some of these.


Several species of gladiolus, as found in Southern Africa, are fragrant. However, most of these will not change their growing habits from the southern hemisphere (our winter) to our summer blooming time.

Hybridists have used some species in the early development of our modern gladiolus, and fragrance is a recessive trait in several of our modern flowers. Today, by crossing those varieties indicating the fragrance tendencies, we have several varieties with mild fragrance on our markets—about one or two hundred named kinds.

In addition, fragrance in gladiolus varies from rose and apple blossom types to spicy and even to obnoxious scents—the latter apparently the strongest.

Even as in colors (some people are color blind to red and greens) so people seem to vary in their perceptions of fragrant types. Some smell the rose like scent easily, but are not able to detect the apple blossom fragrance. Of course some find it difficult to detect any fragrance at all.

Recently, Mrs. Joan Wright has introduced Lucky Star which is a cross of a gladiolus with a cousin, the Acidanthera, and has obtained stronger fragrance than most of the former named varieties.

Among the fragrant strains to be found the following: Incense, Mibloom, New Era, Summer Fragrance, Rosemarie Pfitzer, Blues, Carrie Jacob Bond, and perhaps others as well as Mrs. Wright's strain. Hybridists have combined some of these to obtain the best of today's varieties.

Several men in the past have made contributions to the fragrance factor in gladiolus. McLean crossed the winter blooming species with the summer bloomers and obtained very fragrant flowers, but these were nearly sterile and have almost passed out of existence. Braver used Mibloom and crossed it with name varieties and then inbred them. Perfume was perhaps his best and may still be found. Reverend Spencer also used Mibloom as the basis of his breeding, but outcrossed with other strains and flowers. Several of his varieties may be found. Reverend Spencer is deceased, and the other gentlemen are inactive in producing fragrant varieties for the market. Several men have produced at least one fragrant variety, but breeding for fragrance has been slow. Interest has revived now and several new varieties should soon be found on the market. Dr. R. A. Griesbach has been added to those breeding for fragrance.

Available from certain sources today are:

  • Perfume—White, rose dart, medium size (Braver '41) (Joli x Summer Breeze)
  • Gwen—Rose, large size (Pickell '49) (Rosemarie Pfitzer x Picardy)
  • Yellow Rose—Yellow, red throat mark, Large (Spencer '52) (from Mibloom x Incense strains)
  • Pink Fragrance—Pink, medium (Spencer '53) (Frilled Fragrance x Summer Breeze)
  • Sweetie—Red, white throat (Spencer '54) (Rose Gem x Thisisit)
  • Acacia—Creamy pink, red spot, large (Buell '56) (Perfume x Diadem)
  • Sweet Debbie—Ruffled dark pink, cream throat, small (Buell '60) (Acacia x (Summer Fragrance x New Era))
  • Cliffie—Coral Salmon, red spot, small (Buell '61) ((Summer Fragrance x New Era) x Acacia)
  • Spice—Lavender, large (Buell '63) (King David x Party Ruffles)
  • Bouquet—Ruffled salmon, cream throat, large (Buell '63) (Acacia x Party Ruffles)
  • Gaytime—Salmon, red spot, (Zeller '67) (Melodie x Pink Fragrance)
  • Lucky Star—White, lavender line (Wright '66) (Acidanthera Murielae X Filigree) X Acidanthera Murielae


Arthur C. Koerner, by careful crosses and selection, presented to the world a new type of gladiolus wherein the florets face upward. This type is especially good for arrangements, particularly on tables or anywhere even or below eye level. They are generally small or miniature in size (under 3 1/2 inches), and blend well with other flowers or foliage.

Available from certain Gladiolus catalogues are such varieties as Wedding Cake, White Satin, Thomas E. Wilson, Salmon, and Red Button may still be found. More recently we may find Pert by Marion C. Rich; Tina by Bill White; and Smokey Button is still available.


Lacinated gladiolus are similar to the ones best known but each presents an appearance of having been meticulously torn along all edges. A. E. Kundered produced the first of this race in Lacinatus. It has been reported that he refused $1,000 for one corm at the beginning, assuring the prospective customer that they would be much less expensive in a very short time. The number of varieties available today is not large. Among them may be found Indian Doll (a smokey scarlet from Dr. Griesbach) and Red Orchid from Fischer.


The main features of the Dragon Gladiolus are long, sprawling or twisted petals, lacination, and spurs. Many of the Dragons are thought to have come originally as sports through Picardy. Lucian Gosling is the leading figure in the breeding of these gladiolus. Again, they are vey good for arranging, with shorter heads and less blooms open than the more formal types. Among Gosling's dragons are: Shaggy Dragon, White Dragon, Gray Dragon, Fairy Dragon, and Dinosar.

Exotics, in addition to the above, may be divided into new forms and unusual colors. Dr. Griesbach has introduced a new race of very heavy textured and heavily ruffled flower in such varieties as: Sculptured Beauty, an ivory cream with a lavender throat spear; Root Beer, a brown and maroon; Spitfire, salmon orange and scarlet; Mexicana, buff and green with a large dark red blotch; and Merie Doty, a cream.

Additional types of exotic gladiolus are the narrow petaled, such as Jester, dark yellow with scarlet lip, round petals, needle-pointed, star shaped (six petaled), and other new types being developed will no doubt be placed on the market in the near future. The ruffled gladiolus are now so common that they are practically the "standard type."

The exotic colored gladiolus are more formal in their types, but the combination of colors is more unusual. Most of these are featured by contrasting throat blotches or spots, setting off an exotic color combination, sometimes with three colors; picotee colors, or edged with a wide band of another color from the main part of the flower; or strong veining of a second color over the entire petals; and strong flecking evenly placed on each floret.

New types and colors of exotics are constantly being segregated in seedling patches. Some of these are by-passed as being less desirable, while others become the foundation of new races.