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Gladiolus Falling Over: Why & How to Stop It
Gladioluses are one of the most beautiful, long-blooming flowers around. Yet if you’ve ever grown them, you know they’re prone to toppling over! Sometimes it happens as they’re growing, others it’s once they’re blooming, but rest assured that during the summer at least one will find itself growing sideways.
If you’re having trouble with your gladiolus falling over, here’s why it happens, along with how to stop it from happening both in the garden and in a vase.
Why are My Gladioluses Falling Over?
Gladioluses generally fall over for two reasons:
#1: Top-Heavy Blooms
The typical reason your gladiolus has fallen over is the logical one: the flowers are just too heavy! Once several blooms are out at once, the weight of the flowers on the stalk becomes too much, and the whole plant will take a tumble.
With the largest varieties growing up to 5 feet high, glads are one of the tallest flowering bulb plants. It’s no small feat for one to stay upright. Add their height to the fact that the larger varieties can have blooms up to 5 inches wide, and you have a recipe for stem-breaking disaster!
#2: Wind & Weather
Another common reason gladioluses fall is that wind, rain, hail, or other excessive conditions weigh down the plant and cause it to collapse. The heavy blooms mentioned above make it more likely to happen, but it’s also possible for the elements to topple your glad before it even begins to grow its stalk and bloom.
How to Keep a Gladiolus from Falling Over
If your gladiolus is falling over or leaning, it’s a good idea to set it upright as soon as possible. Gladioluses left on the ground are more susceptible to damage, and many that are leaning will break off altogether once the blooms get heavier.
The best way to keep your gladiolus from falling over is to take preventative measures when planting them, which are outlined below. If you’re already partway through the growing season and have trouble, you should stake them. Here’s how:
The best quick fix for glads that have fallen over is to stake them back up. Staking methods for glads vary based on whether they’re planted individually at the recommended planting distance or in a grouping close together. You can stake your glads once they’ve fallen over or stake them from the beginning to avoid future trouble.
Individually Planted Gladioluses
For individually planted glads, you can use thick sticks, an old curtain rod, regular garden stakes, or anything else that’s sturdy and about 8-12 inches taller than the glad. Place the stake close to the glad, but not so close that it risks hitting the bulb. About 4 inches from the base of the glad is usually a safe bet. Hammer the stake at least 8 inches into the soil.
Gently pick your glad up, being careful not to twist it or put stress on any one point. Tie the glad to the stake using garden twine, fishing line, green yarn, or some other soft tie that won’t cut into the plant or stand out when viewed.
Don’t fully knot the tie in case you need to adjust it later; tie a bow or well-secured slipknot. If it’s blooming, tie it loosely about a quarter to halfway up the stalk/blooms. If it isn’t, tie it loosely partway up the leaves. Consider adding additional ties once it blooms. Be careful not to break or cut into the stem, leaves, or flowers as you’re working.
To make life much simpler, try special flower support stakes. They’ll blend in better with your garden and are safer for your glads. Since they are thinner than a regular stake, you’re less likely to run into a bulb. They also are generally thin enough that you can just slide them into the ground without needing a hammer. The curved edge at the top makes it easy to move the stalk and allows your glad to grow freely.
Clusters of Gladioluses
You can also use a larger system, like a trellis held up by stakes or even a wall, to support your glads. For a simple homemade option, plant stakes on either side of a row with plenty of twine connecting the two to make a fence. You can also plant 3 or 4 stakes around your group of glads, looping twine all around the outer edge to hold them up.
It’s ideal to plant the glads up against a wall or other structure from the start. If you place a trellis parallel to your glads soon after planting them, they’ll grow into it on their own. Since some will end up leaning against it, you’ll have to use ties on fewer plants.
If you’ve had a lot of glads fall over this summer, keep this tip in mind for next year. Planting the corms deeper than the suggested depth by even an extra inch or two gives the plant that much more underground stability. I admit to regularly eyeballing planting depth, but when it comes to glads, I always break out the ruler. It makes a big difference!
Once the plants start growing, hill up the area around the base for even more stability.
Planting Corms Closer Together
Along with planting the corms deeper, consider spacing them closer together than what’s recommended in their directions. While you don’t want to overcrowd them, planting them at about half their suggested distance apart allows the leaves and stalks of the glads to support each other, acting as natural staking. For the most supportive benefit, combine tight planting with a trellis or fence like those mentioned earlier.
Make sure you offer them extra water and fertilizer if they’re planted this closely, since they’ll be competing for resources.
Bonus Tip: How to Stop Gladiolus from Falling Over in a Vase
If you’re having difficulty keeping glads from falling over in their vase, here are a few tips:
Get a Bottom Heavy, Narrow-Necked Vase
The most important part of displaying your glads is to pick the right vase. The best options are sturdy ceramic or glass vases with a heavy bottom and narrower neck. The vase should be at least a third of the glad’s height for optimal balancing.
I like to display my glads individually, but if you prefer to have multiple ones in a vase, just use a regular, wide-mouthed vase and arrange them within it so that they balance each other out.
Weigh It Down
Sometimes even the best vases will need some extra help. You can further weigh down your vase (especially one with a wider mouth) using rocks or fountain pebbles.
If your glad grew without support, its stem will sometimes curve and the blooms will occur on different sides. This makes them hard to balance even in the most well-designed vase. When that happens, weigh your vase down as much as possible, and use the rocks in the bottom to anchor your glad’s stem in as upright a position as you can.
Enjoy Your Gladioluses!
With these tips, you should be able to grow many happy, upright glads. Enjoy their beauty!
Come fall, you’ll need to dig up your glads – find out what else to do when winterizing your garden.