Bulbs Gardening Plant propagation

What to Do with Baby Gladiolus Bulbs?

Gladiolus corms with cormlets

By Larry Hodgson

Question: I just dug up my gladioli and found a large number of very small bulbs all around the original bulb. Can I use them to propagate my plants?

Jeans

Answer: Yes, but do be aware you won’t be seeing these cormels (bulblets) bloom any time soon. It will require a bit of patience. So, let’s first look at another way of multiplying your gladioli (Gladiolus cvs) that will give you flowers the very next year.

Gladiolus corm. Photo: montananaturalist, blogspot

As you dig up your gladiolus corms (bulbs) in late fall, you’ll notice that the corm you originally planted in the spring has dried up and died, but a new corm has formed on top of it. And there is often not only one corm, but two. Separating these two twin corms is the easiest method of multiplying gladiolus, as the two will already be of sufficient size to flower the next year.

So, when you dig up your gladioli, leave the corms in a dry, well-aerated spot, but protected from frost (in a garage or tool shed, for example) for 2 or 3 weeks, until the foliage dries up. Then it will be possible to clean them without much effort. Remove the leaves and dried roots, which will then come off easily. Now, remove and compost the old, withered corm … and in doing so, you’ll find the two corms will automatically separate. So simple!

Now you just have to store them in a safe spot until spring. You can find information on overwintering tender bulbs like gladioli in the article How to Lift and Store Tender Bulbs for Winter.

Multiplication Using Cormels

Trays with corms and cormlets of gladioli.
When separating cormels from the full-grown corms, be careful not to mix up the varieties. Photo: 02stroy.ru

As for multiplication by cormels, remove them before storing the corms. They are sometimes very numerous and, in that case, unless you want to have hundreds of plants, limit your selection to the larger ones, as they’ll come into bloom the fastest. You can overwinter the cormels under the same conditions as the corms.

When you plant cormels next spring, however, you won’t have flowers right away. Rather, you will need to let them grow larger before you see bloom: most likely for 2 or 3 years. So, transplant them into the garden in the spring, perhaps in an inconspicuous spot since all they’ll show will be grasslike foliage, and bring them in again next fall.

The cormels will then be much larger, looking much like a miniature version of the mature corms, but are still too small to flower. It normally takes at least another year of growing in the ground before your corms will be ready to flower. So, store them again over the winter, plant them in the spring and the next fall, dig them up yet again. Just maybe they’ll be large enough to bloom the following year!

And if not, well … you now know the routine!

When it comes to propagating gladiolus by cormels, patience is definitely a virtue!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “What to Do with Baby Gladiolus Bulbs?

  1. Gavin Patience

    Leave the corms in a pot of good compost for a few years ( feed in spring )

  2. Good information. Might try growing out some cormels this year as my corms are covered in them.

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