Deadheading Gladiolus: Do You Need To Deadhead Glads

Pink Gladiolus Plants
gladiolus blooms
(Image credit: alexmak72427)

Deadheading gladiolus ensures continued beauty. However, there are several schools of thought on whether it is a beneficial activity for the plant or simply soothes the neurotic gardener. Do you need to deadhead glads? That depends on what you mean by “need.” Learn how to deadhead a gladiolus and why you might want to do it here.

Do You Need to Deadhead Glads?

Gladioli are queens of the landscape when they are in bloom. The majestic spires bear numerous flowers arrayed up the stalk, in hues that defy imagination. Gladiolus flowers last about a week but sometimes persist on the stalk for up to two weeks. They bloom consecutively with the lower buds opening first and the upper ones finishing several days later. Some gardeners feel that you must deadhead gladiolus flowers in order to force more blooms. Generally, a bulb produces one but sometimes up to three stems with flowers. The bulb only has so much energy stored in it but if it is a big, healthy bulb, it has the ability to produce more blooms. However, the bulb is where the plant gets the energy to make the sword-like leaves and spires of flowers. The roots of the plant uptake nutrients and water for healthy growth but the embryos are inside the bulb and dictate the formation of flowers. Pinching off a dead flower is not going to affect this ability in any way. Gladiolus flower removal is more of a panacea to the gardener who feels they need to be doing something for their plant as a reward for brightening the summer landscape.

When Gladiolus Flower Removal is Beneficial

Gladiolus flowers open sequentially, starting at the bottom of the bloom stalk. By the time the top flowers are open, the bottom flowers are usually gray or brown, dead, and fully spent. This mars the overall beauty of the stem, so the impulse is to remove the dead flowers for aesthetic reasons. This is fine but there is also a reason to remove the top buds before they even open. If you pinch off the top one or two buds on the stalk, the entire stem will bloom in unison. The action forces the energy back down into the stem which unites a more unified bloom.

How to Deadhead a Gladiolus

Deadheading gladiolus flowers is not really necessary, but it causes no harm to the plant and ensures a prettier display. The notion that if you deadhead gladiolus, you will get more blooms-- is not accurate. Removing old flowers as the stalk blooms is simply a housekeeping exercise. It is easy to accomplish by pinching out the old flower or using garden shears to carefully cut the swollen base from the stem. Once all the flowers have faded, remove the entire stem with pruners or shears. Always leave the foliage until it has begun to die so that it can gather solar energy for the bulb to store and use in the next season. The plant turns the sun into carbohydrates that it uses to fuel the next summer's bloom.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.