Sword Lily, Hardy Gladiolus, Jacob’s Ladder



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Foliage Color:



18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


3-6 in. (7-15 cm)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Magenta (pink-purple)

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Vincent, Alabama

Ozone, Arkansas

Paris, Arkansas

Idyllwild, California

Gainesville, Florida

Braselton, Georgia

Moreland, Georgia

Algonquin, Illinois

Winnetka, Illinois

Olathe, Kansas

Carlisle, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Bordelonville, Louisiana

Doyline, Louisiana

Elm Grove, Louisiana

Springfield, Massachusetts

Florence, Mississippi

Panama, New York

Aulander, North Carolina

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Florence, South Carolina

Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Memphis, Tennessee

Burleson, Texas

Colmesneil, Texas

Dallas, Texas

Fate, Texas

Harker Heights, Texas

Houston, Texas

Iredell, Texas

Kurten, Texas

Nevada, Texas

Richmond, Texas

Tyler, Texas

Kinnear, Wyoming

show all

Gladiolus communis

Quick Characteristics:

Height: 45-60cm (1.5-2 ft)
Flower Colors: purple

Gladiolus communis is listed on The Plant List with 23 synonyms. It is distributed from the Mediterranean to Caucasus. The species names byzantinus and communis are often given as synonyms and you often see Gladiolus byzantinus ssp. communis, Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus, and Gladiolus communis var. byzantinus. It is deep purple-red with narrow, paler marks outlined in dark purple on the lower lobes. In Angelo Porcelli’s paper Gladiolus of Southern Italy he explains the difference between this species, Gladiolus byzantinus and Gladiolus italicus. This species grows up to 40 inches (100 cm). The three lower tepals are more or less the same length and width. The upper central tepal is hooded. G. communis often has a slight two-tone effect on the lower tepals, but this is not a reliable feature, as many individuals are a solid color. The median tepals have a “spoon” shape. The seeds are winged, 3 to 5 mm and corm tunics have very close parallel veins. The plants in the first photo below from Bob Rutemoeller were blooming at Kew Gardens in May 2004 under the label Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. The next two photos were taken from the article by Angelo Porcelli mentioned above.

Return to the PBS wiki Gladiolus index Return to the PBS wiki Photographs and Information page

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

Cameron Path

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus, gladiolus, are members of the Iridaceae family and can be seen on Cameron Path.

This is the first year we have planted so many of these vibrant gladioli. The corms were planted in the autumn and as they are hardy they will be left in situ undisturbed for many years. This species comes from Spain, North West Africa and Sicily unlike Dame Edna’s gladiolus that are hybrids of the South African species that are not hardy outside in this part of England.

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus grows upright and strong and is perfectly at home growing in grass. The bright magenta pink flowers certainly add zing to any planting (see them on the American Bank with the blue Camassis’). The flower spikes are different to other gladiolus in that all the flowers do not face forward, and there may be upto 20 flowers in each spike.

Plant in well drained soil so that the corms do not rot and when the stalks are about 15cm high you can give them a high potash feed (tomato feed is good) to encourage flowering.

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