Gladiolus dalenii - previously Gladiolus psittacinus

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Botanical Name
Gladiolus dalenii - previously Gladiolus psittacinus
Iridaceae - The iris family.
GLAD-ee-oh-lus duh-LEH-nee-eye
Common Name(s)
English: Parrot gladiolus; Natal lily
Afrikaans: Papegaai-gladiolus; Wildeswaardlelie
IsiXhosa: umnunge
IsiZulu: Isidwi Esibomvu; Udwendweni; Uhlakahle
Sesotho: Khahla-e-kholo
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
Plant Size
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Frost: Hardy The plant can withstand freezing temperatures or frost without artificial protection.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Gladiolus dalenii can grow quite tall depending on its habitat and has erect, grey green leaves arranged in a loose fan. This gladiolus has adjusted exceptionally well to local conditions in the Eastern Cape and corms multiply rapidly. Mole rats do not appear to attack these corms. Grows strongly even when left to fend for itself amongst veld grasses in the wild garden.

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hooded gladiolus flower with a yellow throat

  • Summer to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • orange
Growth Rate
  • Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Cut Flowers Plants that provide flowers suitable for ornamental uses.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Interplanting Arranging and planting plants in the garden that have different blooming times and habits of growth, extending the amount of time in which the area is in flower.
  • Mass Planting Plants useful for filling a large area with just one or a few kinds of plants spaced close together. Creates a bold, dramatic effect and to reduces maintenance.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo into Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in open grassland, woodland and scrub and in rocky areas, often among rocks along streams

Planting Suggestions

Plant the corms in any well-drained garden soil in winter. Plant in large, bold groups and water well during the summer months for optimum results.

Lorraine's Garden Notes

I have found this Gladiolus to be exceptionally invasive, spreading itself throughout my wild garden and coming up all over my garden beds. It is extremely difficult to eradicate as the corms produce dozens of bulblets which fall off easily when removing the plant and resulting in a group of small plants where there was only one. They are very beautiful but when they come up among ground covers, in the succulent garden, on pathways - even in the nursery houses, they rather spoil the effect. The plant also sends out underground suckers making removal even less effective. I do make sure that all flower heads are cut off before the seed pods dry out as the seeds also have a very high germination rate. They make a stunning show when in flower but I do suggest that they be carefully monitored.

Medicinal Uses

Gladiolus dalenii has been used to treat diarrhoea, chest ailments caused by sorcery, sterility in women, as good luck charms and in the horns used by inyangas/sangomas.

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Hi Lorraine,

I have the indigenous gladiolus growing in a pot in Durban. Produced lovely
flowers until I noticed that what appeared to be a type of wasp or fly
burrowing its way into the flower stems. I have since cut open a stem to find
what appears to be a "nest" of young insect hatchlings. Do you have any idea
as to what they can be and if there is a way of preventing them damaging the
gladiolus flowers?

Looking forward to hearing from you on this matter.


Hi Patrick

This would appear to be he Gladiolus fly, Epimadiza hirta. The adult flies are tiny, at 2 to 3 mm long, and lay their eggs in the calyx of the flower buds. When the maggots hatch from the eggs, they move into the buds to feed on the developing flowers. As they mature they bore down into the flower stem for about half a meter, resulting in damaged flowers or no flowers at all and hollow stems.

Sadly there is no insecticide available, presumably because the insects are so hidden that insecticide is unable to reach them.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine,

Hmm....not good news it seems, as your description is spot-on.

Many Thanks

Hi Patrick

Not good news at all. My glads. were decimated this year - not a single plant (out of a couple of hundred) flowered this year and they all look sickly. Very disappointing. I have not had an invasion on this scale before. I wonder if it could be something to do with the very warm winter we had??

Kind regards

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