We love Acidanthera muriale (Abyssinian gladiolus) for their delicate, fragrant white flowers that appear from midsummer to autumn.
They are frost tender so should only planted out after the risk of frosts have passed. They are best planted in March for flowering in July and August. Once established however, they can be left in the ground in sheltered areas to overwinter and will come back naturally each year.
Planting Your Bulbs
Select a site that doesn't gather water, wet and boggy soil will hinder their growth and the plants will not flower. These plants need full sun to bloom properly.
Prepare the planting site by digging down 8in/20cm, leaving half of the hole filled with loose soil. This will allow the bulbs to easily send out roots before they start their journey upward. Place your bulbs into the hole pointy side up and fill the hole back in, watering well to settle the soil. Leave about 4in/10cm between bulbs so the foliage doesn't get too crowded.
What to Expect
Acidanthera are usually very slow to get started. Don't worry if they haven't poked their heads above the soil when the weather warms up, they are quietly working away underground slowly waking up. They may not grow foliage until June but once they do they grow very quickly!
Caring For Your Plants
As with most flowering plants, Acidanthera will appreciate a feed when buds appear to extend their blooming period. A weak nitrogen-based liquid plant food can be found at any garden good centre.
Pinch out flowers when they are fading, this will prevent the plant diverting energy to seed production and send it back to increasing the size of the bulbs. Leave the foliage in place as this again will feed the bulbs.
As acidanthera are frost sensitive they are not suitable for overwintering in all UK areas. They will happily survive short temperature drops of -5°c but longer periods will kill them off. In areas that have consistent low temperatures through winter they should be treated as annuals unless you want to lift the bulbs and store them for next spring. If they are planted in pots they can simply be moved to a shed or garage for next year.