Gladiolus papilio - Iridaceae


This perennial grows corms with sword-like foliage and yellow-lilac flowers with maroon marks that appear during summer. Best grown in dense clusters or larger groups but otherwise easy to grow.


EN: Butterfly Sword Lily, D: Schmetterlings-Gladiole, FR: -, ESP: -, ZH: -

Suitable for cut flowers.
A cormous perennial, spreading freely by underground runners (easy to remove), strong leaves are blueish green, strap-shaped or sword-like, flowers from late summer onwards until autumn, arching stems stand above the foliage and bear hooded, funnel- or bell-shaped flowers in shades of pale yellow or green with flecks of purple (which gives them a washed lilac appearance), usually with a maroon or purple mark inside, good for cut flowers.

Height: 1m (3ft)

An easy plant, best in dense groups for a better effect. Some suggest to dig them up and replant in spring. They are not fully hardy yet not tender either (please see hardiness rating below). They should make it through an average winter in most parts in the UK without having to dig them up. Once the foliage has gone brown simply cut it all off and give it a light mulch to provide plenty of nutrients for the next season. Mulch also gives protection in harsher frosts if you live in colder areas.

Easiest by division, newly formed corms or runners can be dug up and moved or potted up. Also easy to raise from seeds. Sow from late spring onwards, they need warmth to germinate (germination within 4-6 weeks), will take at least two years until first flowering.

Done for the season. Ready to be cut and mulched.

Meaning of plant name:
GLADIOLUS: small sword, diminutive of gladius

PAPILIO: butterfly-like

Origin: South Africa

Growing conditions:
An easy plant as long as in well drained soils, does not like wet or boggy conditions, acidic or alkaline soils, sandy or loam soils, no clay, thrives in sunny locations, will also grow in partial shade although might look sparse, will flower less and not fill its space as readily.

Hardiness: H4 - Hardy throughout most of the UK (-10 to -5°C)

Pests and Diseases: generally no problems

Other useful information:


Gladiolus papilio

The bottom buds open first, the top flowers last.

Creamy yellow flowers with purple markings.

Have a look at Related Species