Cardinal flower Gladiolus cardinalis

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
waterfall gladiolus


Gladiolus cardinalis, commonly known as cardinal gladiolus, is a striking and elegant plant that is highly recognized for its showy blooms. The cardinal gladiolus features a spike-like inflorescence, with multiple trumpet-shaped flowers that open in succession from the bottom to the top. These blooms come in a vibrant crimson red color, often adorned with white or light-colored markings that accentuate their contours. The petals have a delicate texture, with a lush and slightly ruffled appearance at their edges, which contributes to their ornamental allure. Each flower is supported by long, slender stems, which emerge from a corm—a bulb-like underground storage organ that ensures the plant's survival through different seasons. The stems are surrounded by tall, sword-shaped leaves that are pointed at the end. These leaves are a fresh, vivid green and have a vertical orientation that enhances the plant’s overall vertical emphasis. Cardinal gladiolus also has prominent reproductive structures, with prominent anthers and a long, slender style that reaches out of the throat of the flower. These features are not only critical for pollination but also add to the intricate detail of the bloom’s inner architecture. Overall, the cardinal gladiolus's appearance is one of elegance and flamboyance, with its striking red flowers making it a popular choice for gardens and floral arrangements.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Cardinal Flower, African Gladiolus, Natal Lily

    • Common names

      Gladiolus cardinalis, Antholyza merianellus, Gladiolus merianellus, Antholyza sanguinea, Gladiolus sanguineus.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Gladiolus cardinalis, commonly known as Cardinal Flower, is not typically considered highly toxic to humans. However, if ingested in large quantities, parts of the plant could potentially cause mild symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The corms, or bulb-like structures of the plant, are believed to contain the most significant concentration of any potentially irritating compounds. In general, it is advisable to avoid eating any part of ornamental plants like the Cardinal Flower due to possible adverse reactions, and parents should ensure that children do not consume the plant.

    • To pets

      Cardinal Flower is considered mildly toxic to pets if ingested. The toxicity of the plant is mainly due to the presence of certain alkaloids that can cause gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms of poisoning in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, and lethargy. The corms may be particularly enticing for curious pets to chew on and are the most likely part of the plant to cause symptoms if consumed. To prevent poisoning, keep pets away from Cardinal Flowers and consult a veterinarian immediately if ingestion is suspected.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Spread

      1 foot (0.3 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      South Africa


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Decorative Appeal: Gladiolus cardinalis is known for its striking red or crimson flowers which add aesthetic value to gardens and floral arrangements.
    • Attracts Pollinators: The vibrant flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects beneficial for the ecosystem.
    • Cut Flower Use: The long stems and beautiful blooms make Gladiolus cardinalis a popular choice for cut flower arrangements and bouquets.
    • Versatility in Landscaping: This plant can be used in a variety of garden settings, such as borders, containers, and as a focal point in floral displays.
    • Seasonal Interest: Blooming in the summer months, it provides color and interest to gardens during a time when many other plants have finished flowering.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Gladiolus cardinalis, commonly known as Cardinal gladiolus, can be used in floral art and design competitions due to its striking colors and impressive spike-like flowering stalks, offering a dramatic element to arrangements.
    • Extracts from Cardinal gladiolus are sometimes used in perfumery, as some varieties have a subtle and fresh fragrance that is desired in high-end perfumes.
    • The corms of Cardinal gladiolus, when thoroughly cooked, have historically been used as a food source in some cultures, although this is not common and should be approached with caution due to potential toxicity.
    • Cardinal gladiolus flowers are used in the dye industry to create a range of natural dyes for fabrics, giving a unique and variable color depending on the mordant used.
    • The stalks of the Cardinal gladiolus can be used as a natural support for other plants in the garden, providing a structure for climbing plants to grasp onto as they grow.
    • Cardinal gladiolus plants can be pressed and used in botanical prints, which are a form of artwork capturing the intricate details of plants to be framed and appreciated.
    • The Cardinal gladiolus is often used in educational settings to teach botany and horticulture, providing a hands-on experience for students to learn about plant reproduction and hybridization.
    • In some regions, the Cardinal gladiolus is used in ceremonial garlands and headdresses, particularly in cultural weddings and festivals for their symbolism and vivid colors.
    • Cardinal gladiolus petals can sometimes be used in papermaking, adding texture and floral elements to handmade paper products.
    • Certain species of Cardinal gladiolus are cultivated as a food source for some butterfly species, playing a role in butterfly conservation efforts and gardens.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Gladiolus is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Gladiolus is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Strength and Integrity: The name "gladiolus" comes from the Latin word "gladius," meaning sword, relating to the sword-shaped leaves of the plant. This reflects the symbolic meaning of strength of character and integrity.
    • Victory: In Roman times, gladiators were often given gladioli after a victory in the arena, symbolizing their triumph and bravery.
    • Remembrance: Gladioli are often used in funerals and commemorations, symbolizing remembrance and offering a message of respect for the departed.
    • Moral Integrity: The gladiolus also signifies honor and moral integrity, highlighting the quality of being upright and principled.
    • Infatuation: Giving someone a gladiolus can convey the message of infatuation, with the giver being pierced by the recipient's charms much like the sharp leaves of the plant.
    • Generosity: The gladiolus can symbolize generosity, representing the giving of oneself and the heart to others.

Every 7-10 days
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every year
Spring to early summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    Cardinal flowers require consistent moisture, especially during their active growth and bloom periods in the spring and summer months. Water the plants deeply to ensure the roots receive sufficient moisture, which generally equates to about 1 inch of water per week. During periods of high heat or drought, you may need to water the cardinal flowers twice a week to maintain healthy growth and prevent wilting. Always adjust watering to your specific climate conditions and soil type, and allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly between waterings to prevent overwatering.

  • sunLight

    Cardinal flowers thrive best in full sun to partial shade conditions. Place them in a spot where they will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. However, in hotter climates, providing some afternoon shade can help protect the plants from excessive heat stress. These lighting conditions will ensure vibrant blooms and healthy foliage growth.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Cardinal flowers prefer a temperate climate and can thrive in temperatures ranging from approximately 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive slight frosts but may be damaged by temperatures that drop below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature range for cardinal flowers to flourish is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, where they can grow robustly and bloom with maximum vibrancy.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning cardinal flowers is generally done to remove spent blooms and encourage further flowering. Deadhead the flowers after they fade to keep the plant looking tidy and to redirect energy into more blooms or foliage. The best time for pruning is late summer or early fall after the bloom cycle is complete. Seasonal pruning once a year should suffice for maintaining plant health and appearance.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Cardinal Flower prefers a well-draining soil mix with good organic content. The ideal pH should range from 6.0 to 7.0. A mix of two parts loam, one part sand, and one part peat or compost would create an optimal environment for growth.

  • plantRepotting

    Cardinal Flowers should be repotted every two to three years, ideally in the spring before the growth season begins. This frequency helps to replenish the soil's nutrients and accommodates the plant's growth.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    The Cardinal Flower thrives at moderate humidity levels; aim for around 40-60% humidity for optimal growth.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Cardinal Flower in well-lit area, away from direct sun.

    • Outdoor

      Plant Cardinal Flower in partial shade, protect from strong winds.

    • Hardiness zone

      6-10 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Gladiolus cardinalis, commonly known as cardinal flower, begins its life cycle when the corm, a storage organ, is planted in the soil, where it will sprout and develop roots and shoots. The plant then grows leaves and a tall flower spike, typically during the spring or early summer, depending on the climate. The flower spike bears brightly colored red or orange flowers, which attract pollinators such as insects and birds, leading to the fertilization of the ovules within the flowers. After pollination, the flowers will produce capsules containing numerous seeds, marking the reproduction stage. Once the seeds are mature, they are dispersed by wind or other means, potentially germinating to produce new plants. As the flowering ends and cooler weather approaches, the aerial parts of the plant die back and the corm enters a period of dormancy until the next growing season.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to early summer

    • Propogation: The most popular method of propagating Gladiolus cardinalis, commonly known as the Gladiolus, is through corms. The best time to propagate is in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. The process involves separating the corms, which are the swollen underground stems that store energy for the plant. Gardeners should look for corms with a firm texture and remove them from the parent plant. The corms should be planted about 4 inches (approximately 10 centimeters) deep and spaced around 6 inches (approximately 15 centimeters) apart in well-draining soil with good sunlight exposure. Water the corms thoroughly after planting and maintain moderate moisture until shoots appear, after which regular watering should accompany the plant's growth cycle.