I have a recreational interest in word meanings and grow particularly excited when the etymology is on-the-nose. Learning about the Gladiolus flower meaning gave me that thrill. The flowers grow from a spike-shaped stem. The word “gladiolus” is related to latin and greek words that mean “sword” — think “gladiator”. I’ve read that they were used in ancient celebrations for warriors as spike-shapes in the floral displays. Through this association, the flower has become associated with honor and remembrance. It’s a memorial flower with meaning related to strength of character, faithfulness, sincerity, and integrity.
The History of the Gladiolus
In gardens, you traditionally see them layered in the back. They often need to be tied to something to stay upright when they’re blooming. So, old homes might have them along fencelines or hardscapes.
Most of the plants originated in Africa and Asia. They were introduced to Europe in the 1700s through the Indian Trade route. Then, European botanists becan to breed them. William Herbert produced the first hybrid in the 1800s. American settlers brought them to the US where they thrive in the warmer states.
According to Petal Republic,
“The popularity of these perennials in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the establishment of the American Gladiolus Society in 1910. Founded in Boston, the society initially had 75 members. It aimed to promote the cultivation of gladiolus plants and to standardize gladiolus nomenclature. “
Enthusiasts often refer to them as “glads” both as a shortening of the name and for the joyful feeling associated with their bright colors.
Stories and Myths
In Greek mythology, Demeter — goddess of harvest and agriculture — was connected to a sacred grove near Thessaly. A nearby atheistic villager, Erisichthon, collected firewood from Demeter’s grove. During his attempt to raid the grove, a worshipper fought him. Erisichton cut off the man’s head. In response, Ceres punished Erisichton with a famine-like hunger. She also caused sword-like plants (a gladiolus) to grow from the dead man’s blood.
Later, cursed with hunger, Erisichton sold his daughter to fulfill his appetite.
when he had no other way to fulfill his appetite, but she escaped to the forest. Consequently, the Greek goddess turned the daughter into a gladiolus flower to keep guard on the man that her father killed.
Gladiolus Flower Meaning
Like many flowers, the color of the bloom adds additional meaning when giving an arrangement.
- Red – Romantic Love
- Pink – Motherly love
- White – Innocence
- Yellow – Cheerfulness
- Purple – Charm
While I’m not a flower expert, I enjoy learning about this ancient flower language where blooms have different meanings.
If you enjoyed this post, you should explore more of the birth month flowers. I spent a whole year studying them and creating sketches for each one. I post about them monthly on my Instagram account @verdera.me. Join me and other nature lovers there.