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Classic Floral Trio: Lilies, Dahlias, and Glads

From the Editors of Traditional Home
  • This time-honored trio of flowers with their showy blooms and rainbow of colors looks romantic and lovely indoors and out. Here are the basics on making lilies, dahlias, and gladiolus thrive.

    Lilies are prized for their dramatic, often seductively scented blooms sitting atop stems as tall and slim as a showgirl’s legs. They work well in bouquets with glads and irises, and are equally at home whether in natural settings, outdoor containers, or formal centerpieces for special occasions like weddings. This pastel bloom is ready for its close-up.

    Information and photographs courtesy of Lily Occasions, which educates gardeners about using lilies, gladiolus, and irises.

    Further information is available at Dig.Drop.Done

  • Aren’t You Glad?

    Aren’t you glad that gladioli bloom in every color but blue? Also known as the Sword Lily because of its sword-shaped leaves, its height lends verticality to plantings and bouquets. In folk medicine, the corm, or stem base, was used to draw out splinters and thorns.

    Gladioli bloom from the bottom up. If you’re harvesting the blooms yourself, the best time to cut the gladioli stem is when one or two of the lower flower buds start to show color. They’re ideal for bouquets because they are long lasting; the cut stems can last up to two weeks indoors.

  • Perk up a Patio

    White Rialto lilies (Oriental hybrids) look striking in twin black and white pots. Lilies are good all-around players because they perform well almost anywhere—in borders, beds, perennial gardens, pots, containers, and bouquets.

  • Good Breeding

    These Triumphator lilies—trumpet-shaped beauties—are the result of an Easter lily crossed with an Oriental lily.

  • Drama Queens

    Dramatic dahlias are known for their exuberant colors and blooms that can be as large as dinner plates. The petite ones are cute, too. To maximize the vase life of dahlias, cut them in the early morning before the blooms get warm or in the evening after the temperature drops.

  • Keep Them Blooming

    To boost blooming, remove the spent blooms of dahlias on a regular basis. Plants that are deadheaded produce more blooms than those that aren't. It's best to cut farther down the stalk versus merely cutting off the flower head itself.

  • The Stakes are High

    Gladioli—like the colorful ones shown here—tend to grow very tall, so they need staking. It is best to use something on the softer side like plant Velcro, rather than string or twine, to attach the flower spike to the stake. You could even cut up old pantyhose to use as ties!

  • Global Roots

    Gladioli are primarily from South Africa but some were native to the Canary Islands, England, and Turkey as well.  Here, pale blue pots show off their saturated hues.

  • Long Live the Lily

    Allow flowers to have a good drink of water for four to five hours, and preferably overnight, before arranging. This allows the stems to fill up with water and the flowers to become crisp. Flowers so treated will last twice as long.

  • True Blue

    Ditch the plastic containers from the garden center and repot flowers in more stylish surroundings. Here, Rubylite Rose calla lilies find a pretty  home in a robin’s egg blue planter.

  • Elegant Simplicity

    Dahlias do not like to be out of water, so place cut stems directly into a vase or bucket of water. Remove any leaves that may fall below the water level in the vase and change the water every few days.

  • Raid Your Cupboards

    Ordinary juice glasses make pretty vases for single blooms of white dahlias. Don't fill vases to the top with water—foliage beneath the water line will rot and pollute the water, which feeds bacteria, causes odors, and limits flower life.

  • Fashionista

    Gloriosa lilies look exotic, but are actually easily grown at home.  They make excellent, high-fashion cut flowers for bouquets and corsages. Cut them when they have almost opened all the way and split the ends of the main stems before putting them into a vase.

  • Leggy Beauties

    Gladioli can grow up to five feet tall. Use their striking height to create sleek, contemporary looking floor-based arrangements. Here, full-height gladioli rest in glass cylinders set within tree bark vases.

  • Line Them Up

    Gladioli are considered “line” flowers since the long stem usually shoots straight up, with flowers opening from the bottom to the top. The bottom flower is always the largest and brightest on the stem.

  • Pom-Pom Squad

    If you plant large blooming-dahlias, called dinner plate dahlias because their blooms can span 10 inches or more, stake them to support their weight. Set the stake next to the dahlia tuber when planted. That way you won't damage a growing tuber later in the season.

  • Having a Ball

    The Marble Ball Dahlia is a ball type dahlia, with blooms approximately 5-7 inches in diameter. It makes a striking appearance mixed with marbled purple and white flowers. Dahlias are long-blooming with sturdy stems, making them great cut flowers.

  • Pretty in Pink

    Look to your glassware for unique presentations of cut flowers. It’s best to cut lilies when the bud begins to open. Cut only the bottom leaves off, as the upper leaves provide nutrients to the buds.

    To prevent pollen stains from getting on tabletops, hands, or clothing, remove the stamen from the inside of the lily before you bring it inside. If the lily bud is half bloomed, you can easily pull off the stamens because they have not yet been pollinated. However, if the lily has fully bloomed you’ll need to use scissors to remove the pollinated stamens.

  • Saturated Hues

    Use warm water in flower vases, because flowers—like the striking single blooms of glads and lilies shown here—take up warm water more readily than cold. This will help the cut flower last a little longer.

  • Garden with ‘Old South’ Style

    For more inspiration on classic gardening, tour this romantic garden.

    Click here for a how-to on what to plant and when.