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CUT FLOWER CULTIVATION (Floriculture- Gladiolus)

Gladiolus species are well known “bulbous” plants for their attractive and colorful inflorescence. The word “bulbous” grabs a glance because bulbs (the underground corms) are crucial part of the plant. They are popular cut flowers well known among florists because they have an 8-10 day period of long vase life.
Basically it is a winter crop and can be grown for yearlong harvest when cultivated in moderate climatic conditions.
Flower representation
Plants grow from underground corms and leaves are long sword shaped bearing flowers on inflorescence. Fragrant flowers are one sided on spike making them most wanted among bouquet makers. Colors vary from pinkish to red, white, purple to violet, golden yellow to orange. Various cultivars of Gladioli are cultivated basing on market needs. Golden melodies, White prosperity, Silvia, Snow princess, Nova lux, Suchitra are popular cultivars known for their vibrant colors. Each variety has different spike length varying from 75-88 cm with varied number of colored florets on the spike specific for each variety. Number of florets varies ranging from 14-18 on a single inflorescence. 


Field conditions:                                                 

Gladiolus cultivators avoid too harsh or too cold climate for farming. Balancing a mild climate zone is a point of concern. However Gladioli prefer sunlight so farmers avoid shaded region for cultivation. Stable wind flow is mandatory for handful of harvest because disturbing wind patterns can destroy the stems. Gladiolus bearing stems are used in bouquets so injured stems can bring loses on commercial point of view.

Soil preparation and plant material for cultivation:

·     Soil bed is prepared by proper ploughing for good aeration and fertility of soil is maintained well. Organic manure is added to soil prior to planting if the soil is light and sandy. Gladioli are propagated through corms and hence soil beds are made as ridges and well aerated.

·     Winter is ideal season for planting. However if farming is planned in green houses with controlled environment, year round cultivation is possible.
·     Corms are underground storage organs. The swollen stem is enclosed by scale leaves are used as planting material. About 4-5 cm sized disease free high crown corms are selected for flower production rather than flat ones. Smaller corms (cormels or first season corms) are used as planting material for producing flowering corms of next season. Corms are fungicide treated before planting.  
·        Medium sized second season corms are planted for flowering purpose at a depth of 10 cm and 20cm from one another and 30cm spacing between each ridge. Shallow planting favors cormel production but can result in lodging due to winds. Hence farmers take care of wind patterns if they plant for corm multiplication.
·         Watering is done after sprouts have developed. Water logging should be avoided in the field to avoid rotting of corms. 
·       Soil can be hilled up at stem soil interface once the aerial parts reach a length of 20 cm in order to avoid the corm exposure to external atmosphere. Hilling up aids in strength to stem bearing the aerial parts.
·       Weeding should be done manually since stems should not be harmed as they are important for cut flower in bouquets.
·     Manuring with farm yard manure (FYM), and Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and zinc supplements adds strength to plants. However excessive manure can lead to thin and slenderness among stems. Strengthy stem is essential for successful flowering.    

Harvesting flowers:

·      Spikes are harvested when at least five florets are colorful and it takes around 100-120 days after planting the corm. Harvesting at bud stage when first floret starts to open is better since it avoids Gladioli from being damaged.
·       Harvest is done during morning when there is minimal heat intensity of sun. This reduces water loss and nutrient consumption because of increased respiration rate.
·    Spikes are harvested using sharp knife such that few leaves are retained on plant for complete development of corms and cormels. Harvesters make sharp cuts on spikes since a crushed end can render microbial growth which in turn shortens the vase life. Cut ends are immediately placed into water for retaining freshness.
·       Gladiolus flowers at a rate of only one inflorescence per plant. So after spike is harvested, the farm area is left for corm lifting.
Cultivation
Gladiolus cultivation 


Harvesting corms:

·    After spikes are harvested, leaves on plant turn yellow after one and half month or two inferring corms reached maturity. Farm land needs to be irrigated nearly a week before harvest of corms.
·         Using digger the entire plant is lifted up from soil. Plant is held up and loose soil is shaken off from corms. This avoids bruises and injuries to corms.
·       Lifted corms are hot water treated followed by fungicide treatment. Fungicide treated corms are shade dried for 2 weeks and later cold stored for future use. Corms are retained with husk while storing. Corms have a dormant period of 2-3 months after which they can be used as planting material.

Reaching market:                 

Spike cut ends are immediately placed in water and are retained like that till packing time. Flower spikes are graded based on spike size and floret number and packed. Packing is done as bundles of spikes retained in packing paper and set into cardboard boxes or gunny sacks. Cutting a half inch length of spike from base under water can help in prolonging the vase life.