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Gladiolus papilio


Water Needs

moderate; high

Gladiolus papilio
Butterfly Gladiolus. Moederkappie; Butterfly Sword Lily

50 cm leaves; flowers up to 1 m


Light Conditions





cream to purple; August to February; winter spring summer

Garden Situation

sun; damp sun; grassland; container; narrow spaces; wildlife insects




thicket; Highveld; subtropical east coast; bushveld savanna

Rain Season


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This is a beautiful, unusual member of the Glad family, unknown to many South Africans, but cultivated in the UK since 1866. It is a deciduous, clump-forming perennial that grows from a small roundish corm. 50 cm high grey-green leaves are blade-shaped and narrow growing a fan from the base. From August to February, beautiful funnel-shaped flowers with downcast heads hang on slender, arching 1m high stems. Young buds are flushed cream and purple, and the backs of petals retain this colouring as they open up. Inside colour ranges from creamy –yellow with a dark blotch at the base of the lower tepals (outer parts of a flower where there is no differentiation between sepals and petals), to pale to dark purple-mauve, and all can be either with or without a yellow flare. Growers familiar with this species suggest clumps increase in size generously and fairly quickly, though plants can take 2 – 5 years to reach full height. In the wild, this Glad grows in colonies in marshes and damp grasslands, but thrives quite readily in gardens with moderate amounts of water. G. papilio seems to enjoy some protection from strong winds.

Gladiolus papilio
Gladiolus papilio
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