How to Grow Acidanthera Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Abyssinian Sword Lily

The common names for the Hardy half-hardy Acidanthera plant, which grows from a bulb, include Abyssinian, Sword Lily, Abyssinian sword lily, Fragrant gladiolus, and Sword Lily.

NB the Acidanthera has recently been classified into the Gladiolus plant genus.

Abyssinian sword lily
Abyssinian Sword Lily photograph by Living in Monrovia.

Acidanthera typically flowers from late summer to autumn. Some common species and varieties include Acidanthera bicolor and Acidanthera murielea; it is also commonly refered to as Gladiolus callianthus.

Sword lily photo
G.A. Cooper @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Description of Acidanthera plants

Acidanthera bicolor
Acidanthera bicolor - (Gladiolus Callianthus) picture by audreyjm529

Abyssinian sword lily is native to Africa.

Acidanthera carry sword shaped leaves with long pointed white flowers. These have a brown centre.

Commonly Grown Acidanthera murielae Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Acidanthera murielae syn. Gladiolus murielae syn. Gladiolus callianthus

Acidanthera murielae

Acidanthera murielae
Acidanthera murielae (Abyssinian Gladiolus / Fragrant Gladiolus), photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.

Acidanthera Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Abyssinian gladiolus, Abyssinian sword lily, Fragrant gladiolus, Sword Lily.
  • Life Cycle: Half-hardy bulb.
  • Height: 28 to 40 inches (70—100 cm).
  • Native: Africa.

  • Growing Region: Zones 8 to 10, down to zone 7 with heavy mulching if planted deeply. Often grown as an annual in zones 3 to 8.
  • Flowers: Late spring to autumn.
  • Flower Details: White, with maroon or orange blotch in its throat. Pointed. Slender stems. Fragrant.
  • Foliage: Sword-shaped/ linear.

  • Sow/Plant:
    Seeds: (Zone 10 only). Sow in 5—6 inch pots (12-15 cm). Cover seed. Following the last frost. Keep pots in a shaded part of the garden. Germinates in one to three months at 50°F (10°C).. Bring indoors for the winter. Repeat for two years. Then overwinter bulbs indoors with no water and transplant to final location following the last frost.
    Bulbs: 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm). Late in spring. Space at 6 to 12 inches (15—30 cm).

  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight. Average soil. Good drainage. Regular watering during periods of growth. Supply a liquid feed every four weeks. Bring corms indoors for the winter in cooler areas (about two months before the expected last frost). Protect from aphids and slugs. Propagate: by dividing in late spring.
  • Family: Iridaceae
  • Closely Related Species: Flags and Irises.
  • Miscellaneous: Members of the Acidanthera are now included in the Gladiolus and the Savannosiphon genera. Often sold as Acidanthera bicolor Murielae.

How to Grow and Care for Acidanthera

It is best to plant Acidanthera bulbs at a depth of 9 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches). Use a spacing of about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) apart in the late spring.

Sword lilies prefers light, and should be grown in areas that receive full sunlight.

If starting Acidanthera plants indoors for later transplanting, then they should be sown in the spring.

Acidanthera bicolor and similar plants require between 30 to 90 days for germination. Do so at a temperature of 10 to 13 degrees Celsius (50 to 55°F).

The soil in which Acidanthera plants grow should be well drained. Plants require regular watering during the growing season, and monthly feeds of liquid fertiliser.

I hope that you found this guide on how to grow grow Acidanthera plants in your garden. You may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Safflower, Zinnia elegans, and Helichrysum plants.