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 bulb include Abyssinian, Sword Lily, Abyssinian sword lily, Fragrant gladiolus, and Sword Lily.

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

Description of Acidanthera

Abyssinian sword lily is native to Africa.

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

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

Abyssinian sword lily

Abyssinian Sword Lily photograph by Living in Monrovia.

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

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 Acidanthera

It is best to plant Acidanthera bulbs at a depth of 9 to 15 cm, and a spacing that is 15 to 30 cm apart in the late spring. Sword lilies prefers light and should be grown in areas that receive full sunlight.

The soil should be well drained. Sword lilies requires regular watering during the growing season an monthly feeds of liquid fertiliser.

Acidanthera bicolor and similar plants requires between 30 to 90 days for germination at a temperature of 10 to 13 degrees Celsius.

If growing the plant indoors for later transplanting then it should be sown in the spring.