by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
The perfect mountain perennial with huge fiery flowers on a compact plant. She loves the heat and super drought hardy. You can count on this bloomer to show off all summer long in raised beds, containers, or directly in the ground. Javelina and rabbit proof, this bloomer is a ‘must-have.’ Arizona plant.
Gaillardia is often referred to as Blanket Flower with richly colored, daisy-like flowers. There are over two dozen species of Gaillardia native to North America. Gaillardia pulchella, which is native from the southeastern U.S. through to Colorado and south into Mexico, was cross-bred with Gaillardia aristata, a prairie flower, to create Gaillardia X grandiflora. Most of the new blanket flowers we grow in local gardens are a crossed Gaillardia X Grandiflora.
This perennial bloomer comes back in the garden for years to come, mounding slowly to cover the garden in a blanket of wildflowers. That is the reason so many refer to this Arizona native as ‘Blanket Flower.’ The flowers reseed and sprawl through gardens and quite easy to grow. Deer, rabbits, elk, and javelina dislike the brightly colored flowers.
- Botanical Name: Gaillardia x grandiflora
- Common Name: Blanket Flower, Indian Blanket Flower
- Plant Type: Flowering Perennial
- Mature Size: 12″ inches high and 12″ inches wide
- Sun Exposure: 6+ hours per day to full sun
- Soil Type: Well-draining soil
- Bloom Time: A long season of bloom, repeat flowering from late spring through fall
- Flower Color: Various shades of red, yellow, orange, or peach. Some have petals surrounding a center disk producing florets. Others have trumpet florets surround the entire disk.
- Hardiness Zones: 3-10
- Native Area: North America
How to Grow Blanket Flowers
Gaillardias are such long bloomers; they work equally well in borders and containers. Blanket flowers do well with other heat-loving plants that thrive in the full sun surrounded by the wind. The bold, daisy-like flowers blend exceptionally well with soft textures, like thread-leaf Coreopsis and cosmos, as well as airy ornamental grasses. For more contrast, spiky plants like Kniphofia, Crocosmia, and daylilies look good together. ‘Burgundy’ contrasts well with blue flowers, like Salvia and Veronica.
All Gaillardia varieties make superb cut flowers. They also attract butterflies and small birds.
Full sun is what these plants love best! The blanket flower can handle some partial shade, particularly in hot climates. Still, they will get a bit floppy and not flower as profusely.
Gaillardia is not particular about soil pH, but it does need well-draining soil. It will grow in somewhat moist conditions. It may struggle n heavy clay soil.
When just planting, water frequently (every other day or so) until you see the flowers. Once established, Gaillardia is extremely drought tolerant. It can go without watering unless there are scorching, dry conditions, then it’s best to water the bed once or twice per week. Avoid overwatering, and never water this blooming in the evening.
Temperature and Humidity
Blanket flowers thrive in full sun and can withstand blistering summer temperatures. They do not require a humid environment and do better in hot, dry climates over cool, moist ones.
Poor soils seem to encourage more flowering than fertile soils. To maximize bloom count, use Flower Power twice per month during the growing season for a plant that has more flowers than foliage.
Propagating Blanket Flowers
There are seeds for many varieties of Gaillardia x Grandiflora. Sow them in spring, but rarely flower well the first year. Get a head start by sowing in late summer and protecting the young plants over the winter. Blanket flower is more commonly grown from plant starts at the garden center. Seed variations are vast, so it’s best to divide this perennial every 2-3 years to keep them going
Blanket Flower Varieties
- ‘Arizona Sun’ 2005 All-America Selections, these 3-4″inch flowers have a red center surrounded by yellow.
- ‘Burgundy’ These feature wine-red petals with a yellow center disk that ages to burgundy.
- ‘Fanfare’ This variety produces trumpet-shaped flowers that shade from soft red through yellow radiate from a rosy center disk.
- ‘Goblin’ This is a very hardy variety with large green leaves that are veined in maroon.
- ‘Mesa Yellow’ The 2010 All-America Winner is known for striking yellow flowers.
A blanket flower does not require deadheading to keep blooming, but the plants will look fuller if you do cut the stems back when the flowers start to fade. You will also get more continuous flowering with deadheading, so don’t be shy. Divide Gaillardia plants every 2-3 years to keep them from dying out.
Pests & Problems of Gaillardia
Perennial blanket flower is problem-free, but they are susceptible to aster yellows. This virus-like disease can stunt growth and cause the flowers to be green. Aster yellow is spread by leafhoppers and aphids, so the best thing to do is to encourage predators, like ladybugs. Plants that do get aster yellows should be destroyed. They will not recover, and the disease can continue to spread. Hopefully, you will have enough natural predators around to keep them in check. Spray with ‘Triple Action’ to control pest outbreaks and ward off the pests.
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