Gaillardia, also known as blanket flower, is an easy to grow, short-lived perennial with richly colored, daisy-like flowers. There are over two dozen species in the Gaillardia genus and most are native to some area of 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, which is the most common garden form.
Gaillardia forms a slowly spreading mound and the common name may be a reference to how they can slowly spread and "blanket" an area. The flower can reseed and sprawl through the garden. Since the original plants are hybrids, expect some variation from self-seeding.
|Botanical Name||Gaillardia x Grandiflora|
|Common Names||Gallardia, blanket flower|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||12 to18 inches tall; 12- to 24-inch spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Any well-draining soil (avoid clay soil)|
|Soil pH||6.1 to 6.5 (slightly acidic)|
|Bloom Time||Repeat bloomer, summer through fall|
|Flower Color||Various shades of red, yellow, orange, or peach|
|Hardiness Zones||3 to 10 (USDA); varies by variety|
|Native Area||Cultivated hybrid; parents are native North American wildflowers|
How to Grow Blanket Flowers
Blanket flowers are fairly foolproof if planted in any well-drained soil in a full-sun location. These short-lived perennials are usually planted from nursery starts, but they also grow easily from seeds planted directly in the garden after the last frost date (or started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks early).
Gaillardia X Grandiflora is fully hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8. Due to extensive hybridizing you will likely be able to find a variety to fit your zone and climate conditions. The plants grow to about 24 inches in height with about a 20 inch spread. This garden favorite puts out large showy blossoms in shades or reds and yellows throughout the warm season months. In cooler climates, protect your overwintering Blanket Flowers with a thick layer of mulch.
Deadheading isn't mandatory, but it may stimulate additional blooms. If the plant languishes in the heat of summer, cutting it back dramatically may reinvigorate it for good fall blooming.
Full sun is what these plants love best! The blanket flower can handle some partial shade, particularly in hot climates, but they will get a bit floppy and will not flower as profusely.
Immediately after 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 extremely hot and dry conditions, then it's best to water the bed once or twice per week. Avoid overwatering.
Temperature and Humidity
Blanket flowers thrive in full sun and can withstand hot 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 rich soils, so go easy on (or avoid) the fertilizer.
Blanket flower does not require deadheading to keep blooming, but the plants will look better and be 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 about it.
Propagating Blanket Flowers
There are seeds for many Gaillardia x Grandiflora varieties. You can sow them in the spring, but they may not flower the first year. Get a head start by sowing in late summer and protecting the young plants over the winter.
Since the plants can be short-lived and they don't grow true from seed, it is best to divide the plants every two to three years to keep them going.
Gaillardias are such long bloomers that they work equally well in borders and containers. Blanket flowers do well with other heat-loving plants that thrive in full sun. The bold, daisy-like flowers blend especially well with soft textures, like thread-leaf Coreopsis and cosmos, as well as airy ornamental grasses. For more contrast, plant them with spiky plants like Kniphofia, Crocosmia, or daylilies. 'Burgundy' contrasts well with blue flowers, like Salvia and veronica.
All the Gaillardia varieties make excellent cut flowers. They also attract butterflies and small birds, like finches, which are a welcome addition to any garden.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Blanket flower plants are usually problem-free, but they are susceptible to aster yellows, a virus-like disease that can stunt their growth and cause the flowers to be green. Plants that do get aster yellows should be destroyed. They will not recover and the disease can continue to spread. Aster yellows are spread by leaf-hoppers and aphids, so the best thing to do is to encourage predators, like ladybugs. Hopefully, you will have enough natural predators around to keep them in check. Otherwise, spray with insecticidal soap which helps ward off the pests.
Blanket Flower Varieties
- Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun': 2005 All-America Selections Winner, these 3 to 4-inch flowers have a red center surrounded by yellow.
- G. 'Burgundy': These feature wine-red petals with a yellow center disk that ages to burgundy.
- G. 'Fanfare': This variety produces trumpet-shaped flowers that shade from soft red through yellow radiate from a rosy center disk.
- G. 'Goblin': This is a very hardy variety with large green leaves that are veined in maroon.
- G. 'Mesa Yellow': The 2010 All-America Selections Winner is known for striking yellow flowers.