Gaillardia, also known as blanket flower, is an easy-to-grow, short-lived perennial with richly colored, daisy-like flowers. The plant forms a slowly spreading mound, and the common name may be a reference to how they can slowly spread and "blanket" an area. The plants grow to about 24 inches in height with about a 20-inch spread. Blanket flowers are fast-growers. If grown from seed, they will bloom in their second year, but plants purchased from nurseries are typically ready to bloom in your garden. This garden favorite puts out large showy blossoms in shades of reds and yellows throughout the warm season months.
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). Take note that blanket flower is slightly toxic to humans.
|Common Names||Gallardia, blanket flower|
|Botanical Name||Gaillardia x Grandiflora|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||24 - 36 in. tall; 12- to 24-in. spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Poor, well-draining 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||3-10 (USDA); varies by variety|
|Native Area||Cultivated hybrid; parents are native North American wildflowers|
|Toxicity||Slightly toxic to humans|
Blanket Flower Care
Gaillardia X Grandiflora is fully hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10. Due to extensive hybridizing, you will likely be able to find a variety to fit your zone and climate conditions. The flower can reseed and easily sprawl through your garden. Since the original plants are hybrids, expect some variation from self-seeding.
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.
These plants thrive best in full sun. 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.
Gaillardia prefers poor soil. Do not amend with rich matter or overly fertilize. It is not particular about soil pH, but it does need well-draining soil. It will grow in somewhat moist conditions, but heavy clay soil will probably kill it.
Immediately after planting, water deeply to encourage good root development. Check soil frequently (every other day or so) to ensure the soil is moist but not soggy one inch below soil line. 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. In cooler climates, protect your overwintering blanket flowers with a thick layer of mulch.
Poor soils seem to encourage more flowering than rich soils, so go easy on (or avoid) the fertilizer.
Types of Blanket Flower
There are over two dozen species in the Gaillardia genus and most are native to some areas 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.
Here are other popular types:
- Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun': A 2005 All-America Selections Winner, these 3- to 4- inch flowers have a red center surrounded by yellow.
- G. 'Burgundy': These flowers 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 its striking yellow flowers.
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. 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.
Propagating Blanket Flowers
There are seeds for many Gaillardia x Grandiflora varieties. You can sow them in the spring, but they won't 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 hybrids don't grow true from self-seeding, it is best to divide the plants every two to three years in the spring or fall to try to keep them going. Follow these steps to divide blanket flowers:
- Use a spade to dig a circle about 6 inches to 8 inches around the mound of blanket flowers that need dividing. Dig down about a foot to release the root ball.
- Lift the root ball from the soil using the spade. Shake the root ball slightly to remove some of the dirt to expose the roots.
- Gently tease roots apart with your fingers or use a sterile, sharp knife to divide into two or three clumps. Each clump should include a few shoots of foliage.
- Replant divisions in a prepared area that will allow the roots to spread.
- Once roots are covered with soil, water thoroughly to moisten the roots.
- Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until you see the plant is no longer stressed, and then cut back on watering as you would with established blanket flowers.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Blanket flower plants are susceptible to aster yellows, a virus-like disease that can stunt their growth and cause the flowers to be green. Plants that do contract 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.
Are blanket flowers easy to grow?
Blanket flowers are fairly foolproof if planted in any well-drained soil in a full-sun location.
Do blanket flowers attract butterflies?
Blanket flowers attract butterflies as well as small birds, like weed-eating finches, which are always a welcome addition to any garden.
How long can blanket flowers live?
Dividing them may make blanket flowers last longer. However, it's a relatively short-lived perennial that lasts on average around two seasons before dying out.