It’s also known as the “blanket flower” because of the bright and vivid colors that resemble the traditional textile patterns of several Native American communities.
French judge M. Gaillard de Charentonneau gave the plant its botanical name in the 18th century. He was a generous supporter of botanists, and as a result, a gorgeous plant bears his name in his honor.
To ensure we’re all on the same page, we need take a closer look at the three larger species of the Gaillardia:
- Gaillardia Pulchella (G. pulchella) is native to the Southeastern United States, extending west to Colorado and south to Mexico.
- Native to the plains of the United States, Gaillardia Aristata (also known as blanket flower) is a perennial type of the flower.
- As a cross between G. aristata and G. pulchella, you’ll likely see G. x grandiflora in the nursery section of your local store.
Each species’ needs for development and health differ only slightly, with one species returning year after year as a perennial while the other two species are more likely to be annuals.
Known as the blanket flower, Gaillardia has daisylike blossoms that are easy to grow and short-lived. The popular name may be a reference to the plant’s ability to spread and “blanket” an area over time. About 24 inches tall and 20 inches wide, the plants are capable of producing a lot of foliage. Blanket flowers grow quickly. Plants acquired from nurseries are usually ready to bloom in your garden by their second year if they are cultivated from seed. During the warm months, this perennial favorite produces enormous, beautiful flowers in reds and yellows.
It is common to sow these perennials from seed, but they can also be started from seed in the garden after the last frost date (or started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks early). Make sure you’re aware that the blanket flower is a little poisonous to people. 1
Blanket Flower Care
USDA Zones 3–10 are suitable for growing Gaillardia X Grandiflora. Because of widespread hybridization, you should be able to locate a variety that is suitable for your geographic region and environment. The flower has the ability to self-seed and quickly take over your entire garden. Expect some variety from self-seeding because the initial plants are hybrids.
Unlike other long-blooming plants, gaillardias are equally at home in flowerbeds and containers. In full sun, blanket flowers and other heat-loving plants work well together. Bold, daisy-like flowers, such as thread-leaf Coreopsis and cosmos, and airy ornamental grasses all look great with these flowers. Plant them with spiky plants such as Kniphofia, Crocosmia, or daylilies for further contrast. Salvia and veronica, for example, go beautifully with ‘Burgundy’. Cut blooms from any Gaillardia variety are guaranteed to last a long time.
Full light is the optimum environment for these plants. They can survive partial shade in hot climes but they’ll get floppy and won’t produce as many flowers as if they were in full sun.
Gaillardia thrives on nutrient-depleted soil. Avoid adding too much fertilizer or rich stuff to the soil. While the pH of the soil is not important, it does require soil that drains properly. A heavy clay soil is likely to kill it, but under slightly damp conditions, it will thrive.
Temperature and Humidity
Full sun and hot summer temperatures are ideal for blanket flowers. Conditions with high temperatures and little humidity are ideal for these plants; they thrive in hot, dry climates. In colder locations, mulch your blanket flowers to keep them from freezing to death.
Types of Blanket Flower
The Gaillardia genus has more than two dozen species, the majority of which are indigenous to parts of North America. In order to generate Gaillardia X Grandiflora, which is the most popular garden version, Gaillardia pulchella was crossed with Gaillardia aristata, an indigenous prairie flower.
Other prominent varieties include:
- ‘Arizona Sun’ gaillardias feature a red center surrounded by yellow petals, making them All-America Selections winners from 2005.
- “Burgundy” has wine-red petals with a yellow center disk that turns burgundy as it matures.
- This variety’s trumpet-shaped flowers range in color from a gentle red to a yellowish-orange that radiate outward from a rosy central disk.
- One of the toughest varieties of G. ‘Goblin’, it has enormous green leaves that are veined in burgundy.
- Flower power: G. ‘Mesa Yellow’ was a winner of the All-America Selections in 2010.
Blanket flower doesn’t need deadheading to maintain blooming, but cutting the stems back as the flowers fade will make the plants appear healthier and fuller. Don’t be afraid to deadhead if you want more flowers in a shorter period of time. While not required, deadheading might encourage more blooms. The plant may be reinvigorated for fall blooming if it is trimmed back significantly during the sweltering summer months.
Propagating Blanket Flowers
Many cultivars of Gaillardia × Grandiflora have seeds available. You can sow them in the spring, but they won’t flower the first year. Sow in late summer and protect the seedlings over the winter to get a jump start. It is advisable to divide the plants every two to three years in the spring or fall to keep them going because they can be short-lived and hybrids do not grow true from self-seeding. In order to divide blanket flowers, simply follow these steps:
- Many cultivars of Gaillardia × Grandiflora have seeds available. You can sow them in the spring, but they won’t flower the first year. Sow in late summer and protect the seedlings over the winter to get a jump start. It is advisable to divide the plants every two to three years in the spring or fall to keep them going because they can be short-lived and hybrids do not grow true from self-seeding. In order to divide blanket flowers, simply follow these steps:
- Gaillardia × Grandiflora seeds come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. You can plant them in the spring, but they won’t bloom the first year you plant them. Protect the seedlings during the winter by sowing them in late summer. It is best to divide the plants every two to three years in the spring or fall to keep them going because they can be short-lived and hybrids don’t grow true from self-seeding To divide blanket flowers, follow these simple steps: 1.
- Using your fingers or a sterile, sharp knife, gently separate the roots into two or three separate clumps. There should be a few leafy shoots in each clump.
- Prepare an area that will allow the roots to expand before planting divisions.
- Water the roots thoroughly once they have been covered with dirt.
- As soon as you notice that the plant is no longer under any stress, stop watering it as much as you would with established blanket flowers and allow the soil to dry up.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
If aster yellows, a virus-like disease, affects blanket flower plants, the blossoms will become green. Destroy the two plants that are infected with aster yellows. As a result, the disease might spread unchecked.
Leafhoppers and aphids spread Aster yellows, thus encouraging ladybugs is the best strategy. 3 Hopefully, there are enough natural predators to keep them under control. Otherwise, use an insecticidal soap spray to keep pests at bay.
Blanket Flowers Don’t Need Much to Thrive
Flowers that take care of themselves, like blanket flowers, are a favorite of mine.
Indeed, this is the kind of plant that could be damaged by a gentle touch.
This is a species that flourishes in rocky, sunny, and neglectful environments. You don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing your garden beds for these flowers; just dump them into a dry hillside where nothing else will grow.
This year’s blanket flowers in my front yard spilled over and teetered on the edge of the ground, attempting to reach for the heavens. This could have been caused by one of two things:
- They were leggy and floppy when I fertilized them in the spring.
- A lack of direct sunshine was a contributing factor.
Unfortunately, the amount of sunshine that reaches the front of my house is insufficient for my Gaillardia to thrive. They need as much sunlight as possible to grow to their full potential.
Fertilization is likewise a no-no for them. Plants that have become naturalized or native to the area, such as yarrow and black-eyed Susans, resent human interference and will respond by becoming leggy.
But What About Water?
All my blanket flowers needed to make it through the summer was rain.
In dry and permeable soils, these flowers thrive organically and do not require additional or additional watering. You may want to water the plants in the event of protracted dry spell, but they should be able to withstand anything save the most extreme drought conditions.
Root rot can be a problem with Gaillardia if you’re watering it on a regular basis. Adding these plants to an established and watered garden bed requires careful planning because they are more prone to “wet feet” than other garden plants.
In my research, I’ve found that the ideal answer is to design your garden around the xeriscaping concept, a gardening method that makes minimal use of water. This can be done by selecting drought-resistant plants like blanket flowers and planning your garden carefully.
Beautiful blossoms and carefree growth are common responses to these conditions, which allow many plants to thrive. If you’ve got a hot and rocky yard, you can still have a beautiful garden thanks to their low soil pH requirements.
Fertilizing Your Flowers
Avoid fertilizing these plants, it’s that simple!
The flowers need very little to survive and prosper. Really.
And What About Maintenance?
In order to thrive, the blooms require only a few resources. Really.
To get rid of the dead or dying foliage, trim your Gaillardia back to six inches in the late fall.
The seed heads are lovely in their own right, and the local fauna appears to enjoy eating them up, so you don’t have to deadhead the flowers throughout the growing season.
Individual plants often live for two to three years until they die out completely in their natural habitat.
You can avoid a lot of pain by dividing them after two years. You’ll get two plants out of the deal, and help ensure their extended life.
Divide them after two years to spare yourself the pain. You’ll acquire two plants, and you’ll help them live longer.
What Kind of Pests and Diseases Should I Watch Out For?
There are few illnesses or pests that can harm Gaillardia. Deer and rabbits are two examples of species that tend to overlook these. And there are only a few pests that actually cause harm.
Powdery mildew, aster yellows, and fungal leaf spot are the most common problems gardeners confront with blanket flowers.
When it comes to fungal leaf spots and powdery mildew, you can use antifungal sprays sparingly and only when necessary, but when it comes to aster yellows, you must remove the afflicted plant as soon as possible.
Aphids and leafhoppers, which aren’t harmful to blanket flowers but can carry this deadly disease, are responsible for the spread of this disease.
Spotting aster yellows is easy if you look for little, green flowers. To prevent the spread of this sickness, you should remove any plants that have this from your garden and throw them away. Don’t compost diseased plant material.
- It’s unclear whether blanket flowers are easy to cultivate. If planted in a well-drained, full-sun site, blanket flowers are nearly infallible.
- Are butterflies drawn to blanket flowers? Butterflies and other small birds, such as weed-eating finches, are drawn to blanket flowers, making them an excellent addition to any garden.