Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) - Varieties, Planting & Care Tips

by Max - last update on November 13, 2019, 5:00 am
Gaillardia in the Garden

The biggest consideration with gaillardia flowers is to be careful not to overwater. These plants are drought-tolerant but won’t survive long in soil that’s too wet.

Gaillardia Overview

Quick Facts

Origin North and South America
Scientific Name Gaillardia
Family Asteraceae
Type Perennial or annual flowering plant
Common Names Blanket flower, Indian blanket flower
Height Up to 18 inches
Toxicity Non-toxic
Light Full sun
Watering Drought-tolerant
Pests Mostly pest-free

 

Varieties

There are over 20 species of blanket flower, but there are two main categories of this plant.

Gaillardia Aristata

Gaillardia aristata in garden

This is a perennial blanket flower that is native to the prairies of the US.

Gaillardia Pulchella

Orange red Gaillardia pulchella flowers

This brightly colored variety is the annual species of the blanket flower and is native to the southeast of the Americas, from Mexico all the way up to Colorado.

Gaillardia x Grandiflora

Gaillardia X Grandiflora

This is a hybrid of the G. Aristata and G. Pulchella. It combines the brightly colored flowers of G. Pulchella and the perennial nature of G. Aristata. This is the most common type of blanket flower sold in nurseries, and it is the type that most people are familiar with.

Popular varieties within this species include the following.

‘Arizona Red Shades’

Gaillardia 'Arizona Red Shades'
Gaillardia 'Arizona Red Shades' - Credit to Don McCulley

This variety produces a compact, bushy plant covered with free-flowering crimson red flowers. Some of the tips of the petals can be tinged with yellow. It grows up to 10 inches tall and is mostly pest and disease-free. The flowers of this plant make especially good cut flowers, and they bloom from early summer through fall.

‘Oranges and Lemons’

Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Oranges and Lemons'
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Oranges and Lemons' - Credit to Captain-tucker

This is a fairly tall variety of blanket flower, growing up to 24 inches. Despite its height, it maintains a compact upright stature and blooms heavily, with up to 75 flowers in bloom at any one time. The flowers are pale orange with subtle yellow tips.

‘Sunset Mexican’

This variety grows up to 16 inches in height but has a compact, bushy habit. The flowers are very dramatic, with petals that start out as a vibrant pink near the center of the flower, transforming to lemon yellow at the tips.

‘Sunset Popsy’

The flowers of this plant are highly pigmented, with deep pink petals that are fringed in creamy yellow. Growing to 16 inches high, this blanket flower works well as a border plant or can be grown in a container. It blooms profusely and reliably from early summer through fall. If you find yourself with an excess of blooms, these flowers make excellent cut bouquets (Gardenia).

Caring for Your Gaillardia

Planting

There are two ways to start out your blanket flowers, either from seed or from container plants you have purchased. Container plants take well to being transplanted; simply ease them out of their containers and set them in a hole around 10% larger than the root ball. Fill the hole and tuck the plant in, finishing up by watering it to help the plant settle and give it a good drink to get it going.

Growing from seed is just as easy and is very rewarding because blanket flowers will bloom in their first year. You can sow seeds directly outside in spring or start early by sowing them inside a few weeks before the last expected frost. Whether you sow seeds indoors or outdoors, the process is the same. Sprinkle the seeds on moist soil, ensure they have access to light, and continue to keep them moist,

Germination will take just a few weeks. The only drawback to growing from seed is that the plants will not always be true to their parent's plant. If you have a favorite variety of blanket flowers that you would like to ensure the survival of, propagate it through division every two years.

Watering

Blanket flowers should be watered regularly when young, aiming to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Blanket flowers are probably more susceptible to root rot than any other garden flower you are likely to encounter, so be especially cautious about overwatering.

Keeping young plants in moist conditions will help to ensure plenty of full, lush flowers for the duration of summer. Once flowers do start to appear, dramatically cut back on the watering or stop completely. When they are established, blanket flowers are drought-tolerant and will survive without water for extended periods of time. Many people grow blanket flowers without ever watering them once they are mature, with the plant surviving on rainfall alone.

If you are experiencing a very extreme drought, then you may want to offer blanket flowers a little water, though they will probably be just fine without it. As this plant prefers dry conditions and hates wet feet, you need to pay close attention to what other plants you position it next to. If the blanket flower is located near to a plant that enjoys a lot of water, then when you are watering it, the soil around the blanket flower will become moist, and you may inadvertently overwater it. Instead, plant blanket flowers near other plants that like dry conditions, and then avoid watering that area of the garden.

Light

Gaillardia flower in the garden

Blanket flowers should have full sun, as this will ensure they produce an abundance of perky flowers. They can survive in partial shade, particularly if the shade is during the afternoon in especially hot climates, but you may find that these plants don’t bloom as profusely.

If these flowers don’t get enough sun, they also have a tendency to become limp and floppy. Try to position the plants in an area where they will receive sunlight all day long if you want to get the best out of them.

Temperature

Blanket flowers are hardy through USDA zones 3 to 10, with some variation depending on the variety. These plants enjoy hot, dry weather and will struggle in cool, moist conditions. Perennial blanket flowers will die back in the winter, and how you care for the plant during this time is a matter of personal preference.

Pruning

Some people cut the plant back to a few inches above ground level after the flowers are all spent, and winter is on the way. This is purely to keep things neat and doesn’t offer any health benefits to the plant. The best thing about cutting the plant back in fall is that when new growth appears in spring, it looks fresh and isn’t surrounded by last year's old dead growth. However, if you do nothing at all to prune blanket flowers, they will still reward you with plenty of new growth in the spring.

Deadheading the plant is also a matter of personal preference. Some people believe this is an essential part of caring for blanket flowers, and the benefit of deadheading is that it will encourage more flower production and hopefully extend the flowering period of the plant. However, other people who grow this plant leave the dead flowers intact, as these will turn to seed.

The plant is self-seeding, and if you want more of these wildflowers growing in your garden, you can leave the seeds alone, and they will spread with the wind and surprise you with new blanket flowers next spring. If you would prefer not to have blanket flowers taking over areas of your garden, then deadheading will prevent this (University of Maryland).

Feeding

Low-maintenance gardeners will love this plant as it truly needs very little in the way of care. It grows best without any fertilizer at all, and in fact, fertilizing the plant can actually be detrimental to its growth. If you fertilize this plant, even just once, you can expect it to grow leggy and then fall over, as the tall stems aren’t strong enough to hold the weight of the flowers on top.

At the very most, some gardeners prepare their soil with compost to give blanket flowers a head start once they are planted, but some people warn against this. Blanket flowers often perform best in poor soil conditions, so if you have infertile soil that struggles to grow other plants, then blanket flowers are an ideal solution as they will grow in even the most nutrient-deficient soil. The only exception to this is heavy clay soil, which won’t offer the draining capacity that blanket flowers need.

Propagation

Blanket flowers can be propagated from seed or through division. They are a short-lived plant, so if you want to extend the lifespan of your plant, then division is a good way to do this. Every two years, dig up your blanket flowers and separate one plant into two by gently pulling the roots apart. Replant your blanket flowers as two separate plants, and then continue this again in another two years.

Flowers

Common daillardia flower un der sunlight

The flowers of this plant are the main attraction of the blanket flower. They have an extended blooming period, producing colorful flowers from summer all the way through to fall. The flowers are similar to daisies in appearance and can be single or double-layered, with some petals having a frilled edge.

Flowers can be up to 3 inches wide and typically come in colors synonymous with fall, such as orange, deep red, and mustard yellow. The flowers are especially attractive to pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds.

What do you like to plant next to your Gaillardia? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this page with other gardeners!

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) - Varieties, Planting & Care Tips

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