How to Plant, Grow and Care For Blanket Flowers
Are you thinking of adding some blanket flowers to your garden this season, but aren't sure where to start? Blanket flowers are beautiful perennials that can be the star of almost any full sun flower garden. In this article, gardening expert Natalie Leiker examines how to plant, grow and care for Blanket Flowers!
Gaillardia also referred to as blanket flower, is a common perennial flower seen around the world. Blanket flowers love the warm weather, and can tolerate heat and frequent periods of drought. Bees and other pollinators love them, and they can add quite a color contrast in your landscape or wildflower garden.
Gaillardia is native to North America, making it a colorful option for gardeners that prefer to only plant native species. They can also tolerate most soil types, making them a great option for people with difficult soil conditions.
They are often added to landscape borders, or roadside plantings due to their naturalistic look and fairly small growing habit. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in so you can learn everything you need to know about growing and caring for this sun loving flower!
Blanket Flower Overview
Common name Blanket Flower
Plant Type Herbaceous Perennial
Exposure Full Sun
Soil Well-draining, loamy
Soil pH 6.1 to 6.5
Water Requirements Low to Moderate
Hardiness USDA zones 3-10
Plant Spacing 1’ to 3’ depending on variety
Height 1’to 3’ depending on variety
Growth Rate Low to Moderate
Plant With Other full sun perennials
Don’t Plant With Shade or water needy plants
What Are They?
Blanket flowers are herbaceous perennials that prefer full sun and produce bright daisy-like flowers. They display bright shades of warm tones (reds, oranges, yellows) and typically grow to about 2 feet wide and tall.
These bright vivid colors are said to resemble the blankets of the Native Americans in the southern regions, perhaps giving them their name blanket flower.
They are hardy to cold winter climates, down to zone 3, and grow very well in warmer regions. They bloom prolifically in the warm spring and summer months all the way until late fall.
Gaillardia were first discovered in the 1800s in the Southwest regions of North America. Most frequently seen in southern states such as Texas and New Mexico, they are one of the most heat and drought tolerant herbaceous perennials.
Blanket flowers produce beautiful flowers all season long, can withstand the toughest of growing conditions, but they usually only survive two years, which is unusual for such a hardy plant!
Gaillardia display bold flowers that resemble daisies. They bloom from spring all the way until fall and are great in mass plantings, perhaps another reason why they gained the term ‘blanket’ in their name. Since they bloom so prolifically, they are expending so much energy constantly, which leads them to be short-lived perennials.
Blanket flowers have a long history in the Americas, and over the years have been cultivated and hybridized into many of the varieties we see available today. They are short-lived perennials – they typically live for about two years.
While this is generally true, it is possible for the plant to reseed itself, producing new plants each season. They also will grow new shoots from the original plant, this cycle can allow them to maintain themselves for many years.
How To Plant
Planting is a relatively easy process, there are just a few things to consider when deciding where and how to plant your new Gaillardia seeds or transplants.
When to Plant
Nursery starts (transplants) can be found in early spring at nurseries or garden centers. This is the easiest and most effective way to plant these native wildflowers. Spring is the ideal time to plant, ensuring they have enough time to establish before the heat of the warmest months kick in.
They can also be grown from seed which can be planted directly into the ground after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has begun to warm up. To get a jump start on planting seeds, start them indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.
Planting transplants in fall is also a possibility, as the cool temperatures can help establish your plant quickly. However, this can be tricky if you live in a cooler climate where the winter is longer or harsher. If planting in fall, try to do so early as you want to give your plants enough time to establish a good root system before frost begins.
How to Grow
Gaillardia are a relatively easy plant to grow once established. They require little to no maintenance and provide color to your landscape or patios from spring until late fall. Let’s take a look at the most important aspects of successful Gaillardia growth.
Gaillardia grow best in full sun (6-8 hours daily). They require full sun in order to grow rapidly and bloom constantly. They can tolerate some hours of shade, just keep in mind that you may not get as many flowers in these conditions.
Choosing a location is pretty straight forward. Keep an eye on locations in your landscape or yard that receive the most sun. They will do great in open areas that aren’t protected from wind or critters, or even in small spaces maybe as a border or accent plant. As natives, they make a great addition to wildflower or pollinator gardens.
Once you have a general location picked out, make sure you plant them at least one foot away from other plants. Gaillardia tend to have a compact growing habit, but will fill in nicely if given at least one foot of growing room.
Blanket flowers can also be planted in patio pots or containers! Some varieties are smaller than others, so keep this in mind when choosing which plants to put in your containers.
It is possible to overwinter them in containers but can be challenging if you are growing in an area that has harsh winter conditions. If the plant and root system are protected enough, there is a good chance it will come back in the spring.
Native to some of the warmer regions in America, they are a great option for gardeners that are looking for a drought-tolerant plant. Gaillardia do not require a lot of water but will benefit from frequent consistent waterings, especially right after planting. Once established, they can tolerate dry periods.
Watering frequently directly after transplanting will help your plant establish its roots. Mulching around the plant will also help to retain moisture throughout the season. Allow your soil to dry out in between waterings. This is especially important to keep an eye on if your soil tends to drain slowly.
Note that in some climates that are very dry or have little to no humidity, blanket flowers will benefit from more frequent waterings.
Blanket flowers will grow best in well-draining, fertile soils, but can tolerate rocky and sandy soils. They also prefer well draining soils and don’t enjoy being waterlogged.
They do not like to stay moist for too long. Gaillardia tend to have a hard time establishing themselves in soils that are primarily clay, and this can often hinder them from surviving the winter.
Climate & Temperature
Blanket flowers are hardy in zones 3-9. This makes them a great option for gardeners in almost every region. Native to the southern parts of the U.S, they can withstand very warm climates. They prefer warm, dry growing conditions as opposed to high humidity and cooler conditions.
It is generally not necessary to fertilize them. They can grow in poor soils where no nutrients are present, so providing extra nutrients isn’t necessary once they are planted in your own area.
Gaillardia are low-maintenance perennial plants and require minimal care throughout the growing season. They will benefit from deadheading throughout the season, although this isn’t detrimental to the plant’s health.
In the fall before frost begins, add a layer of mulch around the base of your plants. This will protect the root system over the winter and keep moisture in.
Pruning & Deadheading
Blanket flowers do not require pruning or deadheading in order to grow and prolifically bloom, however, this can promote new growth and more flowers. Don’t be afraid to trim off spent flowers a few inches down the stem.
Gaillardia can be propagated through seed or division. However, they are most commonly transplanted after being purchased from local nurseries as starter plants. Let’s take a deeper look at the most common propagation methods.
Seeds can be purchased at a local garden center or nursery, and are often in wildflower seed mixes as well. Keep in mind that purchasing a wildflower mix might give you a limited selection of varieties or flower colors.
You can also harvest seeds from your already existing plants, a very easy process that anyone can do!
Gaillardia blooms all. season. long. So it is important to practice patience when trying to harvest seeds from your plant. As we welcome the fall and the weather starts to cool, your plant will slowly stop producing flowers and the existing flowers will begin to dry out. This is when it’s almost time to harvest the seeds!
Wait until the flower has completely dried on the stem before harvesting the seeds. Harvesting is an easy process that does not take very long but can be tedious if you are wanting a lot of seeds. Let’s dig into what that process looks like (pun intended).
Seed Based Propagation Steps
- Allow the flower head to completely dry out.
- Cut off the stem with the dried flower head.
- Cut about 2-3 inches below the flower head
- Gently break the flower head apart with your fingers.
- Fuzzy seeds will begin to fall out.
- Place these seeds on a paper towel or napkin.
- Gently fold the paper towel and place it in a paper sack to dry the seeds out.
- This usually takes about a week.
- Store seeds in a baggie or air tight container until time to plant.
- Start seeds indoors a few weeks before your last frost date.
- You can also direct sow them into containers or the garden when the soil is warm.
Dividing plants can be a great way to keep your plantings going and have Gaillardia for many seasons to come. Once your plant is established, it will begin to produce new shoots at the base of the plant.
These little clumps of new growth can be gently removed from the plant (divided) and transplanted into new areas or a nearby location.
While you may see these new shoots within the first year of growth, I would recommend waiting until the second year to divide any new growth. This will give your plant plenty of time to get well established ensuring the new shoots are healthy and ready to be transplanted.
Transplanting your newly divided Gaillardia can be an easy process. Planting in the spring is ideal, as the cool temperatures will not be as harsh on immature plants.
If you are considering planting when the weather is hot, it would be beneficial to plant these new shoots in small containers or pots first. This will allow the young roots to toughen up before planting.
Types of Gaillardia
There are many varieties of Gaillardia out there, ranging in colors, sizes, and even size. Most are available as transplants, and many are also available as seeds. Each type can provide bold flowers to your landscape, so how do you choose? Here are a few great options that are commonly seen:
Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Arizona Sun’
Arizona Sun produces deep red flowers with yellow rings around the tips. It maintains a compact mounded form throughout the growing season and blooms prolifically even in the warmest climates.
Goblin is very similar to ‘Arizona Sun’, however, it grows a bit larger and doesn’t maintain quite as neat of growth habit. The bright, vivid blooms are a bit ruffled around the edges.
Gaillardia ‘Mesa Peach’
This variety tends to grow fairly taller than some of the others (around 16 inches). The blooms are a vivid peach color in the center and more faded around the edges. This variety adds a great contrast in landscape borders or cottage gardens.
Gaillardia ‘Mesa Bicolor’
‘Mesa Bicolor’ grows to about two feet tall and blooms in shades of yellow with a small red ring in the center. This taller growing habit makes a great addition to native wildflower gardens or landscapes as an accent.
Gaillardia make great accent plants in landscapes. They attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators and beneficial insects. Adding them to your landscape or wildflower garden can add biodiversity, color, and even be mass planted to avoid mulching.
Their bright vivid flowers make a striking contrast when planted near other herbaceous perennials such as Salvia or Speedwell. They can also be planted near ornamental grasses to achieve a more natural look in the landscape.
This perennial flowering plant is fairly pest resistant. But it can succumb to a few different pests without prompt attention and pest management. Let’s take a look at what you can expect.
Garden aphids are often seen on the undersides of leaves. They feed on leaves and severely damage your plants if not eradicated. If treated early, aphids can generally be sprayed off of your plants with a garden hose. However, insecticidal sprays are available if they seem prevalent.
Leafhoppers feed on the undersides of leaves, creating small white or yellow speckling patterns. They can transmit the organisms that carry plant diseases. It is important to keep an eye out for these bugs as they can cause serious damage to your blanket flowers or surrounding plants.
Deer & Rabbits
Blanket flowers are often referred to as “deer and rabbit resistant”. While these critters tend to stray away, they will occasionally munch on the new growth in early spring. Fencing and sprays can sometimes help deter them from eating your plants.
While these popular wildflowers are also fairly disease resistant, they do happen to have a few diseases they can deal with. Some of the diseases you’ll encounter are similar to those of other similar flowering plants.
Often seen in areas where humidity or precipitation is very high, powdery mildew can affect your blanket flowers. It appears as a whitish-gray almost fuzzy substance on the tops of plant leaves, and can spread to other plants nearby.
Powdery mildew can be treated by applying a copper fungicide if necessary, but there are home remedies that are effective too.
Aster yellows is a disease that is spread by certain insects such as leafhoppers and aphids. It can cause stunted leaf growth and deformed flowers. Keep an eye out for insects on your plants and keep your areas weed-free to prevent this disease from spreading.
Stem & Root Rot
Like most native wildflowers, blanket flowers actually prefer frequent dry spells. If the root systems are kept too moist, this can lead to fungal diseases. Stem and root rot is a fungal disease that will cause your roots to rot, and eventually cause the stem to rot as well.
Allow dry periods in between waterings and allow enough space in between plantings to allow for good airflow to the leaves and other parts of the plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called ‘a blanket flower’?
Gaillardia, aka blanket flowers, are said to resemble the colors and patterns of blankets made by native americans. They can also be mass planted and cover a large area, creating somewhat of a ‘blanket’.
How many years will they live?
Blanket flowers are a short-lived perennial, they generally live for two years.
Why isn’t my blanket flower blooming?
Blanket flowers grow best in full-sun. They can tolerate shady areas, however this can prevent them from producing blooms.
Will they attract beneficial insects to my garden?
Yes! Blanket flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Whether you’re looking to add some color to your landscape, attract pollinators, or simply just need a plant that will withstand your hot growing climate, blanket flowers are a great option! These brightly colored flowers come in many colors and sizes and will bloom prolifically even in the warmest of climates.
These plants will add biodiversity, attract pollinators, and can even be used as cut flowers. These super low-maintenance plants are a staple for many gardeners, and you should add them to yours!