Once I get on a theme, it’s difficult for my focus to change! Here is yet another blog post dedicated to a flower that does not get enough attention! It is showy, long-blooming, very drought tolerant, attractive to bees and butterflies, and could easily be grown in most landscapes. The flower that I’d like to focus on this week is Gaillardia.
There are 23 species of Gaillardia that are grown in the United States, but the 2 most common are Gaillardia pulchella, an annual, and Gaillardia aristata, a perennial. Both of these have the common names of Blanket Flower, Firewheel, and Indian Blanket Flower.
It is said that Gaillardia received the common name of Blanket Flower because of the way it used to blanket the American plains with colorful blooms during summer and fall. Indian Blanket Flower, as it is often called, was the name given because of the resemblance of its red, gold, and bronze shades to the traditional colors of Indian crafts.
Gaillardia is native to North America, and it can grow nearly anywhere in the United States. It was a medicinal herb for the American Indians who used the roots in a tea to treat gastroenteritis. The plant begins as a rosette with hairy, multi-lobed leaves, similar to a dandelion. The Gaillardia plant reaches 12 – 24 inches in height, forming a rounded clump that spreads 24 – 36 inches with soft, divided leaves and 2 – 3 inch single, semi-double, or double flowers held on stems above the foliage. As a result of hybridization, there are different colors and variations in petal shapes. The colors are yellow, orange, red, or bi-colors. The Gaillardia flowers are great for cutting, a food and nectar source for butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects, and the flowers will normally reseed themselves. Another benefit is that Blanket Flowers are usually deer resistant as well.
For the home landscape, Gaillardia is ideal for containers, planters, mass planting, and ground cover. When the Gaillardia plants are evenly spaced, they make a beautiful edging along walkways or driveways. Grow them as an accent plant in front of ever green shrubs. Wherever they are planted, Gaillardia flowers will bloom all summer right into the fall.
Gaillardia prefers full sun, sandy or loamy soil that drains well, yet it has a high tolerance for poor soils and rocky locations. It is very drought tolerant. In fact, Blanket Flower plants are a popular choice for use in low watering zones of Xeriscape.
Gaillardia propagation is by seed or root divisions planted in early spring. Here are some simple steps for growing Gaillardia from seed:
- Select and prepare a site that is in full sun (6 – 8 hours each light of sun), loosen the soil and add compost, raking it smooth.
- Scatter the Blanket Flower seeds over the surface and lightly rake 1/8 inch of soil over the top of the flower seeds.
- Keep the soil moist for germination.
- Once a set of true leaves appear, thin Gaillardia seedlings to about 18 inches apart.
Gaillardia care includes the following:
- Once established, water Gaillardia plants sparingly, letting the soil dry out between waterings. Too much water will cause root rot.
- A slow-release all purpose fertilizer can be added to the soil at the time of planting, or liquid fertilizers can be applied every month during the flowering season.
- To promote continued flowering, remove the faded flowers.
- At the end of the season, leave some blooms to let their seeds drop. Cut back the foliage and cover with a light mulch for winter protection.
- The perennial Blanket Flower should be divided every 2 – 3 years or when the inside of the Gaillardia plant becomes woody.
I hope that after reading this blog that you’re as excited about this very beneficial Gaillardia as I am! During summer, Gaillardias truly make any flower garden bright and cheery. They are not invasive and will only spread as far as you desire for them to spread. If you like to attract beneficial insects, Gaillardia will provide nectar for them and beauty and enjoyment for you!
Question of the week: What has your experience growing Gaillardia been?
By Kimberly Bell