Dictionary of Flowers: Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) has unreal coloring. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Swallowtail Garden Seeds and Flickr
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Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) has unreal coloring. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Swallowtail Garden Seeds and Flickr

  • Gaillardia
  • Common name: blanket flower
  • Family:  Asteraceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zones 3-8
  • Height: 12” to 18” or slightly taller, depending on species
  • Width: 12” 
  • Sun
  • Blooms: mid-summer to fall
  • Attracts: butterflies 
  • Growth habit: mounding, sprawling. Used as filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: poor to average, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers. Drought tolerant
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, wildflower garden
  • Diseases: root rot, leaf spot, powdery mildew
  • Pests: aphids, beetles, borers, thrips

Gaillardia is a genus of native flowering perennials and annuals native to North, South and Central America.

The leaves are gray-green and hairy and the showy two to three inch blooms grow on stems above it.

The flowers are bi-colored red and yellow, yellow, shades of orange and maroon with either maroon or yellow centers.

It is a very adaptable plant, tolerates poor soil, salt, and drought. It thrives on neglect.

It blooms from summer until frost.

They need to be grown in full sun. They grow on poor, sandy or rocky soils, average or fertile, but they dislike clay.

They need average water the first year they are planted to allow them to develop a strong root system, making them good candidates for xeriscaping. A little slow release fertilizer mixed in with the soil at planting time is all Gaillardia requires.

Deadheading prolongs bloom period. If seed saving, allow a few flowers to go to seed at the end of the growing season. Gaillardia can reseed itself, but it isn't invasive. Annual gaillardia is a more agressive reseeder.

It seldom needs division, as normally the plants are short-lived perennials. Clumps can be lifted and divided to propagate hybrid non-registered varieties.

The strawberry-like Blanket Flower: stunning! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Renata and Flickr
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The strawberry-like Blanket Flower: stunning! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Renata and Flickr

Gaillardia is available in nurseries during late spring and summer.

It can be propagated by seed.

It is a good candidate for winter sowing or direct sowing in place in the garden in spring, after the last frost.

To sow indoors, place seed on moist starting mix six to eight weeks before last frost date. Do not cover the seed as it needs light to germinate. Kept at around 70F, the seeds germinate in one to three weeks.

Harden off and plant after danger of frost has passed. Pinch gaillardia after transplanting for more compact plants. Seed from hybrid varieties might not come true to the parent plant.




Blanket Flower can aggressively reseed itself. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr
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Blanket Flower can aggressively reseed itself. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

Gaillardia is not often bothered by disease if grown in full sun and watered sparingly. Leaf spot, root rot or mildew can affect the plant if grown in wet conditions or soil that doesn't drain well.

Treat with fungicide and improve drainage. Applying a systemic insecticide can control pests like borers, aphids, thrips and beetles. Blanketflower is deer resistant.

Popular varieties:

  • Gaillardia grandiflora hybrids - developed by crossing g. pulchella and g. aristata. The varieties in this species are the most widely used in gardens. Cultivars in this group include: 
  • 'Goblin' - red and yellow short plants, up to a foot
  • 'Fanfare' - red and yellow with trumpet shaped petals, 18" tall
  • 'Burgundy' - dark red, two feet high
  • 'Arizona Sun' -a short variety, up to a foot with orange red and yellow flowers 'Oranges and Lemons' -18 inches, orange and yellow with yellow centers-
  • Gaillardia pulchella - annual variety, grows up to one and a half feet. Red and yellow bicolored flowers with dark center
  • Gaillardia aristata – (common gaillardia). Two to four feet tall, perennial. Petals have three toothed edges. Red and yellow
  • Gaillardia suavis - fragrant species, perennial. The petals fall off quickly, leaving the red center bare, like a pincushion. It can grow up to three feet tall
Even at the end of their lives, Gaillardia flowers look great. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Leonora Enking and Flickr
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Even at the end of their lives, Gaillardia flowers look great. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Leonora Enking and Flickr

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