Gaillardia is a native American wildflower that grows well in hot, dry areas that are difficult for other plants to grow. The showy, long-stemmed gaillardia flowers bloom all summer long, even in hot climates like the low desert of Arizona. In addition, blanket flower is often a perennial that returns yearly. With these five tips, learn how to grow gaillardia and add it to your garden.
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5 Tips for How to Grow Gaillardia
1. Grow gaillardia from seed or transplant
Blanket flower grows well from seed planted directly in the garden. If desired, sow seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before planting outside.
When buying transplants, look for compact, healthy transplants with one or two open blooms. Avoid plants with dark spots, yellow buds, or white powder on the leaves.
Gaillardia plants are typically 12-36” wide and 8-36” tall, depending on the variety. Blanket flowers are perennial, hardy annual, or biennial.
- Blanket flower (G.x grandiflora – hybrid, short-lived perennial) – Dwarf Goblin, Single Mix
- Common blanket flower (G. aristata – perennial) – Blanket Flower, Burgundy Blanket Flower
- Annual gaillardia (G. pulchella – annual) – Indian Blanket Double Mix, Sundance
2. Plant and care for gaillardia correctly
Plant gaillardia seeds or transplants in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. In mild winter climates, you can also plant gaillardia in the fall. For example, in the low desert of Arizona, plant blanket flower seeds or transplants from January through April and mid-September through mid-November.
To plant gaillardia seeds outside, rake the soil surface and scatter seeds. (Do not cover; the seeds need light to sprout.) Mist lightly and keep the area moist until seeds germinate (can take 2-3 weeks)—thin seedlings to about 12” apart when true leaves emerge.
Blanket flower grows best in full sun, with light, dry, well-drained soil. Gaiirdia will grow best in the ground rather than in raised beds with rich soil and regular irrigation. Do not fertilize gaillardia plants.
Although the plants are drought-tolerant, give them regular water until they are established and growing well. Once established, they may get root rot if they receive too much water.
Gaillardia is susceptible to leaf spot and yellowing from Aster yellows disease. Therefore, remove and dispose of infected plants to prevent the disease from spreading to surrounding plants.
3. Encourage more blooms on gaillardia plants
Deadheading is not required, but plants look better if you keep up with removing the seed heads once the petals drop off.
If blooming slows or plants are becoming leggy, cut back half of the plant. Then, when the new growth begins blooming, cut back the other half of the plant.
Don’t cut back the plant during the summer in hot summer climates like Arizona. Cutting it back dramatically when it is hot may kill the plant. Instead, it is best to wait until the cooler temperatures of fall or spring to cut back and reinvigorate the plant.
Divide perennial gaillardia every two or three years to maintain blooms and plant health. Use a shovel to divide the plant.
In cold winter climates, protect perennial gaillardia with a thick layer of mulch during the winter.
4. Enjoy the beneficial insects and pollinators that blanket flower attracts
Add gaillardia to containers or in-ground garden areas to promote biodiversity and attract beneficial insects. The sprawling multibranched gaillardia is a nectar and pollen-rich plant for all types of pollinators. Bees and butterflies are drawn to gaillardia flowers. Birds enjoy the seed heads that remain after the flowers bloom.
5. Grow gaillardia as a cut flower
Gaillardia blooms for several months (March through November in the low desert of Arizona), and it regularly appears in my fresh flower arrangements. My favorite variety of gaillardia for cut flowers is the Double Sunset Gaillardia from Baker Creek Seeds.
Cut flowers first thing in the morning; remove the foliage and allow them to rest indoors in cool water. Then, use a flower preservative to prolong the blooms.