With such an extensive bloom time, few other perennials can rival what blanket flower brings to the garden. On top of their visual appeal, the bright, cheery blossoms of blanket flower are a wonderful food source for pollinators. Come fall, small birds also love to pick seeds off of spent blooms. The biggest problem with blanket flowers? They bloom too much!
Available in many warm colors and even a few cooler shades, blanket flowers can make a statement in a garden. Big, showy blooms that go on for months play surprisingly well with many other perennials. Ornamental grasses make a great companion plant to blanket flowers. The most common blanket flower is the result of a cross between a perennial species and an annual species. This created a hybrid that offers the best of both worlds. The hardiness of the perennial parent coupled with the vigor and flowering capacity of the annual parent create a true garden knockout. If you're planting a cutting garden, be sure to include blanket flowers.
Blanket Flower Care Must-Knows
Blanket flowers are typically native to hot and dry climates, like tough prairies and rocky plains. These plants are well adapted to poor soils and severe drought. Because of this, they require very little supplemental watering in landscapes and are ideal for drought-tolerant gardens and gardens with poor, dry soils. Blanket flowers also need as much sun as you can give them. In any shade, plants will flower poorly and become stretched and floppy. There is also a higher risk for threats like powdery mildew in shade.
Related: Flowers That Attract Bees
Once flowering begins in early summer, blanket flowers won't stop until frost. They may go through a lull, but you can keep things going by removing old, spent blooms—this is especially important come fall. When we say blanket flowers bloom too much, it's actually true. Since one of the parents of this popular hybrid was an annual, these plants tend to forget to store up energy for the next year. So rather than slow down as fall sets in, blanket flowers continue blooming and setting seed like there is no tomorrow! Cutting plants back, deadheading blooms, and pinching off flower blooms in late fall will keep plants from wasting all of their energy on new blooms. This is generally the main reason that these plants tend to be short-lived. Luckily, blanket flowers have no problem seeding around gardens either. You can sprinkle old blooms around to encourage re-seeding for the following spring. And, if you leave some of the old blossoms on the plants into the fall and winter, goldfinches and other small birds will happily feast on the seeds.
Since the beginning of this hybrid's discovery, research has continued to improve all aspects of these plants. By breeding with other species, and experimenting on the original two species (G. pulchella and G. aristata), blanket flowers continue to see improvements. This can be seen in the variety of colors and forms as well as in overall plant habit and hardiness. Advancements continue to be made, and new varieties are introduced fairly regularly.
More Varieties of Blanket Flower
Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri is native to areas of Texas. It bears white flowers in summer and grows 18 inches tall and wide. Zones 7-9
Gaillardia 'Fanfare' offers bright red ray flowers tipped with yellow at the flaring mouth. This recent 14-inch-tall introduction blooms over a long period. Zones 3-8
Gaillardia x grandiflora has ingle blooms of amber yellow on tall stems that make great cut flowers. Zones 2-9
Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri 'Grape Sensation' is a heat- and drought-tolerant variety that bears purple flowers all summer long. It grows 12 inches tall and wide. Zones 7-9
Blanket Flower Companion Plantings
Lamb's-ears is a top pick for a groundcover in a hot, baked spot. Its silver felted foliage quickly forms a dense, delightful mat. It also contrasts nicely with other foliage and most flowers, enhancing almost everything. Depending on the type and your growing conditions, it may self-sow freely to the point of becoming a bother. In hot, humid climates, lamb's-ears may "melt down" in summer, becoming brown and limp. A quite different but related plant, big betony is worth growing for its shade tolerance, dark green crumpled leaves, and bright purple spikes of whorled 1-inch flowers in late spring. Wood betony is similar but not as shade-tolerant.
Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shaped flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.
There are few gardens that don't have at least one salvia growing in them. Whether you have sun or shade, a dry garden or lots of rainfall, there's an annual salvia that you'll find indispensable. All attract hummingbirds, especially the red blooms, and are great picks for hot, dry sites where you want tons of color all season. Most salvias don't like cool weather, so plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
This hardworking group of perennials does so much. Hyssop bloom for a long time in wonderful colors atop tall, striking plants. They produce a nectar that is irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies. Most are heat and drought tolerant. And their foliage and flowers are fragrant, with scents ranging from licorice to bubblegum. Most require well-drained soil and prefer full sun, although they will tolerate light shade.
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer as long as it's deadheaded.
Garden Plans for Blanket Flower
Soften the edges of a deck of patio with this easy fall-focused garden. Ornamental grasses are the stars here, with mums and asters playing supporting roles. Garden size: 14 by 7 feet.