How to Plant and Grow Blanket Flower

Get more bloom for your buck and entice pollinators to your garden with the long-blooming blanket flower.

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 flowers 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 cool shades, blanket flowers can make a big statement in a garden—especially when paired with other drought-tolerant perennials and ornamental grasses. It should be noted, however, that many parts of the blanket flower contain compounds (lactones) that can cause skin irritation in humans, so gloves should be worn when pruning, propagating, or deadheading the plant, particularly if you have sensitive skin.

Blanket Flower Overview

Genus Name Gaillardia
Common Name Blanket Flower
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Flower Color Orange, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover

Where to Plant Blanket Flowers

Blanket flowers are typically native to hot and dry climates, like tough prairies and rocky plains. These plants thrive in zones 3 to 10 and are well adapted to poor soils and severe drought. Because of this, they require minimal supplemental watering and are ideal for drought-tolerant gardens and gardens with poor, dry soils.

How and When to Plant Blanket Flowers

Blanket flowers grow fast and, while plants grown from seed may bloom in the second year after planting, nursery-grown starts will likely bloom right away. You can plant seeds or starts in the spring after the last frost has passed in most climates. In zones with milder winters, you can also plant blanket flowers in the fall.

To plant the seeds outdoors, rake the soil and scatter the seeds. Use only a sprinkling of soil to keep the seeds in place (or no cover soil at all) as blanket flower seeds need sunlight to sprout. Lightly mist the soil and keep the area moist for a few weeks until the seeds begin to germinate.

To plant blanket flower starts, dig your holes about 6 to 12 inches apart and just slightly larger than each of the plants' grow pots. Wiggle each plant out of its pot and tease apart the roots before setting it in the hole. Fill in the holes evenly with soil and water the starts thoroughly.

Blanket Flower Care

Blanket flowers are self-sufficient perennials that are more or less maintenance-free once established. As soon as 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.

Light

Blanket flowers need as much sun as you can give them. Give them a place in full sun and they will continue to thrive through hot summer temperatures. In any shade, the plants will flower poorly and become stretched and floppy. In the shade, the plants also face a higher risk of developing powdery mildew.

Soil and Water

Blanket flowers are native to the tough prairie soil of the central United States, so they thrive in dry open places and poor soils. Blanket flowers are not particular about soil pH, but their sensitive roots don’t like to be wet, so choose an area with well-draining, loose, and sandy soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Blanket flowers thrive in full sun and will flower best when they get at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. In shadier areas, blanket flowers tend to grow leggy and bloom less. Blanket flowers also favor a hot, dry climate over moist, cool ones and could develop health issues if they
are allowed too much moisture.

When it comes to temperatures, blanket flowers are hardy in zones 3 through 10 and will bloom profusely through hot summer weather but die back in persistent cold temperatures.

Fertilizer

Blanket flowers do not need a lot of (if any) fertilizer as it tends to encourage the growth of foliage over blooms. In fact, many gardeners have noticed that their blanket flowers seem happiest and most productive in poor soils. 

Pruning

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! You should cut plants back, deadhead blooms, and pinch off flower blooms in late fall to keep plants from wasting their energy on new blooms. This constant flowering is the main reason these plants tend to be short-lived.

Potting and Repotting

Blanket flowers make great container plants when planted alone or with other heat-tolerant plants that prefer dry conditions. When it comes time to transplant them (late summer or early fall is best), prune the plants back to about one-third of their height and then dig about 6 to 8 inches from the stalks to find the root ball. Lift the root ball and tease the roots apart while dividing the plant into several sections (if necessary). Replant into a container that is at least 10 percent larger than the root ball and fill the pot with loose, well-draining, high-quality potting soil.

Pests and Problems

Blanket flowers are notably tolerant of most pests and diseases and—despite being popular with pollinators—they are largely ignored by rabbits and deer. Without the proper sun and well-draining soil, however, they can develop powdery mildew, aster yellows, and fungal leaf spots.

How to Propagate Blanket Flower

Luckily, blanket flowers have no problem seeding around gardens. You can sprinkle old blooms around to encourage re-seeding for the following spring. And, if you leave some old blossoms on the plants into the fall and winter, goldfinches and other small birds will happily feast on the seeds.

To propagate blanket flowers from clippings, look for a stem with at least one to two nodes and clip it off below the nodes with a sharp cutting tool. Treat the cut end of the blanket flower with rooting hormone and stick it into a sterile, moist rooting media (like sand or a mixture of sand and peat). Keep the cuttings moist for up to 3 to 4 weeks and then repot or transplant when rooted.

Another effective way to propagate blanket flowers is through division. It’s a also good idea to divide your blanket flower plants every 2 to 3 years in the spring or fall to help them thrive. To do so, just dig around the plant and gently lift the root ball. Tease the roots apart and separate the plant into two or three sections—each with its own shoots of foliage. Replant and water thoroughly, keeping the soil moist (but not soggy) just until the plants reestablish themselves.

Types of Blanket Flower

The most common blanket flower is a cross between a perennial and annual species. This hybrid 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 garden knockout.

Since this hybrid was first discovered, research has continued to work 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 develop. This can be seen in the variety of colors and forms and overall plant habit and hardiness. Advancements continue to be made, and new types are introduced relatively regularly.

Firewheel

White and purple Firewheel flowers
Denny Schrock

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

'Fanfare' Blanket Flower

'Fanfare' Blanket Flower
Denny Schrock

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

'Amber Wheels' Blanket Flower

'Amber Wheels' Blanket Flower
Edward Gohlich

Gaillardia x grandiflora has single blooms of amber yellow on tall stems that make great cut flowers. Zones 2-9

'Grape Sensation' Firewheel

'Grape Sensation' Firewheel
Denny Schrock

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

'Goblin' Blanket Flower

'Goblin' Blanket Flower
William N. Hopkins

This variety of Gaillardia x grandiflora is a dwarf selection that boasts the typical red and yellow bicolor blooms on much shorter plants 1 to 2 feet tall. Zones 3-10

Blanket Flower Companion Plants

Lamb's Ear

Lamb's Ears
Stephen Cridland

Lamb's-ear 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. However, 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. An entirely 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.

Veronicas

Purple Veronicas in garden
Marty Baldwin

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.

Salvia, Sage

Purple Salvia and Sage

Few gardens 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 a 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.

Agastache

spikes of anise hyssop flowers in bloom
Marty Baldwin

This hardworking group of perennials does so much. Also known as hyssop, agastache blooms 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.

Coreopsis

Yellow Coreopsis flowers
Scott Little

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Depending on the variety, coreopsis also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer if it's deadheaded.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How did blanket flowers get their name?

    The genus name for blanket flowers, Gaillardia, comes from the 18th-century French botanist, Maître Gaillard de Charentonneau, a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. There is, however, some debate about the plant’s common name, the blanket flower. Some believe the plant’s name comes from its resemblance to the color palette of Native American blankets, but others believe the name references the plant’s ability to cover the ground with brightly colored blankets of yellow, orange, purple, white, and red.  

  • Are blanket flowers daisies?

    While the bright blooms of blanket flowers closely resemble daisies—including the tightly-packed central disk of florets—blanket flower plants are not technically daisies. Blanket flowers and daisies are, however, both members of the family Asteraceae, which contains some 22,000 species of plants including ornamental blooms like dahlias, marigolds, and chrysanthemums; wildflowers such as sunflowers, blanket flowers, and yarrow; and edible plants like dandelions, artichokes, and lettuce.

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  1. Safe and poisonous garden plants - ucanr.edu. (n.d.). University of California Davis.

  2. Gaillardia. Gaillardia (Blanket flower, Indian Blanket). North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.

  3. The Plants of the Asteraceae Family as Agents in the Protection of Human Health. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar 16;22(6):3009.

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