Blanket Flower

Blanket Flower Overview

Description 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!
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

Colorful Combinations

Available in many warm colors and even a few cool shades, blanket flowers can make a big statement in a garden. Showy blooms that go on for months play surprisingly well with many other perennials. Ornamental grasses make a particularly great companion plant to blanket flowers.

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. 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 minimal supplemental watering 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 the shade.

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

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.

New Innovations

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.

More Varieties of Blanket Flower

01 of 10

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

02 of 10

'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

03 of 10

'Amber Wheels' Blanket Flower

'Amber Wheels' Blanket Flower
Edward Gohlich

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

04 of 10

'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

05 of 10

'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 Plantings

06 of 10

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.

07 of 10

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.

08 of 10

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 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.

09 of 10

Agastache

spikes of anise hyssop flowers in bloom
Marty Baldwin

This hardworking group of perennials does so much. Hyssop 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.

10 of 10

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.

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