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How to Grow: Gaillardia
Full sun for best flowering, but can thrive in part shade especially in warm summer areas.
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Gaillardia blooms on and off all summer.
Mature Height x Spread
10 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety.
Gallardia, or blanket flower, is a native plant that grows as a short-lived perennial (hardy to zone 3) or as an annual variety, depending on the selection. The 1- to 2-foot tall plants feature orange or yellow daisy-like flowers. Recent breeding has expanded the color range to include red, apricot and peach colors. Many selections will have two colors banded across the flower petals. This flower has gray-green, hairy leaves, is relatively pest free and can self sow readily. It’s a versatile plant growing well in the gardens, containers, meadows and as a cutflower.
When, Where and How to Plant
Plant gaillardia plants in a full sun location after all danger of frost has passed. If grown in too much shade the flower stems can become leggy and flop over. You can start plants from seed indoors or purchase transplants from garden centers. Plant seedlings and transplants in well-drained, compost-amended soil. Gaillardia may struggle to come back each year if grown in clay soils. It also likes a neutral to slightly alkaline soil, so adding lime may be necessary. Gaillardia can be planted in fall in warm winter areas to avoid the hot summer conditions the first year. Gaillardia is drought tolerant once established.
Although gaillardia plants are drought tolerant newly sown seeds and planted seedlings should have a consistent supply of water until they get established. Mulching around the plants helps conserve moisture and keeps weeds away. The plants grows well with average soil fertility. If you amend the soil too much with compost or add to much fertilizer it may delay flowering.
Gaillardia has a long bloom period that can be enhanced by deadheading spent flowers. However, gaillardia are either annuals or short-lived perennials in most gardens,. To keep your plants coming each year you’ll need to let some of them drop seed and self-sow in summer and fall. If you want new seedlings, leave some spent flowers on the plant into fall.
Also, gaillardia are a magnet for bees, butterflies and birds. The bees and butterflies enjoy the nectar and pollen of the flowers while the birds feast on the seeds in fall. Leave some extra seed heads for the birds.
Gaillardias have few insect and disease problems and are deer and rabbit resistant. On heavy clay soils, root rot may be a problem but is remedied by planting in raised beds and amending the soil with organic matter to enhance water drainage.
Some plants may get infested with aster yellows viral disease. This is spread by leaf hopper insects. This disease stunts the plants and causes the flowers to be green colored. Remove and destroy infected plants. Control leaf hoppers with insecticidal soap to help stop the spread of aster yellows. Powdery mildew can infect the leaves causing them to yellow and dieback. Space plants further apart and spray a baking soda or Bacillus subtilis organic pesticide to prevent powdery mildew from spreading.
Companion Planting and Design
Gaillardias bloom off and on all summer, especially the new hybrid selections. Plant in clumps in the front of a flower border to provide nice color. Pair them with other low growing perennials such as coreopsis, salvia, and sedum. Since they like the heat, gaillardia grows well with yarrow and echinacea as well. They make nice container plants, especially the more compact varieties. Mix them in containers with tall annual grasses and cascading annuals, such as dicondra and supertunias, for a nice visual effect.
The wildflower gaillardia selections are the most likely to perennialize in meadows, wildflower fields and gardens. Look for Gaillardia grandiflora selections. It’s hardy to USDA zone 3, yet has a characteristics of an annual with a long bloom period and rapid growth. It comes in a wide variation in flower colors and plant sizes. Gaillardia pulchella is the annual version, but does self sow.
Some hybrids of the grandiflora-type of gaillardia includes the Arizona Series. ‘Arizona Sun’ that grows 8- to 10-inches tall with bright orange-red blossoms. ‘Arizona Red Shades’ features burgundy colored blooms on a dwarf plant. It also comes in an apricot colored variety. Other varieties include ‘Fanfare’, with its trumpet-shaped, deep red blooms on 1 foot tall plants. ‘Burgundy’ grows up to 3 feet tall with deep burgundy colored flowers. ‘Oranges and Lemons’ features peach and yellow colored blooms on 2 foot tall plants. It’s only hardy to USDA zone 5, though, and the seeds are sterile, so won’t self sow. ‘Mesa Yellow’ is an award winning variety with yellow flowers on a 2 foot tall plant. It also comes in a peach colored variety. It’s unique to this group because the plant grows true from seed.