Cover your landscape with the blanket flower
By Ralph E. Mitchell
Imagine a nice patch of yellow and orange flowers which bloom practically every day – this is the reality of the blanket flower – Gaillardia pulchella. Perfect for hot, sunny areas, blanket flowers are wonderful short-lived perennials (sometimes grown as an annual) that do great in Southwest Florida.
Last week I spent some time at the Nature Park on Aqui Esta Drive in Punta Gorda to take a few pictures for future articles. I was not disappointed with the view as blanket flowers caught my eye gleaming in the bright sunshine of mid-afternoon. Some research indicates that, while blanket flowers are native to North America, they may not be native to Florida. This has not stopped this wildflower from doing extremely well here in their adopted home. Blanket flowers make excellent bedding plants due to their beautiful daisy-like blooms of yellow, orange, red, and even bi-colors petals, and easy-to-grow nature. Butterflies and other pollinators also love these flowers and are frequent visitors. Often planted in mass as a groundcover, in containers, borders and beds, when you think of wildflowers, the blanket flower is what comes to mind. Suitable for sunny natural areas and meadow-like gardens, blanket flowers are also subjects for bouquets with cut flowers lasting up to a week in an arrangement. Blanket flowers are also salt-tolerant and have been successfully planted along beaches in the vicinity of sand dunes. Full sun is essential for best flowering, and as they are drought-tolerant, do not over-water as root-rots could develop.
There are many blanket flower cultivars to choose from including ‘Yellow Sun’ with yellow flowers, and ‘Red Plume’ with dark red blossoms. Propagation is easy and may not even take any effort on your part once blanket flowers are established. These flowers often re-seed themselves and volunteer plants will pop up in the area. If you start your own plants from seed, be prepared to wait two to three months until they bloom. Some types of blanket flowers can be divided and replanted in September once clumps become too large.
Blanket flowers are available locally as seed and from started, ready-to-go plants from local garden centers. For best results, plant individual blanket flowers about two feet apart. These flowering plants look especially nice in front of a shrub border or with other perennials.
The blanket flower is another Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved plant that will fit into every landscape! For more information on other types of perennials suitable for our area, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ . Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gilman, E. F. Sydney Park-Brown (2014) Gaillardia pulchella – Blanket Flower. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Florida Native Plant Society (2021) Gaillardia pulchella https://www.fnps.org/plant/gaillardia-pulchella
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.