HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 9
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Adaptable
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Fertile, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun
ATTRIBUTES: Summer-long red or red-and-yellow flowers; for beds
SEASON OF INTEREST: Summer
FAVORITES: Dwarf 'Goblin'; red-flowered 'Burgundy'; yellow-tipped 'Dazzler'
QUIRKS: Short-lived but reseeds
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, coreopsis, rudbeckia, yarrow
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Sun, dry soil.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Rarely: root rot, powdery mildew, viral wilt; aphids, thrips
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live 2-3 years; colonies reseed; or plant seedling replacements
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good
SOURCE: Bedding plants, seeds
DIMENSIONS: 1-3 ft (0.3-1 m) tall, 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) wide
Blanket Flower in the Landscape
Heat-tolerant, drought-resistant blanket flower billows across the ground in a blaze of glorious shades of red, mahogany, and yellow. Ail hues are represented in each daisylike flower. The effect is arresting, which explains why this native of the Great Plains is a much loved flowering garden plant.
When given a place in the garden, particularly a dry spot where irrigation is inconvenient, blanket flowers grow into lush, bushy plants bearing such a profusion of bright blossoms that they are easily seen from a distance. Tremendously tolerant of sultry weather, blanket flowers seem to gain strength from each heat wave that passes, and humidity doesn't slow them down at all.
Bold New Colors
The unaltered color combo of red, red-orange, and yellow found in wild blanket flowers is guaranteed to anchor beds devoted to hot colors, but you can try a couple of color variations. 'Burgundy' bears wine red flowers without yellow tips, which are as lovely in fresh arrangements as in the garden. 'Dazzler' takes the opposite approach, featuring clear contrast between dark maroon centers and a tip of deep yellow on each petal. These plants, often sold simply as gaillardia, grow to nearly 3 ft (1 m) tall and benefit from staking to keep the flowers holding their heads high.
Feisty little 'Goblin' is very dwarf at only 1 ft (0.3 m) tall. It's a real eye-catcher in containers or tucked into a hot, sunny garden corner.
There's no need to buy more than one bedding plant of blanket flower, as the plant reseeds.Two- and 3-year-old plants, which have survived at least one winter, are usually the most robust bloomers, but longevity isn't one of this plant's virtues. Plants that have passed their third growing season tend to collapse or fail to appear for no apparent reason. But fear not, more seedlings are always there to pick up the torch.
You can buy bedding plants, or start plants from seeds. Start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost. The seeds need light to germinate, so sprinkle them over moistened seed-starting soil, and keep the soil moist and at room temperature until the seedlings produce mature leaves. Set them out as soon as they have a set of mature leaves, even if the weather is still chilly.
Spring-sown plants bloom half-heartedly their first year and much more the second. If you cut plants back by one-half after the first flush of flowering, they will produce more flowers later in the season. Volunteer seedlings can be dug and moved in fall or early spring. When lifting seedlings, keep as much soil as possible packed around their roots to minimize transplanting trauma.
Problems don't usually plague blanket flowers, but they occasionally fall victim to the fungal leaf disease powdery mildew, or to viral wilt, especially if grown in moist soil. Remove and dispose of leaves with powdery gray or white deposits, and dispose of any plants that wilt and do not recover when watered. Small sap-sucking aphids and thrips occasionally visit. Control them with insecticidal soap or die botanical insecticide neem, used per label directions.