Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is an easy but bright flower to grow in Southwest gardens. The flower is native to areas of the Southwest, at least in open plains and wooded areas of 3,500 to 6,500 feet.
There are so many Gaillardia varieties, however, that you should be able to find one to grow as a short-lived perennial in most zones of the Southwest. The red, orange and yellow flowers (depending on variety) love heat and tolerate drought, and even if you can grow them only as annuals, the flowers often reseed and pop up the next year nearby.
Gaillardias also can be grown from purchased seed, but some single-color varieties come as transplants. They need a little extra water after planting and during peak heat and drought. Gaillardias can grow in crummy soil as long as it drains well. With their characteristics and number of varieties, they are versatile plants for the Southwest and in your garden. I love blanket flowers up against rocks or as a foreground plant for a bush. I also love when new volunteers pop up among rocks and the flowers nearly spill into our rock garden path.
Gaillardias will bloom much better if you deadhead spent blooms. Every few evenings, I wander around our garden armed with clippers and a bucket to clean up our blanket flowers. I typically cut just above where I see two leaves forming on the stem with good results. Ours bloom well into late summer. If you get heavy monsoon rain, the plants can grow tall and produce even more blooms, so beware if you’re thinking of having more than a few plants.
Deadheading also controls spread if you prefer not to have the flowers reseed. Of course, you can always pull up volunteers the next spring. I’m pretty sure some of ours have hybridized, producing a few different colors, which is really fun.
And as a bonus – blanket flowers are deer and rabbit resistant and bees love them. I’ve also seen birds feast on dried seedheads. Our blanket flowers have been attacked by cucumber beetles and flea beetles, but the insects have never destroyed entire plants, only a few stems.
The variety that will work best in your garden, and whether Gaillardia will be an annual stunner or a stalwart perennial, is a matter of low and high temperatures and placement. Be sure to check with a local nursery to find the seeds or transplants that will work best for you and enjoy growing Gaillardia.