Gaillardia – Mexican Blanket Flower

Botanical Name: Gaillardia

Category: Perennial

Divisible: Yes

Common Name: Mexican Blanket Flower, Indian Paintbrush

Evergreen: No

Propagation: Division,  seed

Family: Asteraceae (Sunflowers)

Invasive: Yes – see below

Size:12-18″ tall x 12-24″ wide

Gaillardia forms a slowly spreading mound and the common name may be a reference to how they can slowly spread and “blanket” an area. It is an easy-to-grow perennial with richly colored, daisy-like flowers. They are fast-growers and will bloom in their first year. Heat thriving they are happiest in full sun.

Once established, Gaillardia is extremely drought tolerant and does best in hot, dry climates. Poor soils seem to encourage more flowering than rich soils and they do not like fertilizer.

There are over 25 varieties of Blanket Flower. And they are beautiful as cut flowers.

Gaillardia are fully hardy in zones 3 to 10. Most can survive cold to -20° F. In colder climates adding a good layer of mulch around them to prevent winter heaving (from freezes and thaws) can be beneficial. Always make sure that they have good drainage – if necessary loosen compacted soil around them.  If your winter is very dry make sure to give them some water during the warmest part of the day.

Probably the most important in my opinion is not to cut them back – other than deadheading. If the tops of the plants have winter damage – and they most likely will – prune them in the early spring before new growth emerges.

My Experience:

Every spring I dig a majority of these up and divide them into small plants. Fortunately this is easy to do as their roots are fairly shallow and it is easy to see the smaller plants in a clump. But before I know it they are huge again!

The showiness and reliability of this plant are definitely worth the hassle. If you decide to add them to your garden – do so sparingly and give them some space.

An important lesson I learned in regard to spring cleanup: clean up your blanket flowers early – before new growth starts to fill out the plant. If you don’t the new will grow up around the old leaving unsightly brown leaves and stalks. Unfortunately this can be a time consuming chore but you will not be happy later if you don’t.

Growing Gaillardia from Seed

Gaillardia is easy to grow from seed and does not require a period of cold stratification. They can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors and bloom in their first year.

Direct Sowing:

  • Direct sow in full sun in poor but well-drained soil in the fall or spring after danger of frost.
  • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Sow seeds evenly and thinly and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil.
  • Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings will emerge in 7-14 days depending on soil and weather conditions.
  • Thin to stand about 15 inches apart when large enough to handle.

Indoor Start

  • Start the seeds in cell packs or other containers with three seeds per cell, and very lightly cover them with a fine layer of soil or seed starting medium.
  • Blanket flower seeds need light to germinate. Place them under lights and keep warm and moist. Soil temperature should be between 70° and 75°.
  • Seeds will germinate in 7 to 20 days.

Note: Some references say that seeds should be covered and some say not. I honestly think both will work but I do not cover mine.

Buy Gaillardia seeds from my Etsy shop

Buy Gaillardia plants from my Etsy shop

Practical advice from a home gardener

I am Deborah Valiquet – artist and obsessive gardener. Here you will find my advice for creating a garden oasis in the high desert. I’ll share my experiences – successes and failures over the last 10+ years. 

Even if your garden isn’t in the high desert you will find lots of valuable information here. Let’s dig in!