Budget gardeners looking for a terrific pop of color in their gardens from spring through fall (and nearly year-round in zones 9 and 10) shouldn’t pass up one of our best native wildflowers, Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella). Its bright yellow and orange bi-color flowers are produced in abundance for months on end, and the plants themselves are easily started from good quality seed.
Indian Blanketflower has made multiple Birds & Blooms “best lists”, including Flowers that Beat the Heat and Top 10 Plants for Sandy Soil. This easy-to-grow wildflower is great for pollinators and wonderful for cutting, too. You’ll often find it along roadsides and in wildflower meadows, and anywhere native flowers are emphasized. It does well in containers and is even salt-tolerant, asking for nothing but soil (sand will do), lots of sun, and the occasional bit of rain.
Interestingly, I often come across articles indicating this plant is difficult to start from seed. This always makes me laugh, because my own yard is full of Gaillardia and all of it comes from a single packet of seed I purchased years ago from the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. From a single $3 investment, I have reaped probably thousands of blooms over the years, on dozens and dozens of plants. They die back after a freeze, and sprout again nearby a few weeks later, giving me reliable blooms here in Florida from late February until winter returns again.
There are also several other Gaillardia species native to the U.S., many of which have great value in a wildlife or cutting garden. A variety of Gaillardia hybrids are available, offering single colors, a “pincushion” effect, and more, but in my experience, these hybrids are reliable only for one season, and rarely re-grow well from seed. You can certainly plant and enjoy these, but don’t depend on them coming back for years to come (although they may).
One hybrid I’m particularly dying to try is Burpee’s new ‘Punch Bowl’, which offers blooms in pink and white, a completely different color than any blanketflower I know. Has anyone out there tried this one yet with good results? What other Blanketflowers do you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Every weekend, the Focus on Natives segment highlights a plant, bird, or butterfly native to the Southeastern U.S. Know of a particular species you’d like to see featured here? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.