Southern Gardening: Gaillardia is a strong summer flower maker

July 27, 2013 10:46:32 PM



It is during the midsummer months in Mississippi that I most appreciate gaillardia in gardens and landscapes. 


This plant makes a fantastic addition to the summer garden. Gaillardia is a native plant with few pests and a palette of bright, warm colors that really liven up the landscape. Adding to its usefulness is the fact that gaillardia is ideal for the entire state of Mississippi. Gaillardia often grows wild in the most neglected and harshest conditions. 


Many gardeners refer to gaillardia by its common name, blanket flower. Early settlers moving west compared the flower colors to those of the blankets of Native Americans, and the name has stuck ever since. Plant taxonomists commonly name plants to honor early plant experts, and gaillardia is named for French botanist Gaillard de Charentonneau. 


There are about 30 different annual and perennial species of Gaillardia. Most of the ones we see in the garden center are selections of Gaillardia grandiflora. This is an appropriate name as the flowers, which are up to 4 inches across, can really put on a show. 


The centers of these flowers typically are rosy red to purple with petals ranging from yellow and orange to coppery crimson. There are many selections to choose from. 


The flowers of Gallo Dark Bicolor have rust-colored center cones surrounded by petals, each with a dab or two of red and finishing with a yellow band. The bright flower colors do not fade in the intense heat and sunlight of Mississippi summers. 


Another bicolor favorite is the Scarlet Halo. This flower has colors similar to the Gallo Dark Bicolor, but the petals are a more rosy scarlet. Like many bicolor plants, the intensity of the color combination can depend on the local environment. 


The Mesa Yellow is for those gardeners who love to have sunny yellow flowers. The flowers are large, measuring up to 3 inches in diameter. The entire flower is a cheery, bright yellow that seems to radiate color. The center cone is knobby with profuse, slender yellow petals. 


As the flowers fade, each begins to resemble a fluffy pincushion. This plant has a sturdy, uniform branching habit that displays the gorgeous flowers in either landscape or container plantings. 


Plant gaillardia in the full sun. Once established, it is drought tolerant. Almost any type of soil is fine as long as it is well drained; Gaillardia does not like wet feet. Deadheading helps promote more flowering, but I recommend leaving some of the fading flowers. The seed heads are lollipop-shaped and add color and texture throughout the growing season. 


Gaillardia is perfect for color border plantings in full sun with other flowering annuals and perennials. Pair it with coreopsis or sunflowers for a beautiful yellow, monochromatic landscape bed. Or combine it with the complementary purples of Echinacea for a different look.