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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

By Staff | Apr 30, 2015

First impression: Patterned red, orange and yellow petals adorn daisy-like flowers that surround yellow and burgundy sunflower centers. I notice this plant has many flowers on its many stems of fuzzy slender leaves and spaghetti-like stems. Seed pods are shades of browns, prickly, and when ready, disperse their treasures.

No fragrance, but I see people and pollinators all around. You can see this sunshine flower display even on a cloudy day blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Blanket flower is a must-have plant for any tropical garden. It offers us gardeners masses of low growing small sunflowers blooming profusely. This is one of the very few northern plants which actually grow down here. Its height is about 1-2 feet tall and 23 feet wide. The light green leaves are hairy and toothed.

The plant’s sprawling habit and the overabundance of stems makes a great floral display. The flowers are a 1970s type mix of orange, yellow, or red colors. The inside centers are quite a contrast as bright yellow and outside reddish burgundy. But wait, I have oodles of different varieties, varying in different combos of sunset colors and size of petals. I have counted seven or more morphs in our flower collection.

You will be pleased at all the diversity that occurs, and will enjoy their seemingly never ending blooming. Their look is a dichotomy of a daisy shaped flower and bright tropical colors. Their vibrancy makes them great for cut flower arrangements. I can’t emphasize enough how much color these flowers bring to our garden. Just imagine an Indian blanket woven with colors of the sunset. This will clue you into how our star got its name. You will never be without gaillardia; our star can also reseed itself for its next blooming in the same season. The seeds are abundant! I routinely pull out gone-to-seed plants and shake them in the garden where I want gaillardia to grow next. I never worry about opening them or covering them with soil; these seeds are survivors and grow. They are not picky and will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand. I began my love of Indian Blanket with my first plant that I purchased from SCCF (Sanibel Captiva Conservation foundation), our local native plant nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy nature and lack of pests/disease category. It’s made for our tropical climate with its drought tolerance and need for full sun. Do you have a hard to grow anything sunny spot-try planting our star and see what happens!

Pros:

* Does well in sandy soil.

* Likes full sun.

* It’s a survivor easily propagated by seeds.

* Pollinator attractor.

* Salt tolerance.

* Neighbors will wonder where did you get ALL those flowers.

* Great for a cottage garden look.

* Drought tolerant.

* Great for cut flowers.

* Easy care.

* Native plant.

Cons:

* Seasonal plant.

* Fast grower.

* Pollinator attractor.

* Seed pods needs to be cleaned out.

* Seed pods and flower at the same time.

* Will show up all over garden.

Conclusion: Flowers, flowers everywhere! What a survivor even in this heat…this flower has it all: a daisy-like sunflower sizzling in tropical reds, oranges and yellows follow the smoke signals to our garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!