In the Garden: Gaillardia: Blanket of Sunshine
Gaillardia pulchella, gaillardia or blanket-flower, is one of our fun Florida natives. It is a colorful flowering plant often found along dunes, coastal areas and roadsides. This plant thrives in full sun and open, well-drained areas. It prefers sandy soil, is salt tolerant and is highly drought tolerant.
In South Florida, under natural conditions, gaillardia is an annual with two germination cycles possible in one year. They usually begin germinating in February and then again in late summer, putting their peak flowering period from March into June. The plants may become more woody and sparse into the late summer, which a good trimming can address. If you can leave the spent flower heads on the ground you may be surprised by a second generation of plants. These are usually shorter lived plants and probably fewer flowers. You could also save the seeds from dry flower heads, store in a cool, dry place and sow them in the spring, for a new blanket of color.
The best part about this native are the showy blooms that remind you of a ray of sunshine. The petals of this flower even resemble a ray with their fringed edges and bright, sunny colors. They come in all colors from solid oranges, pinks and yellows to multi colored orange/red or reddish/purple with yellow tips, being the favorite. The individual flowers are only 1 to 3 inches wide on slender stems. Their growth pattern is spreading and they look best planted in wide swaths or patches, giving them a wildflower appearance.
Pollination of the gaillardia is accomplished by non-specialist insects including bees and a soldier beetle.
So be kind to your garden insect buddies. They do a lot of the hard work needed to keep these flowers, and others like them, blooming.
This column is a joint effort by all at In The Garden, a Sanibel garden center, located at 3889 Sanibel Captiva Road.