by Suzanne Wuerthele
We all need more color in our world now. And Gaillardia is a superb choice for the native plant garden. It’s showy, easy to grow and propagate, and it attracts multiple pollinators.
Growing gaillardia isn’t hard. It’s not a picky plant. It has a wide distribution – from southern Canada through Utah, Colorado, and South Dakota. This means it will take to most any well-drained soil. It’s even used for restoring disturbed areas. It does well in my gravel-amended Denver soil.
Gaillardia’s preferred habitat is meadows in full sun, but it will tolerate light shade. I’ve seen it growing in forest edges in the foothills and have some plants doing well at the drip line of a large hackberry tree, where they get no more than 4-5 hours of full sun. It also requires little water, but of course like many natives, does better if watered occasionally.
Buying the native plant is probably the main challenge. Seeds are readily available in catalogs, and some nurseries in our area carry the native species: Gaillardia aristata (blanket flower), and Gaillardia bipinnatifida (cut-leaf blanket flower). But, in most nurseries you’ll find cultivars. The natives have pure orange-yellow petals, sometimes with red at the base, and dark red centers; cultivars have yellow petals with bright red bands, or sometimes the flower is completely red, or even maroon. Natives grow to about 2 feet tall, with toothed or deeply toothed, lightly hairy leaves; some cultivars are dwarfs or have fairly smooth leaves.
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