Native Plants for the Intermountain West: Plant List

Blanketflower in the Landscape

Stephen Love, University of Idaho

Scientfic Name:  Gaillardia aristata
Common Name:  Blanketflower

Description:  Blanketflower is a moderately tall, herbaceous perennial with large, multi-colored flowers. Given proper growing conditions, the plants will bloom continuously from late spring through late fall, making them a great addition to any water conserving landscape. The soft, large, light green, hairy leaves are primarily basal. Numerous wiry flowering stems, up to 3 feet tall, rise above the foliage to present 3 to 4 inch blooms. The flowers have a dark maroon center made up of disk flowers. The large ray flowers can be yellow, orange at the base with yellow tips, red at the center with yellow tips, or uniformly red. Blanketflower is competitive with grasses and other wildflowers and makes an excellent component of a wildflower prairie seed mix. It also contributes well in a mixed bed or border and is a valuable component of any pollinator garden.

Native Habitat:  Gaillardia aristata can be found growing wild throughout much of the western US and the northern Great Plains. It grows within a number of plant communities but most commonly with grasses and other forbs in open meadows, prairies, and dry hillsides. Found at elevations ranging from 5,000 to 9,000 feet.

Cultural Requirement

Soil:  Adaptable to almost any soil except those that are heavy and consistently wet. Best plant appearance occurs in soils with low to moderate fertility. Tolerates soils with high pH.

Moisture Tolerance:  Thrives under a wide range of conditions, from moderately moist to dry. Blooms longer and more abundantly when provided with supplemental water but can survive under relatively dry conditions. Under extremely xeric conditions, life span may be shortened.

Sun/Shade/Preference:  Prefers full sun but will perform adequately in light shade.

Transplanting:  Simple to transplant, either from pot to pot or from pot to garden. Thrives in long-term culture in pots up to one-gallon size. Will bloom in pots if plants reach adequate size. Plants grow fairly rapidly after transplanting and consistently bloom profusely the first season in the garden.

Propagation:  Best grown from seed. Requires no stratification or other seed pre-treatment. Consistently produces high rates of germination. Once emerged, seedlings are easy to handle and transplant nicely when they have 3 to 4 true leaves. Plants can be propagated via stem cuttings or crown division, but ease of seed management makes use of these techniques rare.

Maintenance (pruning, fertilization, deadheading, division, irrigation, etc):  Blanketflower is a carefree plant. Dead foliage should be removed in spring to enhance early appearance. Deadheading will improve appearance in late summer. Requires supplemental irrigation for maximum bloom, at least twice monthly during summer months. Fertilizer is required only if plants show poor vigor. It is usually necessary to control volunteer seedlings in spring and early summer.

Insect, disease, or other problems:  Blanketflower will occasionally show symptoms of powdery mildew, but control measures are seldom required.

Landscape Value

Use in the Landscape:  Blanketflower can add season-long color to many situations in the landscape. It works best in mixed beds and borders where its loose form can contribute to a naturalized setting. This species will become a lasting component of any managed wildflower or prairie. The long bloom and attractiveness to insects make it a valuable addition to any butterfly garden.

Weediness/Invasive Potential:  Although not considered invasive, blanketflower can be somewhat weedy from seed in situations of consistent moisture availability. It is best used where its reproductive capability is a positive rather than a negative.

Foliage:  Foliage of blanketflower is primarily basal. Only sparse and reduced leaves grow along the flowering stems. The leaves are fairly large, soft, pliable, and light green in color.  Both the upper and lower leaf surfaces are covered with soft hairs.  Leaf shape on the same plant is extremely variable and may be either deeply or slightly lobed.

Flower:  The large and showy flowers are sunflower-like in appearance. Overall diameter is 3 to 4 inches. Flowers have a distinct center made up of red to maroon disk flowers. Surrounding the domed center are numerous long ray flowers that vary in color, from a monochromatic bright yellow to orange with yellow tips, red with yellow tips, or uniformly red.

Timing:  May-October.

Fruit:  One flower produces numerous fruits which consist of single, tufted achenes (seeds).

Form:  In flower, the form is open, loose, and spreading. Long flowering stems can appear graceful in the wind.

Texture:  Coarse.

Ultimate Size:  Prior to bloom, the plants are from 6 to 8 inches tall and up to 2 feet wide. They continue to increase in size over the growing season and may reach dimensions of more than 3 feet in height with greater spread.

Rate of Growth:  Blanketflower is very fast growing. Seedlings develop rapidly. Plants usually bloom profusely the first year after transplanting to the garden.

Suggested Plant Partners:  Plant blanketflower in meadow or mixed border settings with medium-sized grasses, such as Schizachyrium scoparium, Bouteloua gracilis, Poa secunda, and Achnatherum hymenoides. Mix with other competitive forbs in beds and borders, including Agastache cana, Penstemon barbatus, Verbena stricta, Callirhoe involucrata, Asclepias tuberose, and Potentilla thurberi.

Availability:  Often available as potted plants from local or mail-order nurseries, more commonly those specializing in native plants. Seed can be purchased from native plant seed suppliers.

Cultivars:  Blanketflower has been exploited commercially to a greater extent than most native wildflowers. A host of cultivars are available in the mainstream nursery industry. Cultivar parentage can be difficult to determine, and most named cultivars are hybrids between Gaillardia aristata and Gaillardia pulchella (categorized as Gaillardia x grandiflora). Hybrid plants tend to be much less drought tolerant than those of wild origin.


Denver Water. 1996. Xeriscape Plant Guide. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO.
Mee, W., Barnes, J., Kjelgren, R., Sutton, R., Cerny, T. and Johnson, C. 2003. Water Wise: Native Plants for Intermountain Landscapes. Utah State University Press, Logan, UT.
Robson, K.A., Richter, A. and Filbert, M. 2008. Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
Selland, L.G. 2003. Landscaping with native plants of the Intermountain Region. U.S. Department of Interior, Tech. Ref. 1730-3. (Available on-line)