• Gaillardia Mesa series, Bright Bicolor.National Garden Bureau Inc.
    Gaillardia Mesa series, Bright Bicolor.National Garden Bureau Inc.
  • Gaillardia Mesa series, Mesa Yellow.National Garden Bureau Inc.
    Gaillardia Mesa series, Mesa Yellow.National Garden Bureau Inc.
Your Show-Me Garden: MU Extension brings you gardening tips from experts around the state.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – While not a leading star on the ornamental stage, gaillardia can comfortably fill the supporting actor role in your garden.

This at times short-lived perennial produces daisy-like flowers that come in shades of yellow, orange, red, purplish, brown, white or bicolored.

“Its flower is actually a compound bloom, botanically known as a head, where what appear to be petals of the flower are really florets,” said David Trinklein, horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

The petal-like florets of this sunflower relative surround a tuft of other florets in the center.

“The florets in the center are called disc florets, whereas the ones around the outside are called ray florets,” Trinklein said.

The rays most often show a variety of contrasting colors that make them look like they’ve been dipped in paint.

“Very characteristic of gaillardia is that the ray florets are banded in color. The same color shows up on each floret in the same spot.” Trinklein said. “This very beautiful symmetry of color surrounds the center tuft of disc florets.”

Gaillardia is one of the few perennials that will bloom the first year from seed, he said. It blooms in early summer, but then continues to produce a few flowers all the way to first frost.

The common name for gaillardia is “blanket flower.” According to legend, a Native American weaver was so good at her craft that when she died, her grave was blanketed with brilliant-colored gaillardia that matched the beauty of the blankets she made.

This native of the American Southwest can be a beautiful and practical addition to any garden.

Growing and caring for gaillardia is easy as long as you remember one important thing: no wet feet. Gaillardia needs full sun and, most importantly, well-drained soil, Trinklein said. This need for well-drained soil is so great that if planted in heavy clay, gaillardia will likely not survive the winter.

If you’re into xerophytic landscaping—gardening with plants that get by on little water—gaillardia would be a very colorful choice for you.

“It’s really relatively trouble-free, heat-tolerant in the Midwest and doesn’t require a lot of added water,” Trinklein said.

You have plenty of choices if you want to add gaillardia to your garden. There are some extremely attractive older cultivars like Goblin, he said. The newer cultivars tend to bear a few more flowers and come in a wide array of colors. The Mesa series is a good example. In fact, five years ago Mesa Yellow received a coveted All-America Selections award.

Fanfare is a colorful new gaillardia cultivar with tubular ray florets that end with a flare. “The latter gives it a very unique appearance,” Trinklein said. “Punch Bowl and Arizona Apricot are new cultivars that provide shades of red and apricot in a genus predominated by yellow and orange.”

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