If you like daisies but want more color, consider gaillardia or blanket flower. This perennial produces the classic daisy-shaped flower but in colors such as red, apricot, and yellow. The plant is native to many areas in the United States, but it’s the hybrids that most gardeners desire. Gaillardia is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10. It grows best in full sun, but can use a little afternoon shade in warm regions. The plants grow 1 to 1.5 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. The flowers can be 3 to 5 inches wide and some varieties have tube-shaped petals. The foliage is an attractive gray green color.
Although gaillardia is considered a short-lived perennial, it does self sow readily. If you grow the hybrid varieties, there will be a variation in the color patterns on the offspring, adding to the color palette. Gaillardia is also used in wildflower mixes. Some hybrid varieties to try include the early blooming Arizona series. Arizona Sun has bright mahogany colored flowers, Arizona Apricot has luscious apricot-colored flowers, and Arizona Red Shades has pale red petals. Goblin is a dwarf variety that grows less than 12 inches tall with yellow and maroon bicolored flowers, and Mesa Yellow is the first hybrid gaillardia that can be grown from seed. Fanfare has red trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow tips.
Sow gaillardia seed in spring or purchase transplants. Keep plants well watered and weeded, but don’t overwater. Gaillardia blooms from midsummer until frost and tolerates dry, drought-prone soils once established. Butterflies love the blossoms, making these plants even more appealing. Grow gaillardia in a border with other summer blooming perennials such as dwarf echinacea, coreopsis, yarrow, and salvia. They look great in the front of a border following the flowering of evening primrose and campanula. Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering season. Gaillardia also make good cut flowers.