Gaillardia pulchella, or Indian Blanket, is an annual flower that happens to be the state wildflower of Oklahoma. Even though it is native to Oklahoma, it also occurs from Virginia to Florida, west to New Mexico, and north to Colorado to Nebraska. The 2 foot (60 cm) tall plants have oblanceolate to spatulate leaves that reach up to 6 inches (15 cm) long. If you happen to drive through Oklahoma this week there are masses of blooms alongside the roads. Very showy! They are very easy plants to cultivate, whether in containers or in the landscape.
Blooming: In the greenhouse and in the landscape, the plants bloom in late May to early June. There is considerable floral variation within each population. As with all members of the sunflower family, the flowers are really inflorescences known as "heads" and composed of numerous flowers. The most dominant colors are the result of the orange to reddish petals on the showy ray florets, which are tipped in yellow. The disc florets, in contrast, are various colors, from yellow to orange to purple-red. Although they are not so showy, disc florets typically provide over half the seed. In seeds collected from the wild, we have seen solid yellow flowers to solid orange heads, as well. Individual floral heads are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) across so they are hard to miss, even at highway speeds.
Culture: Gaillardia pulchella do best in full sun to light shade with a well drained soil mix. For our plants grown in containers, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part sand. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. In the greenhouse, we start seed in late February, which is about the same time seeds germinate in the wild. Once the seeds have germinated, we transplant them into containers and fertilize them weekly with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ˝ the strength recommended on the label until the plants bloom. Once seed is set and ripe, the plants tend to die off quickly. If grown in the landscape, seed should be sown where the plants are to live. In nature, the plants are not fussy about soil type. I have seen the plant in all of Oklahoma’s soil types.
Propagation: Gaillardia pulchella is propagated by seed.
Gaillardia pulchella cv 'Vancouver Centennial' was featured as Plant of the Week June 8-14, 2007.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.