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Gaillardia Care

Gaillardia or blanket flower, a perennial genus of plants belonging to the sunflower Asteraceae family is indigenous to North and South America. It’s named after a French magistrate in the 18th-century, Gaillard de Charentonneau.

The common name might refer to the flowers resembling the bright and colorful patterned blankets of the Native Americans, or the colonies of wild plants that blanket the ground. Several cultivars have been cross-bred for ornamental use.

These plants are fast-growing, very hardy, and low maintenance, producing brightly colored flowers in their first year with shades of red, yellow, orange, apricot, or peach, looking similar to daisies.

Most varieties have flowers that are around 2-3 inches across. The leaves are hairy, grey-green in color, and attractive. These plants can grow around 12-18 inches high with a 12-24 inch spread when mature, while some varieties can grow a few feet tall and have rhizomes. 

While this perennial usually lives for 3-5 years, they easily self-seed and also can be divided and propagated to get more plants, prolonging their life span. Since most plants are hybrids, there will be some variation when self-seeded.

They can attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make a great plant to grow around other plants in the garden or around vegetables and fruit plants to attract pollinators.

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Sunlight

These plants thrive under 6-8 hours of sunlight. It can tolerate being partially shaded, especially in hot weather, but will get a bit droopy and will not flower as abundantly.

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Water

Directly after planting, it needs frequent watering every other day until it starts flowering. However, once it settles down and gets established, it is particularly drought tolerant and can go for long periods without water unless it is growing in very hot and arid conditions – it then needs to be watered once or twice each week. Don’t overwater the plant as it can easily develop root rot. Reduce watering in winter – just lightly water the plant every two weeks or so.

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Humidity

This plant doesn’t require humid environments and does better in dry conditions with good air circulation. 

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Temperature

Once the plant is mature, it can be grown under temperatures of 65-7°F. These plants can survive temperatures lows of -20°F provided that it has good drainage.

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Soil

This plant isn’t particular about soil pH or the type of soil, provided it is well-draining soil. It can tolerate some moist soil, although heavy clayey soil will most likely kill it. Amend the soil with perlite or gravel to enhance drainage capacity.

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Repotting

Prune the back of the foliage of your plant down to one-third of its height in early autumn to reduce stress. Dig around the plant’s base, about 6-8 inches from the stems, sliding the shovel’s blade under the root ball or easing it out from its pot. Lift the plant free and shake off excess soil. Divide the plants into separate sections, each section having 2-4 stems by teasing apart the roots using your hands. If they are too tangled, use large forks to pry apart the roots.

Make holes double the size of each section’s root ball in the garden or prepared pot. Place each new section into the holes, spreading the roots out. Fill in soil around the roots and press down to remove air as well as support the plant.

Water the new transplanted plants systematically to drench the soil. Apply a diluted solution of liquid fertilizer meant for flowering plants a week after transplantation and water the plants as normal until they become dormant in winter.

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Propagation

Many varieties of these plants produce seeds, even hybrids. You can start sowing them in spring, but they might not flower in summer so it’s better to show them before autumn and protect the young plants in winter by growing them indoors in warm conditions. Since most of these plants are hybrids, they will not follow the parent plant. The division is best if you want the plant to grow true (see above). 

Seed propagation

Sow in the seeds under full sun in well-drained soil before autumn or after winter. If you plant the seeds before autumn, use prepared pots filled with well-draining soil. Protect them in winter by growing them indoors in warm conditions.

But if you do this after winter, you can plant the seeds directly in your garden, but prepare the soil first by working in organic matter into the soil, leveling and smoothing the soil. Sow the seeds evenly and lightly cover them with soil and keep moistened. Seedlings will start emerging within 1-2 weeks. Thin them out, about 15 inches apart from each other when they are large enough.

Additional Care

This plant somehow prefers to grow in poor soil than rich soil, which seems to encourage more blooming, so avoid fertilizer or just lightly feed the plant with a fertilizer suitable for flowering plants just after spring.

It doesn’t need deadheading to keep flowering, but can be cut back after the flowers fade, helping the plant produce more flowers. If the plant appears poorly in the summer heat, cutting it back might reinvigorate it to produce flowers later in the year.

Common Problems

These plants are usually free from problems, but they are vulnerable to aster yellows, a virus-like infection spread by leafhoppers that stunts growth and causes petals to turn green. Destroy infected plants as they won’t recover and the disease can spread to other plants. ​

Bacterial leaf spot causes parts between leaf veins to become dark brown and die. The infection might also affect flower heads and disfigure them, eventually killing the plant. Remove and destroy infected plants only water the soil and don’t prune the plant if the leaves are wet. 

Powdery mildew usually occurs in humid weather conditions and affects the top of leaves. The leaves will develop a white or grey coating and might curl this can be prevented with good air circulation, good spacing in between plants, and pruning. A suitable fungicide application is recommended to rid the plant of this fungus.

Several pathogens can cause root rot in seedlings, as well as adult plants, remove infected plants. Do not over-water the plants and prevent mulch from touching the plant.

Aphids can attack this plant, hiding under leaves and spreading disease. They also secrete a sticky residue that attracts ants; they can be washed off by spraying water, using insecticidal soap, or neem oil.

Leafhoppers can damage leaves, stunt growth, spread disease, remove debris around the plant, use insecticidal soap or a suitable insecticide.

Spider mites are hard to detect since they are very minute. They suck sap from the plant, removing chlorophyll, creating white spots on leaves, and turning the leaves yellow. They can quickly multiply and thrive under dry conditions. They can be controlled and eliminated with a strong water spray and insecticidal soap. 

Whiteflies are small white insects that can also damage the plant. Use a suitable pesticide or insecticidal soap to control them.

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