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Bold, striking colors and large daisy-like heads are just a few characteristics of the popular Gaillardia plant. Also known as ‘blanket flowers,’ Gaillardia plants are the perfect perennial for every type of garden. Green-fingered garden enthusiasts can start gaillardias from seed or purchase starter plants from a nursery.
The best time to start gaillardia seeds is after the last frost of the year, which is usually in spring. Gaillardia seeds must be hardened to outdoor weather before planting to prevent cold shock. Seeds will germinate in temperatures of 70°F (21°C) when started indoors under bright light.
Gaillardia plants provide a vibrant talking point that will last throughout the majority of the growing season. This guide will provide helpful tips on when to start your gaillardia seeds for the best results.
Why You Should Start Gaillardia Seeds in Spring
It is best to start gaillardia seeds in spring so that the plants can establish before the heat of summer or cold of winter. Plants should be kept indoors until temperatures reach 50°F (10°C) or higher. Protecting gaillardia seedlings indoors will help them bloom in their first year.
You can sow gaillardia seeds indoors and outdoors, provided the ambient temperature is high enough. Starting your seeds in spring (indoors or outdoors) will help the gaillardia seeds germinate and continue to grow. The seeds will not germinate in temperatures below 70°F (21°C).
Planting and Growing Gaillardia
Gaillardia seeds are easy to grow and plant for new and experienced gardeners. The flowers form a raised mound that covers large areas, which is why they are known as the ‘blanket’ flower. Nursery plants are often ready to bloom in their first year, whereas seeds may not be ready until the following year.
Some of the things you will need to get started include:
- Garden hose or spray bottle
- Seed tray or pot (if sowing indoors)
- Potting mix
- Gaillardia seeds
Top tip: Do not overwater your seeds. Add a light mist to start the germination process and water the soil when it is dry.
Types of Gaillardia
There are 17 varieties of gaillardia to choose from, including different color variations and petal sizes. The most popular types of gaillardia include the following:
- Arizona Apricot (yellow tips and orange centers)
- Arizona Red Shades (attracts butterflies)
- Celebration (large crimson red flower)
- Fanfare Blaze (trumpeted petals)
It is wise to research which varieties of gaillardia will do best in your local climate. Seed packets will state which hardiness zones each variety will grow best.
You can also ask your local plant center which gaillardia varieties they recommend for your area.
How To Plant Gaillardia
The best way to plant gaillardia seeds is to sow them indoors between February and April (source). This will give your seeds the best chance of survival and gradually prepare them for life outdoors.
Prepare Your Mix
Gaillardia seeds can be sown directly into the soil in your garden from May or June. Prepare a low-nutrient potting mix as rich soil can be detrimental to the growth of the flowers.
Potting soil that contains peat moss and vermiculite is perfect for gaillardia seedlings. Mix one part of each and moisten the soil with water.
Sow Seeds Into the Pot
You can use a medium-sized plant pot or seedling tray to start your gaillardia seeds. Make sure there is adequate drainage to allow water to drain from the soil. Using a seedling tray makes transplantation much easier.
Follow these simple steps to sow gaillardia seeds:
- Add soil to a 3.5-inch (8.89 cm) pot or seed tray
- Sprinkle 2-3 seeds per pot/tray
- Mist the seeds with water
Gaillardia seeds need light, so you do not need to cover them with soil. Gently mist the pot using a spray bottle before placing the seeds in a warm room that receives eight hours of sunlight daily.
Sowing gaillardia seeds outdoors is the easiest method and can be done after the last frost of the year. Press the seeds into the soil and keep the soil moist.
See our article on Growing Gaillardia in Pots.
Watch for Germination
Gaillardia seeds germinate within 7-20 days if soil temperature is kept at 70°F (21°C). Remove the weakest seedlings from the pot and transplant the strong plants into larger containers.
Transplanting Gaillardia Seedlings
Gaillardia plants should be placed in an area with full sun and excellent drainage. Once it’s time to transplant the seedlings, follow these steps:
- Remove the seedling from its pot by gently massaging the base until the roots are free. Try to disturb the roots as little as possible during the transplantation process.
- Place the seedling in the center of a hole that is twice the depth of the root ball.
- Fill the hole with soil and gently press down to secure the plant.
- Water the area to provide adequate moisture.
Gaillardias can also be planted in pots with a minimum of 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of soil for extra coverage on a patio or lawn.
Caring for Gaillardia Plants
Established gaillardia plants are easy to care for with minimal watering and fertilization needs. You do not need to deadhead the plants, but it can be done to improve the appearance of the bed.
Water the gaillardia plants during dry spells and add a suitable fertilizer in spring to encourage new growth.
Gardeners can collect the seeds from plants before winter to grow new plants in the spring. You can also leave your gaillardia untouched during the growing season to allow wildlife to eat the seeds.
Pests and Diseases
Gaillardia plants are hardy and resistant to most pests and diseases. The most common problems gardeners face with blanket flowers are fungal leaf spots and powdery mildew. These can be remedied with antifungal sprays and smart watering.
Gaillardia plants are easy to grow and require little maintenance. Starting them at the correct time of year will produce a beautiful collection of flowers that will thrive and bloom.
Gaillardia plants love heat and light and can survive on rainfall throughout the year. There are different varieties of gaillardia to suit most climates in the US.
Plant your gaillardia flowers with other heat-loving companions such as bee balm, lavender, and ornamental grass for a full, beautiful garden that will attract birds and butterflies all year.