Gaillardias, commonly called blanket flowers, produce showy, butterfly-attracting flowers. Hardiness and growth habit varies among species, but most blanket flowers are drought-tolerant. Indian blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) grows as an annual, while a hybrid called blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) is a short-lived perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10. Propagate perennial blanket flower by division. You can propagate both annual and perennial blanket flower plants from seed.
Fill a clean flat or pots most of the way with a well-draining germinating medium that has little or no fertility. You can buy seed-starting mix or make one by blending equal parts peat moss and sand, perlite or vermiculite. Water the medium gently but thoroughly to encourage settling. Use containers with drain holes.
Sow the blanket flower seeds uniformly over the surface of the medium or soil. Do not cover the seeds.
Mist or gently water the seeds and medium and keep the medium constantly moist, but not soaking wet. Cover the container with a plastic or glass lid or enclose it in a plastic bag to keep the medium moist.
Set the container in a spot that receives bright, indirect light and has a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Viable seeds will germinate within two to three weeks.
Remove the clear glass or plastic bag once the seedlings emerge. Allow the medium to dry out slightly between waterings. If the seedlings are crowded, thin them out selectively so no seedlings are touching.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon balanced liquid fertilizer with 1 gallon of water and use it to water the seedlings once they develop their first true leaves. Check the fertilizer instructions and dilute to half strength.
Transplant the young blanket flower plants into small pots filled with high-quality, well-draining potting soil when they have two sets of true leaves. Insert your fingers under a young plant's root mass to lift it out, steady it by holding onto its leaves and plant it in the potting soil at the same depth at which it was previously growing.
Water the blanket flower plant in the ground or container thoroughly about a day before you divide it. This makes the soil easier to work and minimizes stress to the plant.
Dig a new planting hole for each of the planned new sections of blanket flower. Make each planting hole two to three times wider than the anticipated diameter of the new sections of blanket flower and as deep as the root mass. If the soil has poor drainage or lacks fertility, work a 3-inch layer of compost into an area that extends about 1 foot beyond the planting hole. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart, depending on the species and size of the blanket flower.
Dig the clump of blanket flower up using a sharp spade to cleanly sever roots in a circle that extends at least 6 inches out from the base of the plant.
Cut the plant clumps into two or more sections that are roughly equal in size. Use a sharp knife to cleanly cut through the root system. Make sure each new section has a proportionate amount of stem and roots. If the center of the clump is dead or struggling, discard this part of the plant and only keep stems from the outer section of the plant.
Place each new section of blanket flower in a prepared hole, adding or removing soil under the root mass, if needed, to adjust the depth of the plant's root mass -- it should be situated at the same depth at which it was previously growing.
Fill in the space around the root mass with soil you removed to dig the hole and firm the soil down gently to work out any air pockets. Water the soil around the new planting well and deeply as needed whenever rainfall is inadequate until the plant is established.
Items you will need
- Flat or pots
- Germinating medium
- Spray bottle or hose with mister
- Blanket flower seeds
- Clear glass or plastic cover or plastic bag
- Balanced liquid fertilizer
- Well-drained potting soil
- Compost (optional)
- Where growing conditions are ideal, annual blanket flowers will often reseed readily.
- You can also sow seeds outdoors directly in the ground where you want the plants to grow after the threat of frost has passed.
- Stratifying the blanket flower seeds, or refrigerating them in a bag with damp peat moss or sand for about 30 days, may improve germination rates.
- In general, the best time to divide blanket flower is in late summer or early fall. A spring division just as new growth is emerging is also a good choice.
- University of Minnesota Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series: Propagation
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Gaillardia x Grandiflora
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Gaillardia Pulchella
- Washington State University Spokane County Extension: Propagating Perennials
- Cornell University: Gaillardia
- Maryland Cooperative Extension: Gaillardia Production and Consumer Care
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images