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Indian Blanket flower will easily reseed for future blooms

June 21, 2017

Its name literally means "Red People," and Oklahoma was once set aside as Indian Territory. It is windy, with more tornadoes than any other state.

Oklahoma's state nickname of the Sooner State refers to the settlers who jumped the gun and staked claims before the territory officially opened for settlement.

The Oklahoma state flower is a native wildflower with fiery concentric rings of color, the aptly named Firewheel or Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella). 

This member of the sunflower family is native to northern Mexico, and the south and central United States. It has also naturalized throughout many parts of the country and even into Canada. It makes a great flower for low-maintenance gardens and is good for beach areas, even sand dunes. 

Indian Blanket flower grows 12 to 24 inches tall. This very hardy plant is not at all picky about soil, so it can be grown pretty much anywhere. It is resistant to drought, and thrives in hot, dry areas with full sun.

You will often find blankets of the colorful flowers in fields and along roadsides. Bees use the nectar to make a deep amber-red honey with a sweet, almost buttery taste. Indian Blanket flower will even freely reseed for future blooms. 

Plant in fast-draining areas with full sun. It is not at all particular about soil pH, as long as the soil drains quickly. It can tolerate somewhat moist conditions, although heavy clay soil kills it.

Once established, Gaillardia is extremely drought tolerant. To encourage more blooms, deadhead Indian Blanket flowers, though they seem to do well without any care. 

About the only real problems come from aphids and leaf hoppers that can spread disease. With enough natural predators, even these won't be a problem. You can also control aphids and leaf hoppers with organic insecticidal soap spray. 

Seeds are widely available, but you may want to save seeds yourself. Saving seeds of Gaillardia pulchella is easy. What we see as a single daisy-like flower is really a cluster of tiny flowers in the center or eye of the flower. After the flowers are pollinated, the plant sheds its leaves, leaving rounded seed heads atop bare stems. 

Let the seed heads dry on the plants. They will be an ashen white or grey. You will notice dark circles inside the seed balls. Simply cut the seed heads and store in a paper bag. Many of the seeds will loosen and fall into the bag without effort. Pour the seeds out onto paper and let them thoroughly dry before storing them. The seeds have sharp edges, so use gloves when harvesting them. 

Plant Indian Blanket and enjoy carefree, colorful garden flowers that thrive in poor soil and drought. Like the settlers who jumped the gun, you will be able to jump the gun and get your garden off to a good start "sooner."

Lewes in Bloom list of plants available online

On the Lewes in Bloom website, there is a list of plants that names all the annuals Lewes in Bloom has planted throughout the city, by location. For the free list and information on membership and support, go to www.lewesinbloom.org or find Lewes in Bloom on Facebook.Lewes in Bloom is a volunteer organization. It promotes the beautification and maintenance of historic Lewes. It is dedicated to helping Lewes boost its attractiveness through efforts including historical preservation, environmental awareness, a children’s garden, floral displays and more.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.