Every garden I care to own must contain flowers that supply dazzling, nonstop color from spring to fall with very little effort from me. This summer's star is a carefree perennial that does all of the above without impinging on my sacrosanct cocktail hour. It's called blanket flower.
Native to the South and Midwest, blanket flower gets its name from the warm bands of yellow, orange, and red reminiscent of those on an Indian blanket that decorate its daisylike flowers. It grows happily on the beach as well as the prairie, so you know it thrives on neglect. Just give it sun and well-drained soil and put away the fertilizer and watering can. It loves heat, has no serious pests (not even deer), and provides excellent cut flowers. Plus it blooms continuously for months on end. What's not to love?
Concerned about the plight of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators? Go ye forth and plant blanket flower.
Blanket flower is a pollinator favorite and doubly good because it's hardly ever out of bloom.
Although multicolored flowers are the norm, you can also buy blanket flowers with solid, red, orange, or yellow blossoms. Most belong to Gaillardia x grandiflora, a group of hybrids that result from crossing Gaillardia aristata and Gaillardia pulchella to get bigger blooms, more colors, and better form. They can grow up to three feet high, but most people prefer shorter, more compact, and mounding selections.
Grumpy's favorites include 'Baby Cole,' (yellow-tipped red flowers, 6 to 8 inches tall), 'Goblin' (red-orange flowers with bright yellow tips, 12 to 14 inches tall), the Commotion Series (flowers in many different colors with striking, fluted petals, 18 to 24 inches tall), and two from our Southern Living Plant Plant Collection -- 'Celebration' (red flowers, 14 inches tall) and 'Sunset Flash' (orange-red flowers with fellow tips, 14 inches tall).
How To Grow As I said, these guys are easy, easy, easy. Do not baby them. All they need are full sun and well-drained soil. The easiest way to kill them is by overwatering, so once they're established, keep the soil on the dry side. Faded flowers quickly form seedheads. I cut them off to keep plants groomed and tidy, but they'll continue to bloom even if you don't.