by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist
With the warmer weather and our early summer dry season in Southwest Florida on its way, the native Gaillardia might be just the plant to introduce into your island landscape. It’s one that take the heat and be enjoyed throughout the entire summer.
Gaillardia, Gaillardia x grandiflora, also called Blanket Flower, is a flowering plant in the sunflower family and is considered a native ground cover on Sanibel Island.
Its name has been said to refer to the resemblance of the flower to the brightly patterned blankets made by Native Americans or to the ability of the plant to blanket the ground with dense colonies. Flowers ranging from solid yellow, wine red and orange, as well as varied combinations of all three, can be seen throughout a colony of Gaillardia plants. In addition to the color varieties, Gaillardia flowers can take on shape variations as well.
Easily started from seed, Gaillardia requires full sun and very well drained soils in order to thrive. Once plants are established they are quite drought tolerant and will require little to no extra care. Important to the island landscape, Gaillardia can tolerate salt, which makes it suitable for coastal landscapes. The abundant and brightly colored flowers attract butterflies and bees and other important pollinators.
Beyond the garden or naturalized native area, Gaillardia can be enjoyed as a potted plant on a sun-drenched patio. When clipped, the flowers are long lasting as cut flowers and can create a bright bouquet to enjoy as a centerpiece in the home.
A quick search can bring up several seed sources for Gaillardia. Local retailers “Forever Green” Ace Hardware and R.S. Walsh “In the Garden” Nursery may have them potted up and ready to plant into your landscape just in time for summer. This native is easy to enjoy and a beautiful choice of ground cover.