Blanket flower and iris

Blanket Flowers

Blanket Flowers have been the biggest surprise success in our Northern cottage garden this summer!

At our cottage on a near- northern Ontario island, we have been trying to establish a garden – with the goal of planting as many hardy flowering perennials as we can – without running to the garden centre (a three hour round trip).

Northern Garden Problem Solving

Over the winter we did a little research and tried to order seeds to start at home, that would EASILY (did I say easily?) produce hardy perennial flowers – suitable for hot dry summers and harsh snow covered winters. The garden is windswept, shaded by hundred foot tall pine trees – and with very little soil to root in.

With a short growing season, frosty nights, and diverse soil conditions, it demands plants that are hardy and adaptable. Enter the vibrant and resilient Blanket Flower, a darned-good choice for a Northern Ontario garden.

close up photo of blooming red and yellow flower
Photo by 김 대정 on

Garden Goal

Hardy plants that will seed and spread (someday), without much care – and have a wild butterfly attracting – cottage garden appearance. Are a few low maintenance flowers too much to ask?

Perennial Divisions

From our southern Ontario home garden, we brought north – and planted Hostas, Iris, Daylilies, Geraniums, Veronica, Sage, Coneflowers, Rudbeckia, Solomon’s seal, Spiderwort and Monarda. My husband has not complained about the clumps of dirt in the car and boat thankfully! Each of these plants have rooted – but we will see which ones thrive and spread! With the exception of the daylilies, iris and the largest hostas – most of these plants have struggled with rooting in (what I call) the thin layer of soil (which is really just decayed pine needles and sawdust).


Seed Starting

In February, we ordered seeds from West Coast Seeds and planted – Russell Lupins (Lupines), Wild Bergamot (Monarda or Bee Balm), Western Yarrow, Coreopsis and Blanket Flower (Gaillardia). We chose Lupins, and Yarrow because we see those plants in the wild in the area. Coreopsis and Bergamot seem to attract butterflies – and grow easily in the south – so we ordered those too.

Blanket Flower and yarrow
Blanket Flower and yarrow

Orange Hawkweed

Blanket Flower – we thought looked similar to the wild Orange Hawkweed that grows everywhere on our island. Hawkweed has similar but tiny flowers and leaves that resemble Blanket Flower’s foliage – so we decided to give them a try. (Both Hawkweed and Blanket Flower are members of the Aster family.)

Orange hawkweed
Orange hawkweed

Seed Starting Results

All of the seeds were started in trays at home indoors in February. Lupins and Blanket Flowers germinated quickly – without any fuss. All the seedlings were transplanted into little pots to transport north in the spring – and then put them in our shallow, decayed pine needle soil. The Lupins were a bit fussier with the first potting – but as long as the tap root was intact and enough leaves had developed the plants rooted and survived – but blooming was very limited this year. (Hopefully next year will be colourful).

The Blanket Flower seeds produced the most seedlings, potted easily – and transplanted in the soil with success. They have all flowered the first year – from June through to September – and have now produced seeds to harvest and save for next year.

photo of red flowers
Photo by Ray Bilcliff on

Blanket Flower – a Happy Face

Initially Blanket Flowers were not my favourite choice. I think I just took them for granted because they were not as spectacular as other flowers – but they really are pretty. They typically have red centres with yellow edges – but some of mine are mostly yellow – or mostly red. I like variety! When I look at Blanket Flowers – I think of a happy face!

Red blanket flower
Red Blanket Flower – a Happy Face

What are Blanket Flowers?

Blanket Flowers, scientifically known as Gaillardia, are part of the sunflower family. They boast vibrant red, orange, and yellow blooms that resemble colorful Mexican blankets, hence the name. They are also known as Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Girasol Rojo.

Not only do these flowers add a burst of color to the garden, but they are also particularly suited for the challenges of Northern Ontario’s environment.

Blanket flowers among the pine needles and blueberries
Blanket flowers among the pine needles and blueberries

Why Blanket Flowers for Northern Ontario?

  1. Drought Resistance: With summers that can be hot and dry, Blanket Flowers are champions when it comes to drought resistance. Once established, they require minimal water. I rarely water the garden – and often leave for more than a week. We have had weeks of 90 degree heat waves this summer – and no problems!
  2. Frost Tolerance: These flowers can endure the chilly nights that are characteristic of Northern Ontario. My garden is likely zone 3b – we will see how the plants survive the winter! I have read that Blanket Flowers are hardy from zone 3-10.
  3. Attracts Pollinators: Blanket Flowers draw bees and butterflies, (and hopefully some hummingbirds!) supporting local ecosystems and other plants in the garden. (I need the bees to pollinate my blueberries)
  4. Started Easily from Seed: These grew easily when started indoors in seed trays and transplanted without any fuss.
  5. Flowered the First Season: – from June through September – A success! I have read that Blanket Flowers planted from seed will not bloom the first year – but all of my seedlings have bloomed. This could be because I started them in February?
Yellow blanket flower
Yellow Blanket Flower

Planting Tips

Here are a few general tips for Blanket Flowers – with my personal experience thrown in!

  1. Soil Preparation: Opt for well-draining soil. If you’re near the lake and have sandy soil, Blanket Flowers will thrive. However, adding organic compost can boost the nutrient content. My soil is compact decayed pine needles – and they grew anyway!
  2. Sunlight: Choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. The more sun, the better! My garden is dappled shade – and they still bloomed!
  3. Spacing: Allow about 12-18 inches between plants for optimal growth. Mine are planted about 2 feet apart along a pathway. I hope that they will spread and I can bring them closer together – so that they bloom en masse some day.
  4. Watering: Initially, water them regularly to help them establish. Once they’ve taken root, you can reduce the frequency.
Blanket flower and iris
Blanket Flower and iris

Maintenance and Care

  1. Deadheading: Remove spent blooms to encourage more flowering and prevent self-seeding. I just cut occasionally with scissors – but I have continual blooms on plants that I haven’t deadheaded.
  2. Pest Control: While Blanket Flowers are generally pest-resistant, watch out for aphids. A simple water spray or natural insecticidal soap can address the issue.
  3. Winter Care: Though Blanket Flowers are perennials, in colder zones like Northern Ontario, they sometimes act as annuals. To increase their chances of winter survival, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base. I have an endless supply of pine needle and woodchips to mulch with when the time comes.
  4. Divisions: Blanket flowers may be divided to produce more plants. This may increase the lifespan of the plant. I have read that each plant may last only two seasons and then die off – but I hope to keep propagating plants and harvesting and harvesting and planting seeds. More flowers are always better aren’t they?

Blanket Flower Success

In our Northern garden – success to me is something that grows and takes root easily – and gives us flowers. We’re all about easy and the quick gratification of pretty flowers. Blanket Flowers have been just that for us this gardening season and I hope they will grace your garden as well.

City sidewalk blanket flower
City sidewalk Blanket Flower

Thanks for stopping in at Everyday Lillie. Please have a look around as much as you like. If you enjoyed the visit, please feel free to follow, share, comment or like. Please drop in again soon!

Follow Everyday Lillie on

7 thoughts on “Blanket Flowers

  1. Beatiful flowers. I don’t think I’ve seen them before. They look sort of like a daisy.

  2. I have grown them from seed for the first time this year and I have been really impressed by them. Bees love them and with some dead heading they keep flowering. I thought they were just annuals and would die in the winter.

  3. Funny story. I started lupins, transplanted them and when they didn’t bloom I pulled them — thinking there were actually an annual. My daughter shakes her head and says “mom they don’t bloom until the second year “😔🤪 I should try blanket flowers. I have good soil but harsh conditions.

Leave a Reply