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Past Articles Library | How to Grow Indian Blanket

While I have seen this plant in many flower gardens across the nation, I had the great privilege to see it growing wild in Oklahoma.  It is so prevalent in this state that it has become Oklahoma’s state flower.

 The Gaillardia pulchella has a daisy like flower that has a red center.  This red color fades into a bright yellow as one reaches the edges of the petals.  The flower itself is supported on stems that have a hairy texture to them and can reach a height of 2 feet.

While this plant can practically grow anywhere, the true limiting factor is soil drainage.  In warm, coastal areas, the Indian blanket is a short-lived perennial.  The flowering frequency in this environment can be increased by deadheading the spent blooms.  In colder climates, this plant is an annual, which blooms from May to August.  Blooming time can be increased in this environment by adding supplemental water.

As stated, this plant will grow anywhere but if the soil is very rich you could have a problem.  The Indian Blanket in this type of environment produces a lot of spindly vegetation and fewer flowers.  In doing so, when searching out prime spots for this plant make sure that the soil is well drained, not too rich and in bright sunlight.

Plant Indian Blanket Seeds

The seeds of this plant can be planted in four different ways depending on where you live and the amount of free time you have on your hands.

Regardless of where you live, the Indian Blanket can be planted in the spring as long as the outside temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once this temperature requirement has been reached, you can begin to prepare the ground for planting.  This is done by removing the plant material in the area where you want to plant the Indian Blanket.  After that is done, smooth out the soil’s surface with a garden rake and then broadcast the seed over the area.  What is broadcasting?  Well, it is simply spreading the seed by throwing it, which is similar to how Mother Nature does it.  The reason you treat this seed in this fashion is because the seed itself is very small and throwing it by hand keeps one from planting it too deep.

Once the seed has been planted, mist with water.  Do not water with a hard spray.  Doing this will bury the seed.  Continue to monitor the soil moisture and water accordingly.  You should see signs of germination in 14 to 21 days.

In areas where the weather is mild, you can plant the Indian Blanket in the fall.  The mild weather itself gives the plant enough time to grow and produce a strong taproot before the frost arrives.  The process to plant in this type of environment is the same as above.

If you feel more comfortable about propagating your Indian Blanket indoors, the process itself is really pretty easy.  To begin this process, one will need to pull out the calendar.  Why do you need to do this?  The answer is simple.  You need to count back 4 to 6 weeks from your local frost-free date.  Once you have that, the next step is to prepare the container.  The best container for starting the seeds is a simple flat.  The flat will need to be washed and sterilized.  To do this, just wash the flat in a bucket of water that has a capful of bleach in it.  Scrub to remove any dirt and once clean, rinse in fresh water.  Place the flat outside in the sun to dry and finish off sterilizing through solar radiation.

Next, fill the flat with an all-purpose potting soil mix.  Once that is done, sprinkle the seed on top of the soil and gently water in.  Place in a warm and sunny location.  While both conditions are very important, the sun requirement is essential since this seed does require sunlight to germinate.

After your seeds have germinated and the weather has warmed, place the seedlings outside to harden off.  This does not mean you leave the plants out all day the first time you put them outside.  Instead, you gradually expose them to the outside environment over a two week period.  Once that time period has passed and your local frost-free date has gone by, you are ready to plant the Indian Blanket out in the garden.

Yes, the seed of this plant is easily available through seed catalogues and garden nurseries but there is another option and that is collecting your own.  The process by which you collect the seeds is very simple and starts out with letting the flower die on the stalk.  Once that has happened, cut the stem off at ground level and place the flower head in a paper bag.  Do not use a plastic bag, which will cause the seeds to rot.  After you have collected the number of flower heads you desire, tie off bag and hang it up.  The seeds will fall out into the bag in a few weeks and then you can collect them.

If you want to save your seeds you can either leave them in the paper bag or place them in a paper envelop and store in the fridge.  Seeds will remain viable for up to 4 years. 

The latter approach to propagating the Indian Blanket is to allow the seed heads to dry on the plant and then let Mother Nature plant them.

As versatile as this plant is, the uses are also many.  The Indian Blanket can be used in a cutting garden.  The flowers themselves are very lasting and as a matter of fact the cut flower can remain beautiful for up to 10 days.  Other uses include as a component to a wildflower garden, pocket prairie garden, and anywhere you want a splash of color. 

This flower does attract a lot of beautiful wildlife, which includes butterflies and bees.  As a matter of fact The Xerces Society views this as an important plant for native bees.  While this plant is inviting to many different animals, one creature you probably will not to worry about is deer.  The Indian Blanket is considered moderately deer resistant.

While this flower is beautiful planted in clusters, you may want to mix it with other plants.  Three of best combinations come from the coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), and goldenrod (Solidago hydrida).  All of these flowers provide different flowering times and colors that complement the Indian Blanket. 

As noted previously, this plant is the state plant of Oklahoma.  It can be found growing wild along roadsides and in parks.  While harvesting the seed is easy and you may be tempted to gather a few while visiting a wild area, do not.  To keep these wild areas wild, we must leave the beauty there.  Explore other options for your seeds, which include seed catalogues, garden nurseries, and friends. But before purchasing your seed, make sure that they have been harvested in an ethical way.


 
 








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Gardening-tip:

Growing Caladium

Caladiums grow from tubers sold in the spring.

You can buy the tubers and plant your own, but buying a full-grown plant is the easiest way to know what color the leaves will be.

Give your Caladiums high humidity or the leaf margins may turn brown.


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