It’s National Wildflower Week! The first week in May is a time to celebrate our native wildflowers and the pollinators they support. This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting some of the best plants for pollinators from coast-to-coast. Drawing from our books 100 Plants to Feed the Bees, Gardening for Butterflies , and our Monarch Nectar Plant Guides.
The common name of blanketflower may refer to its brightly colored flower, which blooms in warm colors reminiscent of blankets woven by Native Americans of the Southwest. Another possibility is that it refers to the plants habit of “blanketing” the ground in areas where it thrives. Either way, this colorful plant is much loved by a diversity of bees including green metallic sweat bees (Agapostemon spp.), bumble bees, and others who are drawn to the brightly colored flowers. The plant also happens to be a food source for caterpillars of the brilliantly colored gaillardia flower moth (Schinia masoni) and painted schinia (S. volupia), butterflies with wing patterns and colors that mimic blanketflower’s petals.
Blanketflower generally prefers a dry, sunny site and does not tolerate wet or heavy clay soils. Though it can be grown throughout much of the U.S., it’s typically an annual or short-lived perennial in all but the more arid regions of the country. Though not reliably perennial outside of its native range, it’s worth including in your pollinator garden as an annual or short-lived perennial as it blooms early and often, frequently remaining as one of the last plants to flower through the end of the season.
Native range: Nearly a dozen species of blanketflower are found in North America, but only two are widely available as seed or garden plants. Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) is a perennial species of the northern plains, Rocky Mountains, and inland Northwest. Indian blanket (G. pulchella) is an annual species occurring from Arizona across the southern plains, Gulf Coast, and Florida.
Best for: Providing a season-long source of pollen and nectar for a diversity of bees.