Daisies are reliable perennials that brighten gardens year after year with their old-fashioned charm. True daisies, however, are only one species of plant with familiar pinwheel-shaped flowers. Daisy-like blooms atop plants of other families provide summer color from the gardens of New England to the roadsides of the Great Plains and American Southwest.
The appropriately named Indian blanket gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella) blankets the United State's western prairies and meadows with red and yellow and rust from late spring to late summer. Its daisy-like blossoms unfold atop 1 to 2-foot branching stems. The multi-colored flowers sport yellow bull's-eyes in rust centers and red petals tapering to three-toothed yellow edges. Some equally vibrant plants may have solid yellow or orange petals.
Indian Blanket's heat and drought tolerance have made it a desirable addition to Southwestern gardens. Rain will extend its already long flowering season in other parts of the country. Removing spent flowers encourages new blooms.
These plants like sunny or partially shady locations in well-drained sandy or sandy loam soil. With proper drainage Indian blanket self-sows and grows easily from seed. Plant the seeds in the fall and rake them into the soil's surface. Started plants are widely available at nurseries.
Skeleton plant (lygodesmia texana) is a daisy-like perennial native to Texas' Rio Grande Plains and Panhandle. Blooming from April through August, it produces pink or purple daisy-like blooms on 15-inch high stems. The plant gets its curious name, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, from its lack of foliage and bony, angular stems, each of which produces a single flower.
Skeleton plant's nectar is a butterfly magnet. It likes a sunny location away from other plants and does best in limestone-rich soil. Let the plants dry between waterings. Broken stems release a gummy sap that can be messy. Skeleton plant grows easily from commercially available seed.
A member of the aster family, plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is also known as yellow tickseed. Plains coreopsis has multiple stems producing small but gaudy bright yellow daisy-like flowers with maroon centers. The wild plants are common in roadside ditches of the American South and West, where they've become popular garden additions.
Flowers appear on the 1- to 2-foot plants between April and June. They like sun or part shade and moist sandy soil. In rainy years, plains coreopsis can take over the meadows and pond banks of the Plains states, attracting thousands of butterflies with its nectar.
Sow coreopsis seeds where they are to grow in late autumn or spring. Buy seeds at nurseries or collect it from the plants about a month after the flowers have died. Don't cover the seeds after sowing because they germinate better if exposed to light.