This gorgeous flower has the unfortunate common name of tickseed,
from the resemblance of the seeds to this insect. The genus name
of coreopsis actually translates from the Greek ‘koris’ meaning
bed-bug, and ‘opsis’ meaning appearance. Yet in the Language of
Flowers, popular during Victorian times, this plant means “always
cheerful.” Native Americans knew this plant, and boiled the
flowers into teas or dyes for fabrics.
Coreopsis species and cultivars are similar in that they are
members of the aster family, with the familiar daisy-type
flowers. Most are clump-forming, but a few spread by runners, and
many self-sow throughout the garden. They may bloom for much of
the summer, in variations or gold or yellow (hence another common
name—pot of gold), often with red or similar coloration. They’ll
grow from six inches to three or more feet high, depending on
selection. Most, though, are 10 to 18 inches tall, and 12 to 24
inches wide. Some have elliptical leaves two to five inches long,
with entire margins or lobes, others (such as the threadleaf
species and hybrids) are fine textured with very thin leaves.
The 100 or so species are native to North and South America, but
particularly Mexico and the southern U.S. There are at least 33
species native to the U.S., and it is the state wildflower of
Florida and Mississippi. Check labels, descriptions, or ask
trained nursery professionals if the selection you want is an
annual (lives only one year), a tender perennial (not for cold
climates, as with many new hybrids), or a hardy perennial.
The plains coreopsis (tinctoria) and its cultivars are
annual flowers. Hardiest and most popular of the perennial
species and their cultivars are the threadleaf—also called
whorled— coreopsis (verticillata) and popular cultivar
‘Moonbeam’, large-flowered (grandiflora) and its
All-America Selections winning cultivar ‘Early Sunrise’, the mouse
ear (auriculata) and its popular cultivar ‘Nana’, and the
pink coreopsis (rosea). One of the few tall species is the
tall coreopsis (tripteris), reaching four to eight feet
high with blooms in late summer.
Many of the newer hybrids such as those from the Punch, UpTick,
Jewel, Little Bang, Big Bang, and Sizzle and Spices series are
only hardy to about -10 degrees (F) in winter or slightly lower
(USDA hardiness zone 5 at best), so not for much of northern New
Coreopsis prefer full sun, tolerating part shade (especially in
hot climates), but with less growth (they may be more lanky), and
fewer blooms. They need a day length longer than 12 hours
(generally 13 to 14 hours) in order to bloom (termed “long-day
obligate”). An exception is the mouse ear coreopsis which will
bloom with shorter day lengths.
Most cultivars benefit from removing old flowers after bloom
(“deadheading”), and will rebloom within a few weeks. You can cut
or pinch off individual flowers or, if too many, simply shear them
off (you can remove up to one third of the tips) with scissors or
hedge shears. Avoid too much fertilizer as this may result in
more leaves but fewer flowers.
Since many coreopsis are short-lived, only blooming well for
three to five years, you may need to divide plants, plant new
ones, or start new ones from seeds if their flowering declines.
Hybrids and many cultivars can’t be started from seeds and “come
true” (form the same plant as the parents). Divisions are best
made in spring, as growth begins. Keep divisions or new plants
well-watered until they’re established—several weeks to a couple
Unless the growing season or site is particularly wet, in which
case slugs and snails may be a problem, they get few significant
pests or diseases. Particularly in warm climates they may get
powdery mildew disease too. A well-drained soil minimizes
diseases and root rots.
Coreopsis lend themselves to cottage style gardens, to massing,
edges of walks and borders, natural areas and native plant
gardens, pollinator gardens, and to containers. They combine well
with Shasta daisies, daylilies, blue mist shrub, speedwells,
blanket flower, perennial salvia, lavender, Russian stonecrop or
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