How to Plant, Grow and Care For Coreopsis Flowers
Are you curious about coreopsis? There are so many varieties of coreopsis available for home gardeners, it would be difficult not to find one that’s just right for your space. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of the colorful and cheerful coreopsis.
Coreopsis is a diverse group of flowering plants in the Aster family. This genus includes annual and perennial varieties commonly referred to as tickseed. There are over 70 species of coreopsis, at least half of which are native to the United States. In the wild, they grow along roadsides and in open fields, meadows, and pastures. Most have very showy simple flowers in shades of yellow, orange, and red.
For home gardeners, coreopsis is a treat. They are readily available, easy to grow, and beautiful. They are easy to start from seed, young plants, or divisions from larger clusters. Coreopsis thrives in full sun with well-drained soil. In ideal conditions, many varieties will self-seed in the garden, keeping their population strong.
If you want to invite pollinators to your garden, coreopsis is a great choice. Depending on the variety, these perky butterfly-friendly plants bloom anywhere from late spring through late summer. Try a couple of different species or cultivars for an extended blooming season and more color variety.
Let’s dig deeper into the wonderful world of these beautiful flowering plants!
Coreopsis Plant Overview
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial, Annual
Species 70+ species
Native Area United States, North America
USDA Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained, Average
Water Dry to Medium
Plant Spacing 12 inches
Suggested Uses Pollinator garden, Cottage garden
Plant With Aster, Creeping Zinnia, Daylily
Bloom Season Late spring to late summer
Flower Color Yellow, Orange, Red, Bi-color
Attracts Butterflies, Bees, Pollinators, Birds
Problems Fast spreading
Resistant To Drought, Heat, Poor soil, Deer
Height 1 to 3 feet
Coreopsis is a group of widespread plants native to North America, including Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Other species are native throughout Central and South America. They grow wild along roadsides or in fields, meadows, prairies, grasslands, and open woodlands.
Coreopsis is a large genus of plants in the Aster family. There are over 70 species of coreopsis and many cultivars as well. The cultivars are not necessarily “better” than the native varieties, just different, with different attributes and a wider assortment of colors. Growers continue to develop new cultivars of these popular plants.
Several native species have become popular as cultivated garden plants. They are easy to grow, easy to propagate, and hardy in the home landscape. The beautiful flowers are showy and attract butterflies. They also make nice cut flowers and are frequently used in ‘wildflower’ bouquets.
When growing a butterfly garden, pollinator garden, cottage garden, or having a sunny plot for a naturalized wildflower garden, there is a coreopsis to meet your needs. There are taller plants to grow in the background, compact varieties to grow at the edge of your plot, and medium-sized plants to nestle among other garden flowers.
Coreopsis includes annual and perennial varieties, although many people opt to grow them all as annuals. Even starting from seed, the plants grow quickly and can bloom in their first year. It is common to see these species in seed mixes for wildflowers, butterfly gardens, and prairies. Anyone can grow and enjoy coreopsis, whether new to gardening or with many years of experience with plants.
Coreopsis is very easy to grow and establish in the home garden. Seeds are readily available commercially, you can collect seeds from someone else’s plant or start with young purchased plants or newly divided colonies. Each method listed below is simple and usually successful in establishing a new plant or flowering patch!
Starting flowers from seed is an excellent way to save money and practice gardening on a budget. You can generally buy dozens of seeds for the same price as a single young plant. Growing from seed also offers more options to the adventurous gardener.
Fortunately, starting from seed is very simple. The most difficult step may be choosing the variety you want to grow! You can start seeds indoors in pots or outdoors directly sown in the garden. Loosen the soil, but do not cover the seeds with soil as they need light for germination.
If you start seeds indoors, sow them in fresh, loose, seed-starting soil 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost in your area. To jump-start your seeds, use a seed-starting heat mat to keep them warm and help them sprout faster. Keep the soil warm and moist (if you use a heat mat, keep a close eye on the soil so it doesn’t dry out!). Seedlings should sprout in about two weeks.
When starting seeds outdoors, direct sow them into the garden or intended growing container after the average last spring frost. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, which may take 2 or 3 weeks.
Seedlings and Young Plants
When you have seedlings that you grew yourself or have purchased young nursery-grown plants, transplant them into the garden after the danger of spring frost. While selecting a plant to buy, look for fresh, vigorous, and healthy plants.
Avoid plants that appear wilted, mushy, diseased, or infested with insects. You will have the best luck starting with a healthy plant, and you certainly do not want to introduce any new problems to your garden.
Prepare your planting site by loosening the soil. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the entire root mass of your potted plant and carefully transfer the plant into the hole.
Add enough fresh soil around the roots to completely cover them and gently tamp down the soil to secure the plant in its new home. Give it a thorough watering to help reduce transplant shock and keep it watered for a few weeks to give it a chance to get established.
Another great option for starting coreopsis is the division of existing mature clusters. If you have a gardening friend or neighbor who grows this plant, or if you already have your own, you can divide these clumps into smaller bunches that you can transplant into new locations. Each smaller bunch can grow, multiply, flower, re-seed, and mature in its new space.
It’s best to divide existing clusters in early spring or late fall. Choose a cool and overcast day, and water your plants well after dividing them.
Use these simple techniques to minimize transplant stress for the best outcome. Generally, plants will look a bit wilted for a few days after transplanting, but they should perk up again as long as you give them some extra water.
You don’t need anything fancy to plant your new seedling. All you need is a sunny plot in your garden with well-drained soil. If you are adding a few new plants to your garden, the only tool you really need is a trowel and perhaps a pair of gardening gloves.
The best time of year to do any new planting is early spring. Fall is also a great time for planting perennials.
A few basic tips for transplanting new plants into your garden:
- Prepare your plot in advance
- Place your plants in the environment they prefer
- Avoid transplanting in the midday sun
- Water new transplants well
- Planting depth should generally match how the plant is growing in the pot
- Spring and fall are the best seasons for transplanting
- Handle plants carefully
- Don’t crowd new plants together
- Give them enough room to grow to maturity
How to Grow
This native wildflower is remarkably easy to grow if you pick its location wisely.
Coreopsis loves the sun. They should receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plants grown in the shade will probably appear weaker and not bloom well, if at all. A little dappled afternoon shade, especially in hotter climates, should be fine.
This North American native needs dry to medium moisture soil. Once established, these wildflowers are quite drought-tolerant. Water plants well at the time of transplanting and a few days after. During periods of prolonged drought, they may appreciate an occasional light watering.
Soil should be well drained. It does not need to be particularly high-quality or nutrient-rich. This plant can thrive in poor soil conditions as long as the soil is well-drained. These plants will not do well in heavy clay soil or waterlogged soil.
Climate and Temperature
Coreopsis will grow well in USDA climate zones 4 through 9. Most varieties thrive in heat and humidity. These plants tend to be tolerant of a variety of environmental conditions and can be grown in most gardens.
Annuals will die after the first hard frost. Perennials will die back to the ground, but if the roots are not waterlogged over the winter, they will regrow in the spring.
One great thing about growing native wildflowers is that they can survive neglect. You will not need to fertilize these plants. You will also not need to spend extra money on soil enhancements unless you want to add some sand to help improve soil drainage.
If you allow your coreopsis to naturalize in your garden, they are very low-maintenance. Expect to do an annual thinning and dividing to keep your plants well-managed. You can reduce self-seeding by deadheading spent flowers. However, with prolifically blooming plants, this task can be rather time-consuming.
After the foliage dies back in the fall, remove the dead foliage. If you have clusters of plants that overgrew their space, you can divide and thin larger colonies.
This can help keep them more contained and also help improve vitality. If plants get large and scraggly by mid-summer, cut them back severely, and they will regrow in a bushier form.
Coreopsis can be used in many garden situations. Grow them with other annuals or perennials, use them in a pollinator garden, or even grow them in containers. Coreopsis plants are a versatile addition to the landscape and can be enjoyed throughout the growing season.
Plant taller coreopsis towards the back of a garden plot where their height will be appreciated, and they won’t block smaller plants. Grow smaller sprawling coreopsis varieties along edges and borders where they can be seen and have the most impact.
Many varieties of coreopsis have brightly colored flowers and attractive foliage, so you can use them as decorative flowering plants and long-season foliage plants.
There are far too many varieties to list them all here. There are more than 70 species of coreopsis and many more hybrids and cultivars. Not all species are commercially available, but you should be able to find a few varieties to try, especially if you are willing to grow from seeds. A few of the more common varieties are listed here.
Lanceleaf Coreopsis (C. lanceolata)
Lanceleaf coreopsis has long thin leaves. The cheerful dark-yellow flowers bloom in late spring and early summer atop tall stems reaching 2 feet tall. This perennial wildflower has a broad range across central and eastern North America.
Large Flower Tickseed (C. grandiflora)
Large-flowered tickseed grows to 2.5 feet tall. This herbaceous perennial is native to eastern and central North America. The flowers bloom throughout the summer and are big, bold, and intensely yellow.
Ear-leaved Tickseed (C. auriculata)
This coreopsis is fairly low-growing, staying less than 1.5 feet tall. It is a perennial native to the eastern United States. This species has broad, oblong leaves and spreads by stolons, creating dense colonies. The large deep-yellow flowers bloom in late spring until early summer.
Threadleaf Coreopsis (C. verticillata)
Threadleaf coreopsis is a perennial wildflower native to the eastern United States. The very thin, feathery leaves add an appealing leafy texture to the garden. The bright yellow flowers bloom from late spring until early fall.
Red Elf Coreopsis (C. ‘Red Elf’)
‘Red Elf’ coreopsis is a bit different. This perennial plant stays very compact, reaching only about 1 foot tall. Its dark red flowers have prominent yellow centers and bloom throughout summer.
Plains Coreopsis (C. tinctoria)
The plains coreopsis is an annual wildflower native to the eastern and central United States. This beautiful plant reaches up to 4 feet tall. It has thin, feathery leaves and produces an abundance of golden-yellow flowers with deep burgundy-red centers. Flowering occurs from early summer through early fall.
Coreopsis has a well-deserved place in a wildlife-friendly garden. If you find a coreopsis variety native to your area, it can be a huge benefit for local wildlife.
Coreopsis is a great plant for attracting beneficial insects and pollinators. Butterflies and bees love the flowers and visit frequently during the blooming season. After blooming, the mature seedheads will attract hungry birds. Deer typically do not bother coreopsis, although rabbits will nibble it.
Pests and Diseases
These plants are generally very hardy and vigorous. They are not bothered by many pests and diseases. It’s possible that you may see a few aphids or mealy bugs on your plants, but these insect pests rarely do much, if any, noticeable damage to coreopsis.
Three of the most common problems you will likely encounter are root rot, sunscald, and powdery mildew, which are caused by or influenced by environmental factors.
Root rot and crown rot can occur if plants are grown in wet or poorly-drained soils, as these conditions provide the perfect habitat for fungal pathogens to thrive in. Coreopsis cannot tolerate constant wetness.
If your plant develops a case of fungal root rot, the entire plant will wilt, become soft and mushy, and eventually die. Root rot can be prevented by growing your coreopsis in loose, sandy or gritty, well-drained soil, as better drainage and loose soil reduces the likelihood of fungal development.
Coreopsis plants are generally quite tolerant of hot and sunny conditions. It is possible, however, for plants to develop sunscald. This can occur in prolonged or extreme heat and drought.
The leaves will brown around the edges or can develop tan or brown splotches throughout. Remove damaged foliage to improve plant appearance. Sunscald is unsightly but rarely affects or kills the entire plant, but if much of the plant is impacted, it can reduce photosynthesis.
If you notice the leaves of your coreopsis are turning a grayish-white color or look powdery, your plant may have a case of powdery mildew. This generally happens in warm, humid conditions, particularly with poor air circulation.
Powdery mildew is a fungal growth that thrives in high humidity and can affect many species. To prevent powdery mildew, improve the air circulation around your plant.
Do not water overhead; instead, water only at the base of the plant, as wet leaves can catch and trap airborne fungal spores. Remove any leaves that start to develop a powdery, whitish look before they produce more spores that can spread.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Coreopsis be Invasive in My Garden?
Coreopsis is not generally considered to be an invasive species, but it can grow aggressively.
Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is an annual species that is listed as an invasive species in a few counties in California. If you are concerned about unwanted spread, deadhead spent flowers before they go to seed, and remove any extra unwanted seedlings.
How Do I Keep my Coreopsis Looking More Compact and Tidy?
Coreopsis can become straggly looking, especially later in the season. Plants grown in full sun will naturally stay bushier than those grown in partial shade. But if your plant is flopping over by mid-season, do some hard pruning when they start to look unkempt. They will regrow vigorously and maintain a bushier form. Large colonies can be divided if they are sprawling beyond where you want them to grow. Short stakes can also be used to reduce the flopping tendency of taller stems.
Can I Grow Coreopsis in Partial Shade?
Coreopsis will grow in partially shaded locations, but you will get the best growth and flowering in full sun. If you want to grow coreopsis in partial shade, choose the brightest location you have to get the best results. Plants grown in the shade tend to be leggier, not as strong, and will produce fewer flowers than those grown in full sun.
Coreopsis is an easy-to-grow plant that can be appreciated in various garden settings. The flowers are colorful and abundant, make great cut flowers, and attract many pollinators. All you need is a sunny location with average, well-drained soil.
Scatter your seeds, keep them well-watered, and watch them grow. Perennial varieties will return for many years of gardening joy, and annual varieties generally re-seed themselves, so you will never be without these beautiful blooms.