How to Plant and Care for Coreopsis

By Tema Flanagan

Coreopsis is a flowering plant loved for its bright, long-lasting blooms as well as its ability to thrive in less-than-perfect conditions. This North American–native wildflower-turned-garden plant features daisy-like blossoms perched atop bushy foliage that give color all through the summer and into the fall.

Its cheerful beauty and hardy disposition combine to make coreopsis a great choice for gardeners of all stripes, including beginners looking for an easy confidence boost, minimalist gardeners wishing to add a dash of color to their lawns, and seasoned growers alike.

Coreopsis can be grown as an annual or as a perennial plant. It does well as part of a garden border, as a ground cover, or even as a potted plant on a sunny deck, and the flower’s long, slender stems make it a lovely and easy cut flower.

Coreopsis basics

As a wildflower, coreopsis can be found growing throughout the United States, especially along the sides of roads and in open pastures. Garden cultivars, meanwhile, are hardy in a wide range of settings, including USDA hardiness zones 3–9.

Coreopsis, which is also sometimes called tickseed, is exceptionally low maintenance. Its main requirement is full sun, so be sure to select a location without any shade. (Coreopsis will still grow well in partial shade but tends to produce fewer flowers and is more susceptible to disease.) This vigorous plant prefers well-drained soil but is capable of growing in a variety of soil types–even shallow, rocky soil and clay soil.

Coreopsis is drought-tolerant, meaning it has the magical ability to look downright lush with very little water (though it is still a good idea to water your coreopsis plants during dry spells in the hot season). Not only that, but coreopsis is also deer– and rabbit-resistant, making it the perfect choice for gardeners and landscapers with a non-chemical approach to pest control and plant maintenance. To top it off, coreopsis’ sweet nectar attracts butterflies and bees, and birds love to snack on its seeds in the fall.

Left Jethro Tull coreopsis

Right Zagreb coreopsis

Types of coreopsis

There are two broad types of coreopsis plants: clump-forming and rhizomatous. The clump-forming plants grow in—you guessed it—a clump-like formation, while the rhizomatous varieties have a tendency to spread, much like mint, via a network of underground rhizomes.

The clump-forming varieties are more common and often perform better when grown as annuals. Meanwhile, rhizomatous varieties, such as Jethro Tull, Limerock Passion, and Zagreb, are better-suited to perennial growth and care.

Coreopsis plants are typically around two feet tall, but sizes vary from cultivar to cultivar, so check your chosen variety for information about size.

Left Pink sapphire coreopsis

Middle Double sunburst coreopsis

Right Polaris coreopsis

Coreopsis varieties to know and love

Traditionally, coreopsis flowers are small and yellow with notched petals and a simple, daisy-like appearance—no surprise considering its membership in the Asteraceae, or daisy, family.

But gone are the days when simple yellow flowers were the only option. Today, you can easily find a broad spectrum of coreopsis cultivars that vary considerably in form (including single and semi-double flowers) and color (including solid and bi-color flowers in shades of yellows, pinks, whites, oranges, and reds). Following are a small selection of unique but readily available coreopsis varieties.

1. Mango punch

Mango punch coreopsis features sherbet-colored blossoms in ombré shades of orange, peach, and red.

2. Pink sapphire

Large, bright pink flowers with white eyes make pink sapphire a cheerful and pretty garden selection.

3. Pinwheel coreopsis

This eye-catching variety sports pale, buttery yellow blossoms with unusual, spoon-shaped petals and blue-green foliage.

4. Double sunburst

Semi-double blossoms give yellow double sunburst coreopsis a ruffled, feminine look.

5. Polaris

Pure white blossoms with yellow centers make polaris coreopsis a simple and elegant choice that plays well in just about any garden scheme.

6. Li’l bang starlight

This whimsical variety produces different colored flowers depending on the weather, with pink-tipped, white blooms showing up in warm weather and solid pink flowers appearing when temperatures plummet.

How to grow coreopsis

Coreopsis is an easy addition to your lawn or garden. You can start the plant from seed, by dividing an existing plant, or by purchasing plants at your local nursery. Here’s how to grow coreopsis from seed.

  1. Starting in early spring, select a very sunny area in your garden, preferably with well-drained soil. No need to amend the soil prior to planting.  
  2. Broadcast coreopsis seed over the prepared area (check your selected variety for more specific information about spacing, if any). Coreopsis seeds need light to germinate, so either press the seeds gently into moist soil or just barely cover them with a light dusting of soil.
  3. Water gently and frequently, keeping the soil evenly moist, until the seeds germinate and the plants are established.

Once your coreopsis plants are established, they require only infrequent watering during the dry, hot season.

Coreopsis care

  • Water occasionally only during especially warm, dry periods.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more prolific blooming throughout the course of the season.
  • In mid-to-late summer, cut back the entire plant by a quarter or a third to produce a second round of blooms in early fall.  
  • Don’t worry about fertilizing coreopsis—in fact, these self-reliant plants perform better without it.
  • If you decide to grow coreopsis as a perennial, make sure to let a few flowers go to seed at the end of the season and divide your plants every two to three years.

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