Because it has so many redeeming qualities, we’re willing to overlook the origin of tickseed’s scientific name, coreopsis.
It comes from combination of two Greek words: “koris,” meaning bedbug, and “opsis,” meaning view.
Paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it? Well, while the etymology may not be lovely, the flower certainly is.
Growing natively throughout the Americas are varieties in bright and pale yellow, white, red, and all sorts of combinations thereof. Most are characterized by attractively toothed petals.
Commercial breeders have extended the color palette of this butterfly favorite by developing varieties that display a rainbow of colors: pink, deep red, orange, purple, and lavender.
Let’s learn more about this prairie and woodland beauty.
We Swear They Don’t Bite
You may have guessed how this aster family member got its common name. Its seeds, small and dark, are said to look like ticks.
Tickseed can be a perennial or an annual, depending on the variety and where it is grown. Various types do well in USDA hardiness zones 4-10, and coreposis prefers warm weather.
This upright plant can grow to be as tall as four feet, but many varieties are about a foot tall. The plant can spread anywhere from 12 to 36 inches.
It sprouts its flowers on wiry stems above the foliage. Different varieties bloom at different times, but in general you can count on this generous plant to produce profuse flowers from early spring until late fall.
But I Want All the Colors!
While there are more than 30 naturally occurring varieties of coreopsis in the United States, commercial breeders have developed numerous fanciful cultivars, much as they have for another native American jewel, echinacea.
C. grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’ is a particularly attractive cultivar, exhibiting bright yellow, semi-double blooms.
You can find Early Sunrise at True Leaf Market.
Floridians — whose state wildflower is coreopsis — may wish to add C. leavenworthii to their gardens.
Purchase this variety from Everwilde Farms via Amazon.
‘Red Elf’ is a stunning dark-red variety that does well in zones 5-9 and grows up to 12 inches tall. It thrives particularly well in containers.
You will find Red Elf from Romence Gardens via Amazon.
Plains coreopsis, also known as golden tickseed, is in attractive bi-color variety that can grow as tall as 36 inches.
Find plains coreopsis at Seedville, via Amazon.
Sun and Not Much Else
While this attractive bloomer most definitely has a preference for full sun, it is considerably less particular about soil type. It will grow in acidic, slightly alkaline, sandy, or loamy soil, or even clay.
Oddly, it does not do well in highly amended soil. So save your compost for other plants and let coreopsis make do with what’s available.
Plant from nursery seedlings or from seed. Plant seeds no more than one-eighth of an inch deep; they need sunlight to germinate.
Water seedlings or seeds regularly for a couple of weeks — an inch per week. As the plants mature and become established, they will tolerate drought conditions and only need water if it hasn’t rained for 1-14 days.
To keep tickseed flowering, you must deadhead, or cut away spent blooms. But that’s about all the attention you need to pay to these hardy beauties.
Coreopsis do just fine with no fertilizer. If you really feel like you must, scatter half a handful of general purpose, slow-acting granular fertilizer on the soil around the plants in the spring, and call it done.
Neglect these deer-resistant plants and they will still reward you with lavish amounts of attractive flowers. And, as a happy bonus, they reseed quite copiously.
Plagues Be Gone
You will want to keep an eye out for a few diseases that can trouble tickseed.
Aster yellows is one such problem. Caused by bacteria spread by leafhoppers, aster yellows phytoplasma cause plants to be stunted and turn yellow. Coreopsis flowers may develop green or elongated petals.
Powdery mildew, root rot, blight, and rust can be treated with a fungicide.
If you suspect wilt — your plants will wilt, turn brown, and die — remove infected plants. Don’t plant varieties that are susceptible to this disease in your area.
We Can Overlook the Name
Magnanimous with its daisy-like blooms, easy-care coreopsis is certainly worth considering for a wildflower or prairie garden.
With an artist’s palette of colors to choose from, you’re sure to find a variety that complements your landscape.
Setting aside its queasiness-inducing common name, tickseed is certainly a plant you should consider for your garden.
What do you think about this American native? Willing to try it in your yard? Share your thoughts below, in the comments area.
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Photo photos via Trueleaf Market, Everwilde Farms, Romence Gardens and Seedville. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.