If you’ve seen “Big Bang Evolution,” you’re forgiven for mistaking it for a newfangled cosmos variety. It’s actually a coreopsis in the “Big Bang” series from Dummon Orange.
“Evolution” is a good word to describe what’s been taking place in the world of coreopsis. This versatile plant is getting its moment in the sun with the National Garden Bureau naming 2018 as the “year of coreopsis.” About 80 species have naturalized in the Americas, with 38 varieties listed in the lower 48 states, according to NGB research.
Whether your garden is formal or informal, cottage-style or carefully manicured, or a naturalized wildflower or prairie setting, coreopsis is a happy presence. After all, coreopsis means “always cheerful.” It is a good choice for pollinator gardens, too, and birds enjoy the seeds.
Coreopsis has its advocates and detractors. It is pretty and bright, produces long-lasting flowers on a compact plant, handles heat and humidity well, adapts to many soil types and rabbits and deer are likely to give it a pass.
On the other hand, it can be a short-lived perennial, doesn’t overwinter well in harsh winters and some varieties are magnets for powdery mildew. Older types exuberantly self-seed. Hybridizers are working hard to make improvements and introduce new varieties. Colors range from bright, clear yellow to deeper shades, bronze, caramel, rose, red, gold, pink and white.
Coreopsis belongs to the Asteraceae family which includes daisies, sunflowers, asters and other daisy-like flowers known as composites. You’ve probably heard coreopsis called “tickseed,” which refers to the seeds. “Tickseed” derives from the Greek “koris” meaning bed-bug and “opsis” meaning appearance, according to NGB.
Many species are self-seeding and considered annuals (C. tinctoria) but the most common coreopsis include whorled tickseed (C. verticillata), lobed tickseed (C. auriculata) and large-flowered tickseed (C. grandiflora). “Early Sunrise” (C. grandiflora) was an All America Selection winner in 1989 and continues to be a best-seller.
Other varieties NGB lists as important include “Moonbeam,” “Zagreb” and “Nana.” Significant new introductions like “Sun Kiss,” the “Big Bang” series, “Hardy Jewel” and “UpTick” represent years of effort by breeders. Other series to watch for include “Li’l Bang,” which bloom earlier than the “Big Bang” series, and “Ka-Pow,” a series with big flowers on compact plants.
Coreopsis prefers sunny, well-drained locations. Most cultivars respond well to deadheading. Pinch off faded flowers or shear the plant to 50 percent of its original flowering height. Fertilize in the spring.