Native Plants for the Uninitiated 4: Bee-Friendly Coreopsis

Threadleaf Coreopsis is a wildflower that is native to the United States and Canada

In this fourth post of the series, another native flower that is friendly to our North American ecosystem and lovely in the garden: Coreopsis. Sometimes called tickseed, this flower grows wild in the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. It is adaptable and prolific, a part of the Aster family, and has flowers that look like little daisies. Most bloom in yellow, but there are pink and red varieties, too. And with respect to varieties–there are many. Threadleaf, lance-leafed and large-flowered seem to be the three main varieties. I have a bunch of threadleaf Coreopsis growing next to my potting shed; the thin little leaves have a bunching, delicate look, and this variety makes a nice border since it doesn’t grow tall. Some varieties do, though, so check to see which type you are planting before you clear a place on the border of your garden for it!

This plant has been popular with gardeners since the 19th century and comes with references: The Spruce calls it easy to grow and adaptable, even foolproof. They have a nice article that features 8 varieties. The U.S. forest service calls the lance-leafed Coreopsis, which is the most common variety of this plant a “dependable and prolific flowering native perennial.”

A few attributes that are of interest to the ecologically minded:

  • it has special value to native bees
  • attracts birds and butterflies
  • is a nectar source
  • its seeds are eaten by birds.

Coreopsis, like Rudbeckia, Bee Balm, and Purple Coneflower, is commercially available and can be propagated with seed. It likes well-drained soil and full sun. These plants grow in clumps but they have rhizomes and form in colonies. It is drought tolerant, and will self seed where it doesn’t come back after a cold winter. Of note, Coreopsis requires frequent deadheading to keep it blooming–that is the the only drawback to this plant, I think. Dividing every two seasons will keep them vigorous.

Consider leaving them uncut for the winter to provide food for your local birds! And then in the spring, cut back as needed before new growth begins to enjoy a season of beautiful, bee-friendly blooms!

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