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Whorled tickseeds won’t make you itch

Kristi Hendricks

2018 is the year of the coreopsis, so says the National Garden Bureau. With a little practical experience with this plant, you’ll see why the coreopsis is held in such high regard. There are some 80 species of indigenous coreopsis in the Americas. Coreopsis verticillata, referred to as thread-leaf or whorled coreopsis [tickseed,] is native to many Virginia counties, including those Southside.

Coreopsis thrives in sandy soils that allow for good drainage and is tolerant of the heat, humidity and drought that we experience in abundance this time of year. The species plant enjoys dry open woodlands and road banks primarily sited in acidic soils.

Nurseries generally label this plant tickseed, and here is the reason why. The genus name Coreopsis is derived from the Greek word koris meaning bug and opsis meaning appearance of the seed. The shape of the seed resembles a tick or some other bug. Don’t worry, it is neither. Focus on the coreopsis’ lovely mound of flowers readily found in such cheerful colors as yellow and gold with perhaps red mixed in.

Virginia Cooperative Extension includes the coreopsis species among those plants that attract beneficial insects to serve as natural enemies to harmful, invasive anthropods. This pest management technique called “farmscaping” emphasizes the arrangement of plants that promote biological pest management by sustaining beneficial organisms. Farmscape plantings also suppress weeds and grow in close proximity to cash crops without competing for light, water and nutrients (VCE publication ENTO-52.)

Home gardeners welcome the daisy-like flowers sitting atop dense clumps of delicate, fern-like foliage. Blooming from late spring to late summer, this perennial tides a garden over with bright color during a season when many other plants wither from the heat.

The compact ‘Moonbeam’ is a popular cultivar that doesn’t self-seed. That said, you can easily take rhizome cuttings from the parent plant. Transplant the plant cuttings to other garden areas, containers or hanging baskets. The best time for propagating is in early spring when rainfall is expected soon.

Coreopsis is a perfect clumping plant for borders, naturalized rocky areas and native plant or cottage gardens. Site in full sun and avoid overly moist areas to prevent plant sprawl. With a mid-summer foliage cutback, a rebloom in fall is assured, much to butterfly and bee delight. This late bloom is also handy for including in autumnal cut flower bouquets.

Many other cultivars are commercially available in a broad range of colors, including creamy white. With the release of each new variety, the coreopsis’ colorful petals and center disk flowers seem more enhanced.

Contact the Master Gardener Helpline to learn of other carefree summer perennials by calling 356-1979 (Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-noon.)

KRISTI HENDRICKS is a member of the Western Tidewater Master Gardeners. Contact her at GardenontheJames@yahoo.com.