By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Coreopsis is a daisy like flower that is dependable and colorful. Plains coreopsis, Coreopsis tinctoria, blooms from spring to fall and is easy to grow. This plant also has the common name of tickseed, which refers to the fact that the seed resembles a tick. In fact, the genus name, Coreopsis, which comes from the Greek words koris meaning "bug" and opsis meaning "like" refers to this resemblance. Its species name, tinctoria, refers to the spirally whorls of leaves. Plains coreopsis is native to the Great Plains and is the most widespread Coreopsis species in Texas. You can find it throughout the state brightening our prairies, plains, meadows, and roadsides
This plant is an annual, but the seed is readily available in a range of sizes from a packet to pounds. Choose a site for your seed that has well drained soil and is in full sun to part shade. You may want to have easy access to this plant because most gardeners like to use the cut flowers inside their homes. These are hardy plants and will tolerate just about anything West Texas can throw at them from deer to shallow, rocky soil so they are perfect for naturalizing. If you want more blooms, deadhead the plant after blooming but if you want more plants next year let it set seeds! You can let it reseed naturally or save some seeds and sow then in a new area.
Plains coreopsis is a great nectar plant for pollinators including native bees and butterflies. The characteristic red to reddish brown colors on the petals are nectar guides which lead pollinators like bees to their reward, nectar, and in return, the plant gets efficient pollination to produce seeds. And those seeds in turn feed seed eating birds.
Humans as well have made use of this plant. Native Americans used different parts to make a tea to treat internal pains and to strengthen blood. But it is as a dye plant that this American native has spread around the world. My daughter (Emmy), a fiber artist, grows Plains Coreopsis in her garden and uses it for dyeing. She can get a range of colors from yellow through orange to brown depending on the mordant, a chemical that helps fix a dye to a substrate, and the pH of the dye bath.
So, if you want a carefree, cheerful plant that just makes you smile, connects to our Texas heritage, and can open a new hobby, then Plain Coreopsis, Coreopsis tinctoria is the plant for you. Order some seeds, it is not to late to sow them for next year.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.