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Share to PinterestThe Ultimate Calliopsis Growing Guide
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The Ultimate Calliopsis Growing Guide

By Alicia Smith
Share to PinterestThe Ultimate Calliopsis Growing Guide

Spotted in meadows across North America every summer, calliopsis' gold and crimson blooms have been utilized by Native Americans for centuries. Tribes boiled the flowers to produce a flavorful morning beverage, used the roots to make a stomach discomfort-easing tea, and, according to legend, used that same tea to protect the drinker against lightning and storms.

With over 80 species naturalized across the continent, this colorful flower remains a popular choice.


Your calliopsis' new home

Share to PinterestCluster of Coreopsis tinctoria

Plants in the Coreopsis family, like calliopsis, are relatively low-maintenance and grow effortlessly in their natural environment. They can be grown both indoors and out, and not much prep work is required.

Outdoors, add mulch to the soil to get your planting spot ready, and indoors, do the same by mixing peat moss with potting soil. Both aid moisture retention and growth rates, so your coreopsis will be ready to sprout come early summer.


Planting your calliopsis

While most coreopsis varieties aren't picky about soil quality or pH levels, well-draining soil is key. Select a planting spot with a neutral pH if possible, ensuring that it can drain efficiently without getting waterlogged. Some of the most beautiful blooms can be spotted along roadways, blossoming just fine when left to their own devices. If you're dealing with damp clay soil, compost can add significant drainage, transforming a forgotten about area into a gorgeous growing destination.

Calliopsis should be planted in the spring after the winter frost ends; it'll bloom from early summer through mid-fall. Dig a hole about the same depth as the root ball, leaving space around the edge for air circulation. Add an enriched potting soil or fertilizer and cover with soil so that the root ball rests slightly above the soil. Water after planting, and you'll see seedlings emerge within just three weeks.


A healthy start (1 of 3): sunlight requirements for calliopsis

To reach optimum growth, coreopsis plants should remain in direct sunlight for a minimum of six to eight hours each day. While they'll tolerate partial sunlight, you'll notice a drastic difference in the final result — flowers will be nominal, with the stalks not as strong.

If blooming's a struggle, then too much shade is likely the culprit. Ample lighting is a vital aspect of calliopsis growth, so if there's no spot on your lawn with sufficient sunlight, plant them in a pot that you can move to reach high levels of direct lighting.

Share to Pinterestflower coreopsis tinctoria
Oscar Yoshinori Toyofuku / Getty Images


A healthy start (2 of 3): watering

Share to PinterestCoreopsis tinctoria, flower

Water your calliopsis plants one to two inches each week. A light layer of mulch should be applied on top of the soil, and you'll water directly on top of this until plants are moist without being soggy.

Once plants reach maturity, they'll ramp up their drought resistance capabilities, but routine watering is the best way to ensure flourishing flowers. Water in the early morning to prevent leaves from becoming too moist.


A healthy start (3 of 3): special nutrients

While many plants thrive with the addition of fertilizer, calliopsis is an exception. Fertilizer is a no-go for these popular plants, as it encourages excessive, disproportionate growth, and minimal flowering by targeting energy into the leaves rather than the buds themselves.

Add compost to the soil to give your calliopsis a healthy boost without damage. Organic matter such as eggshells, fruit and vegetable rinds, hedge trimmings, dry leaves, and coffee grounds are all it takes to help your plants flourish.

Share to Pinterestwoman in casual clothing holding a box of used coffee ground to use as compost in her garden
DGLimages / Getty Images


USDA zone information

Calliopsis achieves robust growth in hardiness zones four through nine, which encompass the majority of the U.S. With the exception of the far north and the deepest south, your plants will come in strong.

Warmer temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees are preferred during the day, while lower temperatures of 50 to 60 are most effective at night. The level of cold tolerance depends on the species, so if you're in a colder area, look for hardier varieties.

Share to PinterestMulticoloured flowers of a coreopsis tinctoria or golden tickseed plant
Karin de Mamiel / Getty Images


Healthy growth: pruning your calliopsis

Pruning is a vital process for calliopsis plants, encouraging stronger flowers and healthier-looking leaves. First, remove any dead leaves, dry mulch, and loose petals surrounding the plant. Then, start pruning by cutting away faded stems just above the area where new leaves start sprouting, which is about two to three inches above the ground.

Continue cutting away any excess dead flowers and stems until the remaining blooms appear healthy and strong. This is an excellent time to add more compost to the soil, encouraging fresh growth all season long.

Share to PinterestTickseed
schnuddel / Getty Images


Preparing for winter

Wintering calliopsis is a simple process that will fully prepare your flowers for spring. After the plant dies, leave the remaining foliage and stems exactly as they are. While this means more pruning preparation in spring, it also serves as a protective layer for wintering plants.

Add more organically rich compost to the soil to encourage fresh growth following the frost, and apply a thick, three-to-four-inch layer of mulch — bark chips or straw — to increase insulation and warmth all winter.

Share to Pinterestmulching garden conifer bed with pine tree bark mulch
ronstik / Getty Images


Can I propagate my calliopsis?

Coreopsis is a strong species, but plants don't last much longer than the five-year mark. If you're experiencing a lower level of flowering than usual, it's time to propagate through division.

Spring is the ideal season to achieve this. Dig up a sizable clump of a mature plant, leaving the roots intact. Split this clump into three to five smaller sections, ensuring that healthy roots are left firmly attached. Finally, replant these sections in a new growing zone and amp up the watering routine until they've matured.


Common diseases

Share to Pinterestmulticoloured flowers of a coreopsis tinctoria

Astor yellows is the most common disease that affects calliopsis. If you notice discoloration, deformation, or yellowing at the tops of the leaves, then this is a probable cause. Miniscule, bushy plants branching off from the calliopsis, loss of pigment, and small yellow spots are also signs of this issue.

While there is no 100% effective cure, prevention through proper sunlight, watering, aeration, and insecticide can work wonders. If this disease is popular in your area, aim for an insecticide targeted directly at Aster leafhoppers and remove any damaged leaves to prevent further invasion.


Common pests

Coreopsis is a pest-free plant for the most part, but it still faces a small share of predators. Damp conditions bring on pesky intruders like snails and slugs, but thankfully, these are relatively easy to eliminate. Proper air circulation and sunlight can a long way toward warding off unwanted invaders.

Share to PinterestA Wrinkled Snail, Xeroplexa intersecta, resting on blade of grass
sandra standbridge / Getty Images


Showing off your calliopsis

These lush flowers look best planted in masses, in sunny borders surrounding your home, or in containers near a bright window. Calliopsis also makes an excellent contrast to plants with bold foliage, such as Angel's trumpet and Persian Ivy, or mixed in with blooms of diverse hues.

Share to Pinterest Plains Coreopsis Yellow Flowers against Green Field
Agnieszka Klimaszewska / Getty Images


Similar plants

As members of the plant subclass Magnoliids, calliopsis is the relative of many stunning species — approximately 9,000, in fact. Other Magnoliids include bay laurel, tulip trees, cinnamon, avocado, nutmeg, and magnolias.

Share to PinterestTulip Poplar Bloom
Jim Still-Pepper / Getty Images


Cautions and additional information

Coreopsis is non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, and it attracts a wide range of bees, butterflies, and other popular pollinators. Frequently produced into dyes, the plant's uses extend beyond its aesthetic appeal.

The flower's bright yellows, oranges, and browns can easily be used for dying directly at home; all you'll need is about 800 ml of fresh flowers paired with a similar amount of fabric.

Share to PinterestThistle butterfly on tickseed flower
schnuddel / Getty Images


Varieties of calliopsis

Share to PinterestCoreopsis grandiflora

Since dozens of calliopsis species exist, there's a type for every garden. While they vary in appearance, care is similar among all of them.

Early Sunrise is recognized for its large, bright yellow flowers, while Golden Showers pairs bold golden-yellow blooms with long stems. Moonbeam features a compact shape with a more buttery shade of yellow, and Nana features florals in a mauve-pink hue.



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