How to Care for Tickseed Flowers


Prized for their cheery flowers and dense foliage, tickseed flowers (Coreopsis spp.) are widely grown throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 9. Their dainty appearance belies their innate ruggedness and adaptability, a trait that allows them to survive in poor soil where other plants may fail. Tickseed flowers require minimal attention to perform well in most gardens. However, routine care will result in healthier, more attractive plants with better blooming.

Water Needs

  • Established tickseed flowers withstand moderate to extreme drought with minimal problems, although regular watering during the summer months will help promote better flowering and prevent wilting. Water if no rain falls for longer than one week. Provide 1 inch of water each time, moistening the soil until the top 6 to 15 inches are wet. Overwatering can promote toppling, so always let the soil dry out in the top few inches between waterings. Mulching reduces the need for frequent watering, so spread a 2-inch layer of lightweight mulch around each plant in spring after feeding, and replace it each year to eliminate insect pest eggs.

Fertilizer Requirements

  • Tickseed flowers are light feeders, requiring little supplemental fertilizer once established. In fact, overfeeding and rich soil can cause problems such as weak, leggy growth and diminished blooming. A light side-dressing of compost each spring provides sufficient nutrients to keep tickseed flowers growing and blooming all summer long. Spread a 1-inch-thick layer of compost around the base of the plant, taking care that it doesn't rest against the stems. Apply the 2-inch layer of mulch on top of the compost to hold it in place and keep it from washing away.

Pruning and Grooming

  • Blooming and frost take a toll on tickseed flowers, giving them an unkempt appearance. Removing the spent flowers, or deadheading, will help keep the plant tidy while prolonging its blooming season and preventing self-seeding. The first hard frost in autumn causes extensive foliage damage and stem dieback in tickseed flowers. Prune back the entire plant to within 1 to 2 inches of the soil surface after the first frost, to remove the dead and damaged stalks. Before deadheading or pruning, soak the blades of your pruning shears in a 50-50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water for five minutes to eliminate any pathogens, then wipe them dry before use.

Potential Problems

  • The correct growing conditions and care practices reduce the chances of serious disease and pest problems in tickseed flowers. However, they may occasionally suffer cosmetic damage due to aphids, mites and leaf beetles. Holes in the leaves, cottony matter on the stems and wilting foliage all indicate an insect problem. A 3-percent strength insecticidal soap solution will eliminate minor to moderate infestations if applied diligently for several weeks. Mix 8 tablespoons of insecticidal soap with 1 gallon of water. Spritz the solution onto the affected areas of the plant, saturating the insects. The solution must be rinsed off two to three hours after each application, then reapplied in four to seven days.

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