When Should I Prune Coreopsis?

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Coreopsis is a cheery, mostly perennial North American native that can tough it out in almost any sunny garden, flowering for weeks throughout the late spring and summer. There are many different kinds of ​Coreopsis​, with at least 80 known species growing in meadows and other hot, sun-drenched spots. Wild species typically have lance-shaped or ferny leaves and abundant yellow or gold flowers. Newer varieties come in red, pink, white, and purple flowers as well. Also known as tickseed, most coreopsis perennial varieties can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9 in any well-drained soil. Pink coreopsis (​C. rosea​) is an exception from the North, growing in damp spots in zones 4 to 7.

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Depending on the variety, coreopsis generally grows 1 to 2 feet tall, topped with numerous blooms that attract bees and butterflies. Regardless of which species you grow, pruning will encourage your coreopsis to send up more flowers and lengthen its blooming season.

Deadheading Coreopsis Flowers

After the first flush of flowers, coreopsis will slow down or cease blooming unless you remove spent blooms. That's because the plant is using energy to produce seeds instead of more blooms. This is the case with any common garden coreopsis but is especially true of golden coreopsis (​C. tinctoria)​, an annual wildflower with golden petals and dark maroon centers that must complete its life cycle in one year. To encourage your coreopsis to continue blooming, regularly deadhead dying blooms from the plant. Using pruning shears, snip each flower stalk right at the base just beside the main stem.

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Pruning Overgrown or Overtired Coreopsis in Summer

Most coreopsis species only grow to 2 feet, and some are even more compact. However, plants can become leggy and unattractive. Flowering also slows significantly after a few weeks, typically in mid or late summer. Shearing your coreopsis can send out a flush of new growth and new flowers. Using pruners or hedge shears, shear the plant by 25 to 50 percent. You may have to sacrifice a few flower buds in the interest of motivating your coreopsis to rebloom. Within a couple of weeks, the plant will be blooming again until the days shorten in fall.

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Pruning Coreopsis in Fall

At the end of the growing season, you can choose to leave any remaining flowers to go to seed. The seeds provide food for wild birds and could benefit you as well with new plants in the spring. However, if you prefer a tidier garden or don't want the plant to reseed, remove flower stems just as you did in summer.

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Once frost arrives in the fall, prune perennial coreopsis down to about 6 inches from the ground and remove any dead leaves and debris from around the plant. The remaining leaves and stems will help protect the crown and feed the plant throughout winter. If you live in a cold climate, add a light layer of mulch around the plant to help the roots survive winter temperatures and return with fresh growth and a new round of blooming in the spring.

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