The girl’s eyes (Coreopsis), also known as fair face or bug flowers, originally come from North and South America. Many of the 115 species are native to the North American prairies, and a large part of the cultivated varieties also originated in the USA. As you can easily recognize by the pretty capitula flowers, girl’s eyes belong to the family of composite flowers (Asteraceae). The genus mainly comprises annuals and short-lived perennials, which are known for their abundance of flowers.
Scientific studies have shown that the species of the girl’s eye are closely related to the annual bidentate (bidens). For this reason, there are repeated calls to combine both genera under one name. And in fact the two look very similar. But while Bidens is used especially for balcony planting, most girls’ eyes feel most comfortable in the bed.
Appearance and growth
All species and varieties of the girl’s eye are characterised by colourful flower capitula which cover the upright to bushy growing plants over and over – and this from June to October. Girls’ eyes are therefore real permanent bloomers! The flowering zeal of the large flowered girl’s eye (Coreopsis grandiflora) is legendary In the meantime, the yellow range of perennial girl’s eyes has been expanded with new hybrids to include a whole palette of bright cocktail colours – so there are now also varieties with red, pink, white or reddish-brown pile, sometimes filled, sometimes unfilled. A small sensation were varieties which, like the annual cultivated dyer’s girl’s eye (C. tinctoria), have a red ring on the yellow petals. The leaves of the girl’s eyes are usually very narrow, sometimes pinnate and, depending on the species, sometimes basal, sometimes spread over the stem. The height of growth varies greatly, there are numerous species that grow between 10 and 80 centimetres high, others such as Coreopsis tripteris even reach a height of around 180 centimetres.
The lanceolate and the large-flowered girl’s eye (Coreopsis lanceolata and grandiflora) look very similar. However, most of the varieties of the large-flowered girl’s eye have longer stems and therefore produce the best cut flowers. If picked fresh from the garden, they will last up to two weeks in the vase. In the bed the golden yellow flares often provide colour for more than eight weeks. Sterile and semi-double varieties such as ‘Early Sunrise’ often flower even longer.
Location and soil
Girl eyes love the sun! All species also need a loose, humusy, nutrient-rich soil and cannot tolerate stagnant moisture. In their ancestral home in eastern North America, they thrive on fairly dry soil. In the garden they can therefore cope better with drought than many of their conspecifics. For example, the tallest girl’s eye (Coreopsis tripteris), at up to 1.80 metres, prefers fresh soil in sunny open spaces or on the edge of a wooded area. Not too dry is also loved by the Lancet, the Large-flowered Girl’s Eye and the Whorled Leaf Girl’s Eye (Coreopsis verticillata).
Girl’s eyes are among the most popular bedding perennials because of their flowering pleasure. The net star girl’s eyes are particularly popular. They grow bushy upright and, in combination with their filigree foliage, look like a veil of flowers. The warm yellow of the flat flowering plants underlines the cheerful mood in the late summer border. A sunshine like the proven ‘Grandiflora’ variety can be combined with all sun-loving perennials and flowering shrubs. Combinations with other prairie perennials such as Echinacea, Helenium or Rudbeckia are also very popular. The compact ‘Zagreb’, which is only 30 centimetres high, is often even better as a border for the bed. If you are looking for a cooler yellow, the sulphur yellow ‘Moonbeam’ is the right choice Girl’s eye varieties with unfilled flowers are popular as insect pasture.
Colourful girl’s eyes are often offered as seasonal flowers. They can be used very well to fill gaps in the bed or to spice up the balcony and terrace. In contrast to the well-known bedding varieties, they usually grow a little wider than high.
Planting and maintenance
The best planting time for girls’ eyes is spring. It is also possible to plant them in the summer months, but then you must water the plants well, especially in the first few weeks after planting. As the Girl’s Eye loves a nutrient-rich soil, you should rather improve lean, sandy soils with some compost already at planting.
Girls’ eyes are easy-care and uncomplicated flowering plants. If higher varieties threaten to fall apart, they can be tied loosely to a bamboo pole. In the bed, perennial support rings keep tippy candidates in shape. Compact varieties like the Verticillata variety ‘Zagreb’ or the densely bushy Lanceolata variety ‘Sterntaler’ are stable.
Girls’ eyes are richly flowering bedding shrubs that quickly wear out. To rejuvenate them, they are divided like other ornamental perennials after three years in spring at the latest and replanted in fresh soil.
If the large-flowered and the lancet-shaped girl’s eye is cut back to ground level in early autumn, the flowering period is shortened, but the formation of wintering rosettes is promoted. This way the plants get through the winter better and live longer. Verticillata varieties are shortened by two thirds at the beginning of October. Wilted flower stems should also be cleaned out continuously, as seed formation reduces the formation of new flower buds. It is best to cut off the already withered shoots close to the base. Especially the flowers of semi-double and double varieties look a bit unsightly in wilted condition and should therefore be trimmed for the sake of appearance alone. Some species will reassemble if they are cut back strongly at the end of July.
Girls’ eyes can be propagated by division or basal cuttings in spring. For some species and varieties, especially the short-lived ones, propagation by sowing is also possible. If you come across seed packets from girls’ eyes in the trade, these are mostly grandiflora varieties. These are sown in spring. Sowing under glass begins in March. From the end of April, you can sow directly in the field. Depending on the species and variety, it is worth doing the pre-cultivation indoors: then you might be able to enjoy flowers in the first year.
Diseases and pests
The girl’s eye can be attacked by aphids. Young plants are also often severely damaged by snails. Occasionally powdery mildew also occurs. In principle, however, girls’ eyes are quite robust and not very susceptible to diseases and pests.
Frequently asked questions
When do girls’ eyes sprout?
Girls’ eyes sprout in spring and flower from June to October.
How high does a girl’s eye get?
Depending on the species and variety, girl’s eyes usually grow between 10 and 80 centimetres high Some even reach a height of about 180 centimetres.
Are girl’s eyes perennial?
Girls’ eyes are usually annual. But there are also short-lived perennials.
Is the girl’s eye poisonous?
Unlike many other perennials, the eyes of girls are not poisonous.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.