Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 7, 2003. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Early Sunrise offers beauty, performance
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Sitting at your local garden center just waiting for adoption is one of the most easily grown perennials, the Early Sunrise coreopsis. Known botanically as Coreopsis grandiflora, it is native to North America and offers brilliant golden-yellow flowers borne on 2-foot-long stems all summer. If that isn't enough, the Early Sunrise will return to your garden next year.
Early Sunrise, an All-America Selections Gold Medal winner, is cold-tolerant, hardy to zone 4, and heat-tolerant to zone 9. It is also drought-tolerant and tough enough to be planted street-side. This is one of the best perennials for the beginning gardener, guaranteeing a green thumb.
Select a site in full sun for optimal growth, although I have seen incredibly showy displays in morning sun and afternoon shade.
The only mandatory requirement for growth is well-drained soil. High fertility is not necessary, but if drainage is suspect, improve the soil by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, tilling to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
Set out nursery-grown transplants in early spring after the last frost at the same depth they were growing in the container, spacing plants 12 to 15 inches apart. Hybrid seed also can be planted with blooms in the first season.
One key cultural technique with the Early Sunrise coreopsis is to remove old flowers. This keeps the plant tidy and the blooms producing, and reduces the possibility of old flowers getting pathogens that can infect the rest of the plant. Seeds saved from one plant will not produce the same type. Early Sunrise probably will need dividing by the third year to keep the quality of the plant at its best. Clumps may be divided in spring or fall.
Early Sunrise coreopsis has unbeatable color for the perennial or cottage garden. Some of the prettiest combination plantings occur in the late spring garden when grown with the old-fashioned larkspur.
Another outstanding spring planting combines Early Sunrise with the tough-as-nails ox-eye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare. For a really showy display, use it as a companion to the Mississippi Medallion Award-winning Bouquet Purple dianthus.
In addition to those flowers, you also can use Early Sunrise with Honey Bee Blue agastache, Victoria Blue salvia or Indigo Spires salvia, or Hameln Dwarf Fountain grass -- all good perennials for Mississippi.
The All-America Selections Gold Medal winner Early Sunrise is superior, but there are also other good choices like Baby Sun, Sunray and Sunburst.
In addition to the Coreopsis grandiflora, consider the Coreopsis verticillata known as the thread-leaf coreopsis. Moonbeam, the 1992 Perennial Plant of the Year, is still the most popular, but many horticulturists regard Zagreb as the best. Golden Showers produces the largest flowers. Try also the annual coreopsis C. tinctoria.
Once you start growing perennials you will get hooked. It will become an almost insatiable passion. Winters like the one we've just endured will make you miserable with anticipation, yet winter will be a distant memory once the blooms of plants like the Early Sunrise start their bold display.