Plant profile: Dyers Coreopsis

Earthed Up! grow edible and useful plants and we have a range of plants for dyeing fibres, such as perennials Madder and Dyers chamomile. The range also includes easy to grow plants such as Woad – a biennial giving blue colour, that can perennialise, and Dyer’s Coreopsis which is a hardy annual.

You may know Coreopsis as there are many types. This one is particularly good for getting pigment which may yield yellows, oranges or browns from it’s abundant flowers. Save the flowers for dyeing by cutting them off just as they are in full bloom. Store them in a paper bag until you have enough for dyeing your fibres. 800ml of fresh flowers can dye 100g of fibre, or 400ml of dried flowers. (Put flowers in a measuring jug and see how far up they come on the ml’s). Coreopsis dyes wool and silk well, but not cotton or other plant fibres. Consult a good dye book to find a recipe for using Dyers Coreopsis as a dye. My favourite dye book is Wild Colour How to make and use natural dyes by Jenny Dean.

Coreopsis belongs to the daisy family and is native to North America. It is an annual growing up to 100 cm. The young plants have thin rounded leaves and take a while to grow more robustly. From June, gorgeous deep yellow and red flowers appear on slender stems. The flowers are pollinated by bees and the seeds ripen from June to October.

Coreopsis grows best in full sun. Dead head to get more flowers. You can save ripe seed from this plant and sow it again next spring, or allow it to self seed in the same bed. This wouldn’t work in my garden well because slugs love the young plants but if you have a nice expanse of border, which is generally not bothered by slugs, give it a go.

Dyer’s Coreopsis showing deep colours, next to a Musk mallow flower. In the main picture you can see coreopsis growing along side Madder and woad to the left.

I think Dyer’s Coreopsis is a great multi-functional plant; it attracts wildlife, self seeds, looks beautiful in drifts with other plants as it has a kind of see through quality, and you can dye fibres with it!

It’s not too late to plant it now (August) for flowers throughout the Autumn.

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