Bidens provides a long display of flowers from summer right through to autumn, making it a beautiful ornamental plant for gardens and balconies.
Bidens form particularly insect-friendly flowers throughout the summer so they are a real magnet to bees and other pollinators. Keep reading to find tips on planting and caring for these lovely summer flowers.
Bidens: characteristics and origin
Bidens has many common names including beggartick, black jack, bur marigold, cobbler’s pegs, Spanish needle, tickseed sunflower, to name just a few! The genus belongs to the daisy plant family (Asteraceae) and is made up of more than 200 species worldwide. The large genus Bidens contains annual and perennial herbaceous plants which grow anywhere from 10 to 150 cm tall.
The fern-leaved beggar tick (Bidens ferulifolia) originates from Mexico and is best known as an ornamental summer flower for pots on balconies and patios with a height of 15 to 40 cm. The leaves are arranged opposite on upright, overhanging shoots and are broadly ovate to lanceolate in shape, with single or divided leaf blades. It blooms between May and October, with lots of flower heads formed at the end of each stem. The Bidens flower, typical of plants in the daisy family, is star shaped and consists of a centre of several small tubular flowers. It has a ring of usually five to seven, yellow, white, orange, red or pink coloured broad ray florets. In some species however, the ornamental corolla is missing. After pollination, elongated seeds with dark shells form the so-called achene fruits. They have an appendage for propagation, called a pappus, which inspired many of the common names used for Bidens. It usually consists of two bristle-like teeth with small hooks, which hook into the fur of animals when they brush past the flowers, transporting the seeds over long distances.
Are Bidens bee-friendly? Bidens are one of the most bee-friendly flowers, as they offer both nectar and pollen and have a slightly sweet scent. The flowers are a welcome sight for various species of bees and bumblebees.
The most beautiful varieties and species
The most common varieties are Bidens Hawaiian flare (Bidens triplinervia), Spanish needle (Bidens bipinnata), nodding bur marigold (Bidens cernua), tickseed sunflower (Bidens frondosa) and the purple-stem beggarticks (Bidens connata). As ornamental summer flowering plants, only varieties of beggar ticks and hybrid varieties are offered. Here is a list of just some of the most beautiful Bidens flower varieties for gardens and balconies.
- ‘Bee Dance’: The Beedance plant features impressive qualities with its long flowering period from June to October and ornamental, orange-yellow flowers.
- ‘Bee Happy’: Attractive variety with orange petals that lighten to golden yellow towards the centre. The variety ‘Bee Happy’ reaches a height of 35 cm and flowers between May and October.
- ‘Blazing Glory’: Bicoloured variety with sunny yellow petals that take on a dark orange hue towards the tip. The plants reach a height of 25 – 30 cm.
- ‘Cupcake Banana Cream’: Bidens hybrid with creamy yellow petals that are a slightly darker sunny yellow in the centre. This is a low-growing variety that reaches a height of just 15 – 25 cm.
- ‘Golden Empire’: With pure golden yellow flowers and a growth height of up to 40 cm. The flowering time of the ‘Golden Empire’ variety is between May and October.
- ‘Pretty in Pink’: Pale pink Bidens variety with dark pink stripes and a yellow centre. This extremely rare colouring appears between June and October on 35 cm tall plants.
- ‘Taka Tuka’: The colourful varieties of Bidens ferulifolia ‘Taka Tuka’ are characterised by a low, broad statureup to 35 cm in height and width. There are orange, white, yellow and red cultivars sold as ‘Taka Tuka’, which produce a lush carpet of flowers all summer long.
- ‘White Delight’: White Bidens with an overhanging shape and a height of 25 cm. This flowering variety with creamy white ray floretsis perfect for hanging baskets.
How to grow Bidens
The ideal location for the flowers is warm and sunny, with fresh, nutrient rich soil that is never completely dry. The plants also tolerate partial shade, but will usually produce fewer flowers. Plant outdoors from the middle of May after the risk of late frosts has passed. Space the plants about 25 to 40 cm apart, to allow the Bidens to spread well.
Growing Bidens in beds is just as successful as cultivation in pots and planters. Beggarticks are one of the most popular summer flowers for balcony boxes, hanging baskets, planters and troughs, as they require little root space, grow slightly overhanging and flower profusely. After buying Bidens plants, it is important to repot them into a larger container, as their roots have often already filled their existing pot.
As the plants do not tolerate waterlogging, make sure your containers have good drainage. For planting Bidens, we recommend using a nutrient-rich potting soil, such as our Plantura Organic Flower Compost. This peat-free compost is pre-fertilised and has a good supply of nutrients to nourish the Bidens plants in the first period after potting. The compost also has a good water storage capacity, allowing it to store moisture effectively and release it to the plant roots when needed.
In larger plant troughs or containers, bidens look great paired with other summer flowering plants. Combinations with white, violet or blue-flowering species are particularly attractive, such as trailing lobelia (Lobelia erinus), nemesia (Nemesia), sweet alyssum (Lobularia), tender geraniums (Pelargonium) or different sage species (Salvia).
How to care for Bidens
Correct care is fairly simple. The modern varieties shed their own flowers, so no dead-heading is required. Regular watering and fertilising are the most important care measures here, as with many annual summer flowers. As Bidens require slightly moist soil that must never completely dry out, water your plants well early in the morning, especially on hot summer days. As the Bidens produce lots of new shoots and flowers throughout the summer, their nutrient requirement also increases. Between June and September, a liquid fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Flower Food, provides the bee friendly plant with all the necessary nutrients. Simply mix it in with the irrigation water once a week to flush it straight to the roots of the plants.
Are Bidens plants hardy?
The Bidens planted in our gardens as summer bloomers are not winter hardy, as the varieties are mainly descended from the species native to Mexico. Even light frosts can severely damage the plant and cause it to die. Theoretically, overwintering is possible, but many summer flowering plants do not survive winter and suffer from fungal and pest infestations. Growing a new plant from seed in early spring or buying a fresh plant is more worthwhile than trying to overwinter the old plants. Older plants do not usually flower as vigorously and beautifully as young plants.
Bidens medicinal uses
For centuries, the Bidens Hawaiian flare has been used as a medicinal plant in folk medicine. The leaves, other parts of the plant, are harvested at flowering time and gently dried. This should be done in a well ventilated, warm place out of direct sunlight in order to preserve as many of the beneficial ingredients as possible, such as essential oils and tannins. The dried Bidens Hawaiian flare herb is infused with hot water and prepared as a tea or extract. Taken internally, the Hawaiian flare herb is effective as a diuretic and for the prevention of kidney stones and gallstones. As a sitz bath or moist poultice, the Bidens Hawaiian flare supports wound healing and is effective against haemorrhoids. The Arizona beggar tick (Bidens aurea) is also often used as an aromatic tea plant.
However, people with a known allergy to the daisy family should refrain from using Bidens as a medicinal plant.
Are beggarticks poisonous?
The plants are not toxic for humans or animals. For people with sensitive skin, contact with the plants can cause rare allergic skin irritations. It is therefore advisable to wear gloves when cutting or potting Bidens.
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) is another richly flowering summer plant that attracts bumblebees with its unusually shaped flowers. Discover our top tips on cultivating, caring for, and propagating snapdragons.