I'm looking to grow some Coreopsis/tickseed plants in containers on my balcony, mostly to attract birds and pollinators but also for their visual appeal. An employee at the plant store suggested varieties "Zagreb" and "Moonbeam" as being closer to the native, uncultivated flower (lines up with this recommendation about using nativars vs natural varietes https://gardening.stackexchange.com/a/57236/24416). However, the Zagreb and Moonbeam coreopsis on sale are notably more stringy and kind of all over the place compared to the other varieties, which have pretty and compact foliage. On the other hand, googling these varieties shows me images of lovely foliage just like the other varieties I saw on sale.

My question is: Are the less cultivated varieties of coreopsis naturally very loose and diffuse, or was I just looking at a bad bunch that maybe needed to stretch for some extra sun in the nursery?

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If you're in the US, then the non-threadleaf coreopsis are much closer in appearance and habit to Coreopsis lanceolata and Coreopsis tripteris (both native to eastern and central US; the latter into Florida) . The Zagreb and Moonbeam are derived from Coreopsis verticillata, which is native primarily to the US East Central US. Their form is about the same as the species, but will be kind of stringy and floppy if not in full sun. This may be what you're seeing. In my own experience, cultivars of C. lanceolata are better pollinator plants than those of C. verticillata.

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