Rudbeckia in the Border Garden
This is my site Written by Geoff on September 1, 2004 – 7:16 pm

We find that there are some plants that you just cannot have too many of, in our case it is the Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susans. The showy character of this plant make them particularly useful in bold masses, especially around outbuildings, fences, and where unsightly objects are to be hidden. We find that they work particularly well with ornamental grasses and mallows. In some form, Rudbeckia are used in every one of our sunny beds and borders. 

An extremely hardy native of our tall grass prairies, they are both drought and pest resistant. Even the great herds of buffalo, that once roamed the great plains, could not kill this tough critter. Black Eyed Susans not only survived the great prairie fires and “dust bowl” conditions of the 20’s and 30’s but actually expanded their range. 

There are approximately twenty native species, annuals, biennial and perennial varieties, growing in the Midwestern region. Most species like a lean well drained soil in full sun or light shade but will also do well in moist locations. This hardy soul has even been found growing on clay bluffs and limestone ridges of Missouri. 

All varieties of Rudbeckia have golden yellow flowers with a dark, usually raised, central cone. They bloom for 6-8 weeks, beginning in late June. You can prolong the blooming period by deheading or cutting the plant back. Please be sure to stop early enough to allow some of the cones to mature for Winter bird feeding. 

By planting several species, you can have Black-Eyed Susan blooming through late Fall. All Rudbeckia serve admirably as cut flowers, for their stems are long and the flowers long lasting. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds all like these high centered flowers. We use the taller varieties, with Joe Pye Weed, New England Asters, and Mountain Mint in our butterfly gardens. 

Although all but one species can be grown from seed, we find division in early Spring works best. Being such a hardy plant, simply dig up the root ball, cut into sections with a sharp knife or trowel, and replant as we would a hosta. Actually digging up the plant helps to keep them under control for while not invasive they are extremely vigorous. 

Rudbeckias are equally at home on the prairie, in the border garden, for attracting birds and butterflies, or in the formal flower arrangement. We find them growing in the home rock garden or moist country swale. Even fire and wild animals cannot kill this plant. Little wonder why we use it so often in our gardens. 

Here are some of the more popular Rudbeckia that you my wish to try in your garden: 

Rudbeckia fulgida VAR. Sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
It is a compact 2-3 foot selection of Black-Eyed Susan that blooms for 6-8 weeks in mid-to-late summer. Numerous golden yellow ray flowers with black central cones cover this plant in a profusion of color. 

Rudbeckia grandiflora ‘Black-Eyed Susan’
It is a species of the dry prairie, a truly giant Black-Eyed Susan. Long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristic of the species. Each stem yields a single bloom, but with many, many flowering stems, flowers mature to showy tall cones on 3-4 foot plant. 

Rudbeckia maxima ‘Cabbage Leaf Coneflower’
It is a dramatic Black-Eyed Susan 6-7 foot that adds vertical drama to the natural landscape as well as in the cultivated sunny garden. We grow this Rudbeckia for its eye-catching large, coarse foliage that resembles oversized cabbage leaves. 

Rudbeckia speciosa v. Newmanii ‘Compact Black-Eyed Susan’
It is one of the shortest and latest blooming. Flowers are slightly smaller than most Rudbeckia but abundant on compact 2 foot plants. 

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Three-Lobed or Thin-Leaved Coneflower’
It has small but numerous brown-eyed flowers that appear from late summer through early fall on 3-5 foot plants. It tolerates light shade, poor soils and drought. 

Rudbeckia missouriensis ‘Missouri Coneflower”
It is an attractive, long lived perennial wildflower excellent for cut flowers. It provides natural color when planted in the butterfly or rock garden. Missouri Black-eyed Susan is equally at home in formal flower beds or naturalized in a prairie meadow. 

Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Sweet Black-eyed Susan’
It receives its common names from the flower’s sweet anise scent. Numerous 3 inch flowers consisting of yellow petals around dome-shaped central disks provide nectar for butterflies and seed for Goldfinches. This sweetly scented flower occurs naturally in low meadows, open slopes, stream banks, and prairies. 

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Gold Drop”
It is a free flowering, hardy Black Eyed Susan with double, 2 inch, yellow flowers on 2-3 foot stems. Very attractive used in cut flowers arrangements. 

Some other Rudbeckia worth considering for your garden are: 

  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Irish Eyes’
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Marmalade’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Gloriasa Daisy’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Lemon’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sonora’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’
  • Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’
  • Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’
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Modified: March 7, 2009 at 7:17 pm GMT-0800

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