A little love for the Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susans are the perfect low-maintenance garden plant

You gotta love the Black-eyed Susan.

That cheery yellow with its definitive brown or black centre can bring a smile to even the non-gardener’s face, just as other plants in the garden fall victim to the dog-days of summer.

This tough, late summer native plant is as comfortable in our gardens as it is naturalized in grassy meadows.

(The importance of using native plants in our gardens is explored in great detail in my article here.)

In our garden, the hard-working Rudbeckia Hirta takes prominance in both the front, back and side gardens where I have let them naturalize and self-seed. They are just too easy and fun not to grow in our gardens.

Goldfinches depend on them for their late autumn/winter seed heads, and deer, well they pretty much leave them alone once they get past their spring tender young growth and develop their hairy leaves and stems. Butterflies and bees are attracted to Rudbeckia Hirta and the plant is a larval host to three butterflies including the gorgone and silvery checkerspot species.

What’s not to love?

Rudbeckia hirta, commonly called black-eyed Susan, is native to Eastern and Central North America. Its wide range is evident after having been found in all 10 Canadian provinces and 48 states. It’s a member of the sunflower family and a workhorse in the New American Garden along with sedum Autumn Joy and natural grasses. Although most of the plants in our gardens are likely of the perennial variety, there are biennial and annual varieties.

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These are heat and drought tolerant native plant

If you are looking for a low-maintenance plant, Rudbeckia hirta is both heat and drought tolerant. It self-seeds and is able to grow in a variety of soils, but prefers a neutral soil pH and a full sun to light shade location. Deadheading, though unnecessary, will encourage more blooms and a stronger, less leggy plant.

The daisy-like flowers can be single semi-double, and fully-double. All, however, sport coarse-textured, scratchy, hairy leaves. Black-eyed Susans work well with Sedum Autumn Joy, purple coneflower and New England asters as well as many of the grasses that have become so popular in our gardens.

An important part of the New American Garden is using plants that perform in summer, fall and winter. Black-eyed Susans certainly meet that criteria. The plants have a strong winter presence in the garden, if the seed heads are left on the plants. Their dark stems give the plant architectural interest all winter and the seed heads covered in snow add a whimsical note to the winter garden.

• If you are considering creating a meadow in your front or backyard, be sure to check out The Making of a Meadow post for a landscape designer’s take on making a meadow in her own front yard.

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A few rudbeckia varieties

Here are a few varieties of rudbeckia you might be interested in for your garden:

Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.


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