Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

January 24, 2020

By Matt

Did You Know?

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is Maryland’s State Flower!


Caption: Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’
  • Black-eyed Susan is a perennial flowering plant that grows to 2 to 3 feet in height. Plants have dark green foliage and grow in upright clumps 1 to 2 feet across. Leaves are hairy and lance-shaped, about 6 inches in length.
  • In late spring through fall, black-eyed Susans most commonly feature profuse golden-yellow blooms with large dark-brown center cones. Some Rudbeckia hirta cultivars have orange, red, bronze, purple, or bi-colored flowers.
  • Plants spread via rhizomes, or underground stems, and will reseed under the right conditions.
  • Black-eyed Susan is a native species in meadows and woodlands throughout North America.

What Makes Black Eyed Susan So Awesome?

Caption: Black-eyed Susan   

Black-eyed Susan’s native golden flowers are an attractant for butterflies and other pollinators, and their long blooming season makes them a reliable nectar source. Seed heads left in place at the end of the season provide winter interest and food for finches, nuthatches, chickadees, and other birds. 

Plants add height to a perennial or cutting garden, provide bold color to complement ornamental grasses, and are showy “thrillers” for containers. Large blooms with interesting center cones and strong stems make black-eyed Susans excellent cut flowers. 

Black-eyed Susans require little maintenance, tolerate drought and hot weather once established, and are resistant to deer and rabbits.

How Can I Grow One?

Black-eyed Susans prefer moist, well-drained soil and will produce larger blooms in full sun, but will tolerate average soil and partial shade. Plant at least 18 inches apart—farther for larger cultivars—to ensure adequate air circulation. Provide regular water, but allow soil surface to dry between waterings.

Plants are largely pest-free, but can be affected by powdery mildew and angular leaf spot, which can be prevented by adequately spacing plants, avoiding overhead watering, and removing old foliage in fall and before new growth emerges in spring.

Fertilizer is usually unnecessary, and over fertilizing may cause black-eyed Susan’s normally strong stems to weaken and droop.

Deadheading ensures plenty of new flowers all season. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years in early spring to ensure healthy growth. Plants will form large colonies, and naturalize well. Black-eyed Susan grows in USDA Zones 4 to 9.

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