Sensational Susans Are a Perennial Delight
The black-eyed Susan, which delights many a gardener, refers to a group of plants with yellow, daisy-like petals called rays and a black or dark brown center cone. They belong to the genus Rudbeckia (pronounced rood BECK ee ah) named for the Swedish botanist, Olaf Rudbeck. You may know them by one of their other common names, gloriosa daisy and orange coneflower.
This versatile genus includes annuals, perennials and short-lived perennials (two to three years) – something for everyone. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture Growing Zones 3-10, with bloom time varying from June to October. Plant heights range from compact container plants to 7-foot border plants.
Looking for a garden workhorse? Add some black-eyed Susans to your horticulture stable. Home gardeners find them easy to grow in a variety of sites, including containers, borders or even naturalized in low-maintenance settings such as wildflower gardens and prairie fields. You may have seen them downstate along interstate no-mow zones, especially at exits.
The Susans enjoy a long season of bloom. They make a good starter plant for beginner gardeners, being mostly trouble-free while adding a lot of color for not much work. Rudbeckias produce good cut flowers because of their strong stems. Don’t cut them down when doing your fall cleanup. They provide visual interest in the winter for us and seeds for overwintering birds.
Speaking of seeds, Susans self-seed, which may be a good thing or a bad thing. It depends upon whether you want more plants or prefer to keep them corralled in a small space.
The variety Goldstrum is derived from a native prairie plant and grows well in Illinois, as does its cousin, Rudbeckia triloba, a brown-eyed Susan. “Triloba” refers to its leaves with three lobes. Do you want to grow an All-America Selection winner? Choose Rudbeckia hirta, Prairie Sun, a short-lived perennial, or an annual, Cherokee Sunset. They won in 2003 and 2002, respectively.
How about something taller for the back of a border? Try one of my favorites, Rudbeckia nitida, Herbstonne. Bright yellow, almost neon petals drape down from a green cone on a tall, graceful plant. Strong country winds can make it lean a bit, but plants in town will not need any support. Even taller? Grow Rudbeckia maxima. It blooms at 7 feet above beautiful blue-green foliage.
Black-eyed, brown-eyed or green-eyed, they all add sensation to your garden.
Ask the Expert
My forsythia plants are overgrown. Can I prune them into a hedge this fall?
It’s possible, but you will cut off next spring’s color. Prune forsythia immediately after it finishes blooming in spring.
There is a greenish, grayish, bluish something growing on my trees. How do I get rid of it?
You don’t. You’ve discovered lichen, which doesn’t harm the tree. Lichen can’t grow in polluted air, so you must have good air quality.