9 Great Rudbeckia Varieties

Black-eyed Susans with brown centers and yellow petals

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

The Rudbeckia genus has a rich history as a native wildflower, popular first as a medicinal herb used by pre-colonial Native Americans and then finding its way into 19th century cultivated flowerbeds. Two of the most common species in the genus are Rudbeckia hirta, often known as black-eyed Susan, and R. triloba, commonly called brown-eyed Susan.

These two species are often confused with one another. The "brown-eyed" and "black-eyed" labels are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to any of the commonly grown Rudbeckia species and their cultivars—even those that have been bred to eliminate the dark flower centers. However, black-eyed Susans are larger and have more petals than brown-eyed Susans. There are some additional rudbeckia varieties that are also common garden plants.

Asking for little beyond regular garden loam and a full day of sun, rudbeckia plants will bloom during the dog days of summer and beyond, attracting bees and butterflies with plentiful pollen and nectar offerings. Include a few rudbeckia plants in your cottage garden, let them grace your flowering containers, or install some of the rugged flowers beside your mailbox for a cheerful welcome.

Gardening Tip

Most rudbeckias are short-lived perennials that may die out after just a couple of years. However, these plants self-seed very easily, and they grow so fast that a small patch can be sustained almost indefinitely.

  • 01 of 09

    'Indian Summer' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer')

    'Indian Summer' rudbeckias with yellow petals and brown centers
    National Garden Bureau

    If you’ve seen rudbeckia plants in commercial landscaping applications, chances are they're the 'Indian Summer' variety of R. hirta. Interest in this cultivar exploded after the All-America Selections named it a 1995 winner. You can grow this heat- and drought-tolerant plant as a short-lived perennial, but it blooms from seed its first year and volunteers freely, making it suitable as an annual as well. Watch for the fuzzy green seedlings to emerge in early spring, and thin them out to give the plants adequate spacing, which helps prevent mildew from poor air circulation.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 2–3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 02 of 09

    'Prairie Sun' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun')

    'Prairie Center' rudbeckia with green centers and gold petals
    Ralf Liebhold / Getty Images

    The green centers of this orange and yellow flower give 'Prairie Sun' versatility in cut flower arrangements, popping nicely against blue flowers like delphiniums, bachelor’s buttons, and asters. Buy small transplants sold in nursery cell packs in the spring for flowers that last from June until ​the first frost. Although your original plants may not return, self-seeding will refill the flowerbed for the following season. Plant the flowers in full sun in medium moisture, well-drained soil. 

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–8
    • Height: 30–36 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 09

    'Moreno' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Moreno')

    'Moreno' rudbeckias with burgundy and gold coloring
    National Garden Bureau

    Rudbeckia hirta 'Moreno' is a shorter cultivar that deserves a special place at the front of a sunny flower border. Burgundy and orange flower petals provide the rich jewel tones that accent classic fall flower arrangements. The 'Moreno' variety blooms from June to the first frost. It tolerates heat, drought, and nearly all conditions except poorly drained, wet soil. The flowers self-seed easily. 

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 12–18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 09

    'Irish Eyes' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes')

    'Irish Eyes' rudbeckias with yellow-green centers and yellow petals
    Bill Murray

    Butterflies, birds, and bees won't miss the glowing yellow beacons of Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes.' This is a black-eyed Susan without black eyes: The centers of the blooms are greenish-yellow. Combine this bold wildflower with other natives like liatris, salvia, or butterfly milkweed for a low-maintenance flower garden, even in areas with heavy clay soil. Highlight the attractive green centers of these blooms by pairing them with green flowers in your flowerbed, like Zinnia 'Envy' or Rudbeckia occidentalis 'Green Wizard.' If you don't have a large space for a flower garden, 'Irish Eyes' does well in container gardens. It's a bit less drought tolerant than other R. hirta cultivars, however.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–9
    • Height: 27–31 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    'Cherokee Sunset' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset')

    'Cherokee Sunset' rudbeckias in burgundy and gold tones
    National Garden Bureau

    Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset' looks more like a dahlia than a humble black-eyed Susan flower. The semi-double to fully double blooms are deer-resistant and attract pollinating insects, butterflies, and birds. Like other rudbeckia varieties, it self-seeds. In 2002, 'Cherokee Sunset' won the All-American Selections and Fleuroselect award. It thrives in full sun and is drought-tolerant once established. The plant blooms profusely from early summer to the first frost. 

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–9
    • Height: 24–30 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 09

    'Maya' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Maya')

    'Maya' rudbeckias with green-and-brown centers and yellow petals
    National Garden Bureau

    Rudbeckia hirta 'Maya' is reminiscent of fall mums with its layers of frilly petals. The height is perfect for containers or flower borders, and the Fleuroselect Gold Medal award tells you that this plant won’t flop or succumb to disease when growing conditions are less than perfect. 'Maya' thrives in full sun and well-drained, medium-moisture soil. Once established, the plant is drought-tolerant. Overall, this is an easy plant to grow, especially because it's deer-resistant and attractive to pollinating insects. 

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5–9
    • Height: 1–2 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 09

    'Prairie Glow' (Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow')

    'Prairie Glow' rudbeckias with brown centers and yellow-tipped orange petals
    National Garden Bureau

    The petals of Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow' look like they've been dipped in bright yellow paint. The casual form of these tall plants looks great swaying in the breeze alongside ornamental grasses or Verbena bonariensis. Honor the low-maintenance preference of these flowers by withholding artificial fertilizer, which can cause tall varieties like this to flop. It's an incredibly easy flower to grow and blooms from mid-summer to the first frost.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–8
    • Height: 3–4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 09

    'Cherry Brandy' (Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy')

    'Cherry Brandy' rudbeckias in shades of red and maroon

     

    mr_coffee / Getty Images

    Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy' is everything a gardener could want: It has numerous flowers with a long bloom time and is attractive to pollinators while being deer-resistant and drought-tolerant. The blooms of this rudbeckia type are a vibrant reddish-maroon. Take advantage of these attention-grabbers by pairing them with the contrasting colors of the 'Irish Eyes' variety. 'Cherry Brandy' will bloom continually throughout the summer. For more profuse blossoms, deadhead regularly. This plant needs weekly watering and is not quite as tolerant of drought as other varieties.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–7
    • Height: 1–2 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima)

    Giant coneflowers with yellow petals and green centers
    Margrit Salzmann / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Though closely resembling black-eyed Susans, right down to the dark flower centers, Rudbeckia maxima is a different species altogether. Known more properly as giant coneflower, it fills a niche where tall flowers are concerned—this native wildflower can attain heights of 7 feet in the garden. The foliage looks great, too, with prominent bluish-green leaves that give this plant the alternate nickname of "cabbage flower." A must in any cottage garden, giant coneflower tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. But it needs plenty of water and doesn't have great drought tolerance. 

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9
    • Height: 5–7 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun