The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) 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.
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 plan, let them grace your flowering containers, and install some of the rugged flowers beside your mailbox for a cheerful welcome home.
If you’ve seen Rudbeckia plants in commercial landscaping applications, chances are they are the 'Indian Summer' variety. 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 in zones 3 to 7, 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 to prevent mildew from poor air circulation.
The green centers of this orange and yellow flower give it versatility in cut flower arrangements, popping nicely against blue flowers like delphiniums, bachelor’s buttons, and asters. This variety grows between 2 1/2 and 3 feet tall with a 1 1/2- to 2-foot spread.
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 soils.
The Rudbeckia hirta 'Moreno,' topping out at 12 to 18 inches tall, deserves a special place at the front of the sunny flower border. Burgundy and orange flower petals provide the rich jewel tones that accent classic fall flower arrangements.
The 'Moreno' variety is winter hardy to zones 3 to 7 and blooms from June to the first frost. It tolerates heat, drought, and nearly all soils except poorly drained, wet soil. The flowers self-seed easily.
Butterflies, birds, and bees will not miss these glowing yellow beacons on the 30-inch-tall Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes.' Combine this bold wildflower with other natives like liatris, saliva, 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 and is winter hardy in zones 4 to 9. It needs partial to full sun and weekly watering.
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. It grows in upright clumps to between 24 to 30 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Like other Rudbeckia varieties, it self-seeds to remain in the garden each year.
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.
The Rudbeckia hirta 'Maya' is reminiscent of fall mums with its layers of frilly petals. The 18-inch 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 medium-moisture well-drained soils. 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.
The petals of the Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow,' often referred to as brown-eyed susan, look like its tips have been dipped in bright yellow paint. The casual form of these 3- to 4-foot 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 one to flop. It's an incredibly easy flower to grow and blooms from mid-summer to the first frost, despite any anomalies in the weather.
Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy" has everything a gardener could want: numerous flowers with a long bloom time, attractive to pollinators, deer-resistant, and drought-tolerant. The blooms of "Cherry Brandy" are a vibrant reddish-maroon, not the muddy off-red seen in some Gloriosa daisies. Take advantage of these attention-grabbers by pairing them with the contrasting colors of the 'Irish Eyes' variety.
'Cherry Brandy' will bloom continuously throughout the summer. For more profuse blossoms, deadhead the plant regularly. It's winter hardy in zones 4 to 7 and needs weekly watering.
Rudbeckia maxima 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 its prominent bluish-green leaves, which give this plant the alternate nickname of "cabbage flower."
A must in any cottage garden, giant coneflower tolerates a wide range of growing conditions in zones 4 to 9. It needs plenty of water and doesn't have great drought tolerance.