All About Black Eyed Susan

black eyed susanblack eyed susan

By Judith Irven, gardening expert, landscape designer and writer.

Sunny flowers that radiate happiness

Black-eyed Susans are charming, carefree North American natives that are perfectly at home both in our gardens and in our meadows. All have daisy-like flowers with sultry dark ‘eyes’ and brightly-colored petals which emanate pure joy.

Some varieties begin flowering in mid-summer, others a bit later—but all keep on going until the temperature drops well below freezing in the fall.

Make a mass planting of the variety ‘Indian Summer’, with its huge flowers up to 9” across, to enjoy close-up near the house. Plant 'Goldsturm' around a mailbox or lamppost to bring in some cheerful, sunny yellow color. Or choose some Denver Daisies or rust-kissed Gloriosa Daisies to give you flowers for months on end.

butterfly landing on black eyed susanbutterfly landing on black eyed susan
Many pollinators are drawn to Black Eyed Susans.
black eyed susanblack eyed susan
As a hardy native, Black Eyed Susans thrive in a variety of soils and climates.

If you're planning a native plant garden, try combining classic Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) with some classic prairie plants like Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) and Tussock Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa).

What’s in a name?

There are more than two dozen wild species of Black-eyed Susans, native to different parts of North America, all with distinctive yellow petals radiating out from a central knob.

And while some species of Black-eyed Susans have additional names—such as daisies, sunflowers or coneflowers—they all belong to the Rudbeckia genus. This explains why we often collectively refer to all the members of the Black-eyed Susan family as ‘Rudbeckias’.

There are also a number of cultivated varieties of Rudbeckias—such as Indian Summer, Denver Daisy and Cherry Brandy— that plant breeders have developed specially to provide such desirable features as mammoth flowers, luscious colors, or more compact plants.

Black-Eyed Susan: Annuals or Perennials?

Annuals: Some Rudbeckia varieties, such as the Clasping Sunflower (Rudbeckia amplexicaulis), are annuals. Their seeds germinate in the spring; they then produce flowers and set seeds that same summer. Although the original plants will not survive the winter, next spring those seeds may sprout and continue the cycle. Planting fresh seed each season will guarantee a new crop.

Other varieties, like the familiar roadside Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), are actually biennial in the wild (meaning they germinate in the spring but only flower in their second year). But, if you plant their seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date, you’ll be rewarded with flowers in the first year. And while some of those plants may return and flower for a few more seasons -and thus are sometimes described as short-lived perennials - you cannot count on it. Just enjoy it when it happens!

Perennials: Still other Rudbeckias are true long-lasting perennials. While they may not begin flowering quite as early each season, if you choose one of the perennial varieties we carry, either Sweet Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) (available as seeds) or the cultivar Goldstrum (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’) (available as plants), they will return year after year to light up your fall garden.

 
  1. Black Eyed Susan Goldsturm, Rudbeckia in bloom in perennial garden

    'Goldsturm' Black Eyed Susan brings a burst of showy color to the full-sun garden. Golden yellow, daisy-like petals surround nectar-rich, brown center 'buttons' set atop deep green f...

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    Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan Black Eyed Susan Goldsturm Rudbeckia fulgida Goldsturm
    As low as $9.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Goldsturm' Black Eyed Susan brings a burst of showy color to the full-sun garden. Golden yellow, daisy-like petals surround nectar-rich, brown center 'buttons' set atop deep green foliage. Unbothered by most pests, poor soils, drought and humidity, 'Goldsturm' is easygoing and the perfect addition to flower arrangements and pollinator gardens. Deer resistant and long-lasting. (Rudbeckia fulgida)
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  2. Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

    Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) casts an autumn glow across the garden with large double and semi-double blooms burning in radiant yellow, orange, and copper hues. A dar...

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    Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
    $9.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) casts an autumn glow across the garden with large double and semi-double blooms burning in radiant yellow, orange, and copper hues. A dark mahogany center and chocolate brown eye accent the warm tones. Sturdy, upright stems and bright green foliage resist deer and rabbit browsing. An award-winning beauty for season-long color. Easy-to-grow self-seeding annual in cooler zones. (Rudbeckia hirta)
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  3. Red Black Eyed Susan Cherry Brandy, Rudbeckia hirta, Black Eyed Susan or Gloriosa Daisy

    Cherry Brandy is a hybrid with vivid red, soft petals that deepen towards the rich, brown center. A long-lasting bloomer, this Rudbeckia will produce striking blooms throughout the s...

    Learn More
    Cherry Brandy Black Eyed Susan Cherry Brandy Black Eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy
    $9.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Cherry Brandy is a hybrid with vivid red, soft petals that deepen towards the rich, brown center. A long-lasting bloomer, this Rudbeckia will produce striking blooms throughout the summer and into the fall. (Rudbeckia hirta)
    Learn More

Should I go with seeds or young plants?

Plants are your best choice if you want a special cultivar which will come true to type:

  • Indian Summer: which has huge flowers up to 9” across
  • Denver Daisy: with flat yellow petals radiating out from its large dark brown central cones
  • Cherry Brandy: for an unusual deep pink color
  • Goldstrum: a staple for our fall gardens, and much valued for its extreme longevity

However, if you want to cover a big area with a mass of plants, perhaps a large flower bed or even a meadow planting, then seeds would be your best approach.

girl running through a field of black eyed susansgirl running through a field of black eyed susans

You can plant your Rudbeckia seeds either in the fall or springtime:

  • The roadside Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is great for naturalizing
  • Gloriosa Daisies (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Gloriosa'): this tetraploid selection brings you large flowers, both singles and doubles, in a wide range of colors—and all from a single pack of seeds!!
  • The Clasping Sunflower (Rudbeckia amplexicaulis) is a lovely lower-growing Rudbeckia for the front of a large border
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), with its taller flowers, would be ideal as part of a meadow planting

What about self-seeding?

Almost all Rudbeckias will self-seed, ensuring you flowers in future seasons. However some of our favorite varieties, like Goldstrum, Indian Summer and Cherry Brandy, have been developed by plant breeders for their special colors or larger flowers; if these are allowed to self-seed, next year’s plants may not come true to type.

So, if this concerns you, plan on dead-heading your plants as each stem completes flowering. And, as an added bonus, this regular deadheading routine will trigger the plant to make more blooms that season.

  1. Yellow Black Eyed Susan Seeds, Rudbeckia hirta

    Versatile, drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow, Black Eyed Susan adds a cheerful splash of color to the summer landscape. A native plant that attracts a variety of pollinators, Black E...

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    Black Eyed Susan Seeds Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
    As low as $12.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Versatile, drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow, Black Eyed Susan adds a cheerful splash of color to the summer landscape. A native plant that attracts a variety of pollinators, Black Eyed Susan pairs beautifully with other prairie favorites like Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed. Its adapatable nature makes it a great choice for poor soils and tough conditions. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Biennial.
    Learn More
  2. Yellow Black Eyed Susan Vine Seeds, Thunbergia alata

    Black-Eyed Susan Vine, also known as Clock Vine, is a unique, quick-growing annual that delights with large, bright orange blooms on tall, vining foliage. Perfect for trellises and f...

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    Black Eyed Susan Vine Seeds Black Eyed Susan Vine Thunbergia alata
    As low as $3.95
    Per Packet
    Black-Eyed Susan Vine, also known as Clock Vine, is a unique, quick-growing annual that delights with large, bright orange blooms on tall, vining foliage. Perfect for trellises and fences! Annual.
    Learn More
  3. Yellow Black Eyed Susan Seeds Marmalade, Rudbeckia hirta

    Ignite your garden or meadow all season long with Rudbeckia Marmalade. This low-growing variety delights with large, daisy-like flowers that are orange/yellow. Deer resistant and sun...

    Learn More
    Black Eyed Susan Seeds Marmalade Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
    $3.95
    Per Packet
    Ignite your garden or meadow all season long with Rudbeckia Marmalade. This low-growing variety delights with large, daisy-like flowers that are orange/yellow. Deer resistant and sun loving, plant this annual in almost any spot.
    Learn More
  4. Black Eyed Susan & Echinacea Seed Combo

    The Black Eyed Susan & Purple Coneflower Seed Combo is a native duo that creates instant charm and attracts a myriad of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to the summer garden....

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    Black Eyed Susan & Echinacea Seed Combo Black Eyed Susan & Purple Coneflower Rudbeckia hirta & Echinacea purpurea
    $74.95
    Per 2 Pounds
    The Black Eyed Susan & Purple Coneflower Seed Combo is a native duo that creates instant charm and attracts a myriad of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to the summer garden. This versatile combination can be planted in garden beds, wildflower meadows, and anywhere in between for years of easy color. Tolerates poor soil and less-than-ideal growing conditions. (Rudbeckia hirta and Echinacea purpurea)
    Learn More
  5. Yellow Clasping Coneflower Seeds, Rudbeckia amplexicaulis

    This is one of the "other" Black-eyed Susans. Grows to 3 ft with small flowers in gold splotched brown. Annual....

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    Clasping Coneflower Seeds Clasping Coneflower Rudbeckia amplexicaulis or Dracopis amplexicaulis
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    This is one of the "other" Black-eyed Susans. Grows to 3 ft with small flowers in gold splotched brown. Annual.
    Learn More
  6. Red and Yellow Gloriosa Daisy Wildflower Seeds, Rudbeckia hirta

    Gloriosa Daisy is a deer-resistant variety that adds rich, gorgeous color to the summer and fall garden. A perennial form of the native Black Eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisies grow to be ...

    Learn More
    Gloriosa Daisy Seeds Gloriosa Daisy Rudbeckia hirta
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Gloriosa Daisy is a deer-resistant variety that adds rich, gorgeous color to the summer and fall garden. A perennial form of the native Black Eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisies grow to be 12-36” tall and tolerate partial shade. Giant, bi-color double flowers are extremely easy to grow and bloom reliably year after year. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
    Learn More

Where should I plant Rudbeckias?

To accommodate a number of needs, the rudbeckias that we carry vary in height, bloom time and number of flowers each plant produces. Follow these guidelines for matching the varieties to particular situations in your own garden:

Containers: Long blooming varieties that do not grow too tall are ideal for container plantings:

  • Cherry Brandy
  • Denver Daisies
  • Gloriosa Daisies

And any one of these would look stunning mixed with a soft Blue Fescue grass for a contrast in both texture and color.

Front of the border: Many Rudbeckia varieties grow between two and three feet tall, making them perfect near the front of the border.

We recommend these varieties for the front of the border:

  • Cherry Brandy
  • Denver Daisies
  • Gloriosa Daisies
  • Indian Summer
  • Goldstrum
  • The Clasping Sunflower

Combine these with similar sized plants that have contrasting textures, such as Tussock Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) or Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis).

Back of the border: Some Rudbeckias will reach five feet high or more, and these will look stunning as an accent grouping in front of some tall Miscanthus grasses near the back of the border:

  • Sweet Black Eyed Susan - Rudbeckia subtomentosa
black eyed susan in a meadowblack eyed susan in a meadow

In the meadow - Ideally all meadow plants should be informal, robust and enduring:

  • The roadside Black-eyed Susans Rudbeckia hirta, which will return through reseeding
  • Our two perennial varieties, Sweet Black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’.

About the Author: Judith Irven is an accomplished Vermont landscape designer and garden writer, and she delights in helping people everywhere create beautiful gardens. You can visit her online at: OutdoorSpacesVermont.com.

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