Georgia Gardener Newsletter Cool Plant: April 16, 2009

Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta

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Species Native Range: Most of U.S. & Canada
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-10
Mature Size: 24 inches tall & wide
Exposure: Full sun to light shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained, organic
Drought Tolerance: Good
Ease of Culture: Easy

Many gardeners grow the more familiar perennial varieties of Rudbeckia fulgida such as 'Goldsturm.' However, the species R. hirta is fast becoming more popular as an annual black-eyed Susan which is taller and has much larger flowers. Personally, I find this plant has a much longer and showier bloom season than any of the perennial species. Cultivars such as 'Indian Summer' and 'Toto' bloom from late spring until frost when deadheaded. As with other rudbeckias, small birds are attracted to the late season seedheads.

In the summer, wild black-eyed Susans can be found along roadsides throughout most of the United States and Canada - from coast to coast and from Florida to Alaska. They are one of our most attractive native wildflowers. Easily grown from seed, they make a great beginner plant for adults and children alike.

Rudbeckia hirta on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Grow black-eyed Susans in full sun to light shade in rich organic soil that is well-drained. Deadhead throughout the growing season to prolong the blooming and fertilize regularly. Let late season flowers go to seed for next year as these plants are often annuals or short-lived perennials. Powdery mildew can be a late season problem but if the plants are spaced correctly in open areas, it can be reduced.

Grow black-eyed Susans in a mixed perennial/annual bed, cottage garden, meadow, cutting garden or mixed with other sun-loving shrubs. Good companion plants include: roses, loropetalum, tall phlox (Phlox paniculata), purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.), blazing star (Liatris spicata) and other summer to fall wildflowers and shrubs.


Black-eyed Susans are readily available from most retail nurseries, especially in the late spring or by seed from various nurseries and catalogs. Please support our locally-owned nurseries.

The Georgia Native Plant Society will be holding its annual native plant sale on Saturday, April 25 from 10AM until 2PM at Stone Mountain Park.

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