Black-eyed Susan belongs in every sunny garden. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is one of the most common of all wildflowers. It has from 10 to 20 orange-yellow neutral rays around a conical, dark purplish-brown disk of florets containing both stamens and pistil. A Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus, named the species Rudbeckia after Olav Rudbeck and his son, who were both professors, and hirta in Latin is “rough hairy”.
The Black-eyed Susan has also been called many other names, such as Gloriosa Daisy, Yellow Daisy, Brown Daisy, Yellow Ox-eye Daisy, Poorland Daisy, Brown Betty, Blackiehead, Golden Jerusalem and Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). They grow in open sunny places, dry fields, along roadsides and just about any type of soil.
So very many weeds having come to our eastern shores from Europe, and marched farther and farther west year after year – it is but fair that Black-eyed Susan, a native of western clover fields, should travel toward the Atlantic in bundles of hay whenever she gets the chance, to repay eastern farmers in their own coin.
Do these gorgeous heads know with all their showiness – some with orange-red at the base of their ray-like florets – that they have become a favorite of late years in European gardens, so offering them still another chance to overrun the Old World, to which so much American hay is shipped?
Thrifty farmers may decry the importation into their mowing lots, but there is a glory to the cone-flower beside which the glitter of a gold coin fades into paltry nothingness.
In as much as each Black-eyed Susan puts into daily operation the business methods of the white daisy, methods which have become a sort of creed for the entire composite horde to live by, it is plain that she may defy both farmers and legislators.
How to plant? Site your plants where they will receive full sun. Very light shade is also fine in regions where the sun is especially strong. After planting, water your Black-eyed Susans generously to settle the soil around the root ball. Root and top growth form in a few weeks, depending on soils and air temperature. Water periodically during the growing season as needed keeping in mind that weekly deep waterings are better than lighter drinks every day or two.
When your Black-eyed Susans flower feel free to snip blooms for bouquets. This will not hurt the plants and for some varieties it prolongs the blooming period.
Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and beetles could not be kept away from an entertainer so generous as Black-eyed Susan. For while the nectar in the deep, tubular brown florets may be drained only by long, slender tongues, pollen is accessible to all. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place, don’t cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the plant for the future. Water as needed.
In late fall, your plants’ foliage will fade and wilt with the onset of colder nights. At this point you may clip the stems to within 3″ of the ground. Fresh growth will develop in the spring. If you live in an area where the weather stays warm year round, just trim out dead stems or spent flowers to keep your plants looking their best. Your Black-eyed Susans will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
Anyone who’s had a vase of these yellow flowers standing on a polished table indoors, and tried to keep its surface free from a ring of golden dust around the flowers, knows just how abundant their pollen is.