How to Grow and Care for Rudbeckia — Black-Eyed Susan

rudbeckias: black eyed susan
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia–commonly called black-eyed Susan or gloriosa daisy–produces golden daisy-like, brown-centered blooms from late summer to fall. Black-eyed Susans are tough and easy to grow.

The Rudbeckia genus is made up of about 20 annuals, biennials, and perennials. Garden Rudbeckias are descendants of North American wildflowers.

Rudbeckias thrive in all but soggy soils. They are drought-tolerant once established.

Rudbeckia is probably the brightest bloomer in the late summer and fall garden. They are well suited for perennial borders. Faded flower heads can remain for winter interest in the garden.

Orange coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida
Orange coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida

Get to know Rudbeckia

  • Plant type: Perennial, some grown as annuals
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 3 to 10
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -35°F (-37°C); hardy
  • in both cold and hot weather
  • Height and width: 8 inches (20cm) to 4 feet (1.2m) tall; 2 to 4 feet wide, depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Prominently veined, toothed toward the end
  • Flowers: Golden daisy-like ray flowers around a dark brown central disc; petals of some cultivars are orange, pale yellow, bronze, or just, sometimes bicolored; flowers can be up to 6 inches (15cm) wide
  • Flower colors: Yellow, orange, gold, mahogany, red, and bicolors, sometimes bicolored
  • Bloom time: Summer into fall; flowers continue through autumn in Zones 9-11
  • Uses: Mixed border, cottage garden, cut flowers
  • Garden companions: ornamental grasses, sedums, blazing star, Joe-pye weed, asters
  • Common name: Black-eyed Susan, coneflower
  • Botanical name: Rudbeckia spp.
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin: North America

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Where to plant Rudbeckia

  • Plant Rudbeckia in full sun.
  • Rudbeckia grows best in humus-rich to average soil. It will tolerate clay soil.
  • Rudbeckia prefers a soil pH of 6 to 7.

Rudbeckia uses and companions

  • Grow Rudbeckia in a border, massed for effect.
  • Neutralize Rudbeckia in a meadow or woodland garden.
  • Most cultivars of Rudbeckia hirta are grown as annuals and are used as bedding or in borders.
  • Flowers last well when cut, and cutting promotes continued bloom.
  • Good garden companions for Rudbeckia include Achillea, Artemisia, Echinacea purpurea, Echinops, Helenium, Gaillardia grandiflora, Nepeta, Salvia, Sisyrinchium striatum, and ornamental grasses.
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

When to plant black-eyed Susan

  • Set perennial Rudbeckia in the garden in spring or fall after hardening them off. Set plants outdoors when temperatures average 65°F (18°C) or greater.
  • Start seed indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. Plants grown from seeds planted in early spring will bloom the same year. Late-started plants will bloom next year.
  • Start seed outdoors in evenly prepared soil after the last spring frost or sow seed outdoors in fall in Zones 9 and 10.

Planting and spacing Rudbeckia

  • Indoors, sow seed in six-packs or flats filled with moist, sterile seed starting medium. Sow seed at 70°F (21°C). Do not cover the seeds, just pat them into the soil.
  • Germination takes about 14 days under bright light.
  • Thin seedlings when they are 3 inches (7.5cm) tall or more; pot up seedlings to individual pots.
  • Space Rudbeckia 2 feet apart.
Ragged coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata
Ragged coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’

How to water and feed Rudbeckia

  • Rudbeckia grows best with abundant moisture; keep the soil evenly moist. Established Rudbeckia will tolerate drought.
  • Fertilize Rudbeckia lightly at planting time and in midsummer.

Rudbeckia care

  • Mulch around Rudbeckia to conserve soil moisture.
  • Rudbeckia does not require fertilizer.
  • Stake tall plants to keep them from flopping.
  • Trim spent blooms to promote longer flowering.
  • Rudbeckia is susceptible to powdery mildew.

Rudbeckia pests and diseases

  • Sawflies and aphids may attack Rudbeckia. Treat with insecticidal soap.
  • Downy mildew may be prevented by good air circulation.
Rudbeckia nitida
Rudbeckia nitida

Rudbeckia propagation

  • Propagate Rudbeckia by seed or division.
  • Seeds germinate in 14 days sown outdoors after the last frost.
  • Seeds germinate in 5 to 7 days at 68° to 72°F (22°C).
  • Divide large clumps when new leaves grow in early spring. Separate every other plant. Replant divisions immediately. Spring divide plants should bloom the same year.

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Giant coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima
Giant coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima

Rudbeckia varieties to grow

  • Rudbeckia fulgida: Perennial black-eyed Susan has an orange coneflower. ‘Goldstrum’ is a cultivar that is hardy in Zones 3-9; and grows to 24 inches (61cm) with flowers to 5 inches (12.7cm) wide.
  • R. hirta, Gloriosa daisy: Short-lived perennial usually grown as an annual; grows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) tall; broad daisy-like flowers in yellow to orange and can be bicolored or striped; several cultivars; easy to grow from seed.
  • R. laciniata ‘Gold Drop’: Grows to 24 inches (61cm) tall or greater; pale yellow double flower on wiry stems.
  • R. maxima, giant coneflower: Grows 5 to 9 feet (2.7m) tall; bears 3- to 5-inch flowers with orange-yellow ray florets and cone-shaped brown centers.
  • R. nitida, shining coneflower: Perennial in Zones 4-10; it grows to 4 feet (1.2m) tall.

Rudbeckia fulgida — Orange coneflower

Rudbeckia fulgida is a prolific bloomer. Daisy-like flowers with golden orange ray petals surrounding a raised dark brown cone are 2- to 3 inches wide. Flowers bloom in branched clusters above coarse foliage from midsummer until frost. The broad pointed leaves are dark green with a rough texture. Rudbeckia fulgida spreads rapidly to form good-sized clumps.

  • Size: 2 to 3 feet tall; spread to form 2- to 3-foot-wide clumps.
  • Light: Full sun best; tolerates half sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Fertile to average, humus-rich to clay soil; plentiful moisture best. Drought tolerant once established.
  • Planting and propagation: Divide in spring or fall every three or four years.
  • Special care: Allow attractive dried seed heads to remain all winter; cut back in early spring. Somewhat invasive.
  • Pest and diseases: Usually pest-free; mildew is sometimes troublesome at the end of summer.
  • Climate: Zones 3-9.
  • Cultivars and similar species: Most garden-worthy is ‘Goldstrum,’ compact and floriferous with 3- to 4-inch-wide flowers; cutting-grown plants superior and more uniform than seed-grown plants. R. birta (black-eyed Susan, gloriosa daisy): short-lived perennial, 1 to 3 feet tall, best treated as an annual, reseeds in meadow gardens, mildew prone; ‘Goldilocks,’ semidouble, gold; ‘Rustic Colors,’ mahogany, rust, or orange; ‘Irish Eyes,’ green centers, yellow-orange petals.
  • Garden use: Massed in landscape; excellent for late color in informal and cottage gardens or in cut-flower gardens.

Rudbeckia nitida — Shining coneflower

Rudbeckia nitida is a late-season color with its 5-inch, daisylike flowers, which consist of drooping, bright yellow petals surrounding a greenish, columnar, raised disk. Branched and sparsely leafed flowering stems rise above dark green leaves that are rounded with a few coarse teeth, forming a bushy base.

  • Size: 3 to 4 feet tall; 3 feet wide.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil and moisture: Fertile, well-drained soil; plentiful to moderate moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 3 feet apart. Divide in spring every four years.
  • Special care: Individual stems may need staking, especially in the Soth or in part shade. Deadheading encourages longer bloom.
  • Pest and diseases: Usually pest-free.
  • Climate: Zones 4-10; thrives in the heat and humidity of the South.
  • Cultivars and similar species: Very similar R. laciniata (green-eyed coneflower, cut-leaf coneflower), drooping lemon-yellow petals surrounding raised olive-green cones in late summer and fall, deeply cut leaves, to 6 feet tall, Zones 3-9. Cultivars of R laciniata but often attributed to R nitida; ‘Golden Glow,’ double lemon-yellow, 3 to 5 feet tall; ‘Herbstsonne’ (Autumn Sun’), 3 to 5 feet tall, needs no staking; ‘Autumn Glory,’ 5 feet tall; ‘Goldquelle’ (‘Gold Drop’), shaggy double yellow, 2 to 3 feet tall.
  • Garden use: Excellent back-of-border plant for informal gardens; naturalize in meadow and mass-plant in New American-style gardens. Long-lasting cut flower.

Rudbeckia frequently asked questions

Q: What kind of soil and light does Rudbeckia like?

A: Rudbeckia will flourish in any reasonably fertile soil that is not too wet or too dry. Rudbeckia wants full sun. Most Rudbeckia varieties are hardy to -40°F.

Q: What are some uses for Rudbeckia?

A: Rudbeckia’s bright yellow flowers in mid-to-late summer are wonderful cut flowers. Rudbeckias can be planted in large drifts (informally shaped groups) or meadow gardens.

Q: Can I divide Rudbeckia?

A: Yes, you can divide rudbeckia to create new plants. Divide rudbeckia every four years, or more frequently if plants spread quickly.

Q: Can I grow Rudbeckia from seed?

A: Yes. Sow fresh seeds outdoors in late fall. In cold regions, sow seeds in a cold frame. Seeds can be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Stratify seeds by sowing them in flats or pots or moistened medium, covering them with plastic to retain moisture. Refrigerate for two weeks, then set them in a sunny place to grow.

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