Black-eyed Susans

We have two varieties of Rudbeckias in the canoe garden. One is the Little Goldstar, which is supposed to be an improved perennial Black-Eyed Susans variety and looks like your basic Black-Eyed Susan. The other is the Prairie-Glow Brown-Eyed Susan. It is touted as a plant that freely self-seeds but at the same time is a “short-lived perennial. We like them because they’re tall with loads of small flowers. We’ll see if they’re around next season or not.

4 thoughts on “Black-eyed Susans”

  1. Im sure you know that no discussion of Black eyed Susans is complete until you let Ralph Stanley weigh in. soooo…

  2. I’m not a rudbeckia expert but I have tried many of them in our garden. Some things I can pass on…
    -the most perennial of the lot is R. fulgida with goldstrum being the workhorse of this species. Really hardy and genuinely perennial goldstrum is a garden backbone plant. I would suspect that your gold star would be a selection of goldstrum or maybe a hybrid with goldstrum as a parent. If so, all you have to do is get it past the first winter and it will probably outlive you and be better looking.
    -all of the rest of the species of rudbeckia are what the nursery industry calls short lived perennials.
    -short lived perennial can be a synonym for either annual or biennial. For example a tomato plant would be a short lived perennial if they thought they could get away with calling it that.
    -the more spectacular the variety the more short lived it is.
    -most of the rudbeckia varieties can do quite well if you aggressively treat them as biennials. By that I mean dont hold your breath hoping your original plant will survive. What you have to do is make sure that the plant self seeds in late summer. Dont cut off spent flower heads because the old flower heads contain fresh seeds that need to mature and dry out on the plant. Dont use mulch around the plants. The fresh seeds have to fall and hit dirt to germinate. Around the time that you think the flower heads are dry enough to shed seeds you should make sure the soil around the plant is essentially a mulch free weed free roughed up seedbed. You want the seeds to fall onto this little seedbed and germinate as quickly as possible. These new young plants will survive winter and bloom really well the next year. If you are lucky you will get lots of seedling to survive and you can move some of them quite easily to other spots in the spring. Once you have made the little roughed up seedbed dont pull out the weeds! Those weeds are your new rudbeckias. We actually often take the next step which is to cut off the dry flower heads, pry them apart to let the seeds fall out onto a sheet of paper indoors, then take the seeds out and sow them where we want them and keep the little seedbeds watered.
    -Stokes seeds has a decent selection of rudbeckia which can be grown from seed. They actually bite the bullet and call them annuals. I really liked the variety Indian Summer which has huge flowers and we were able to keep it going for about 5 years before the self seeding thing failed.
    -it is of course possible that a plant might survive from year to year but dont bet more than a cup of coffee on that happening.
    -this self seeding routine is quite successful for most biennials. Probably our favorite biennial is sweet william and we have kept our original planting going for over 30 years by following this routine.
    -if I remember correctly the prairie glow variety can grow to some spectacular size like 4-5 feet tall and really put on a show but I havent grown it here.
    -be a bit careful with rudbeckias they can be addictive and you risk ending up with 15 varieties. Scouring the garden for little clumps of seedlings in the spring and moving them around to keep the plants going is a spring ritual here.

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