Rudbeckias: Black Eyed Susan and her sisters

Walking out in my backyard over the weekend, I was once more amazed by the profusion of blooms so late in fall. We have already experienced several killing frosts, and despite the chill in the air I find Sweet Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia subtomentosa and Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida blooming in mid October.

Nearby are the faded grey remains of Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, succumbed to the frost, and long since moved from brilliant blooms to seed production. The flower heads are backyard birdfeeders filled with seed for the clouds of Goldfinches, and enough left over  to reseed my prairie and gardens.

I love the quick results of Black Eyed Susan. This short lived biennial will bloom in the first year after planting seed or plants, and produce profusion of beautiful yellow blooms and cute brown-black centers. Star of the summer garden and prairie, Black Eyed Susan fulfills its role as an early successional flower brilliantly; a placeholder if you will, filling a newly planted area with blooms.

A biennial’s life is short, and relying on biennials to drop their seed in a garden setting (and the unpredictable randomness of where the new babies emerge each year) can be a bit frustrating. Fortunately there are some great perennials in the Rudbeckia family to choose from. Sweet Black Eyed Susan and Orange Coneflower, the perennial Rudbeckia, “sisters” of the Black Eyed Susan are fantastic options to add to gardens. Long lived and long blooming, both plants are considered well behaved, one statuesque and the other compact.

Orange Coneflower-Rudbeckia fulgida-Blooming in July


At 4-6 feet tall, Sweet Black Eyed Susan is almost shrub-like and a nice addition to the background of any garden. Blooming late, from mid July until October, Sweet Black Eyed Susan is a source for pollen and nectar for butterflies and seed for Birds. An excellent cut flower, it grows in virtually any soil. Sweet Black Eyed Susan will tolerate medium to moist conditions in full to part sun.

Lower growing and compact, at 2-4 feet tall, Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) is the native from which the familiar cultivar Rudbeckia “Goldstrum” is derived. Orange Coneflower has a lovely form, bold yellow color, and deep green leaves makes this mid summer to fall bloomer, a great plant for borders. Happiest in any well drained garden soil including the worst clay in full to part sun.

Consider these “Sisters” of Black Eyed Susan for your garden as options or supplements to your garden!