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Black-eyed Susan: Rudbeckia compositae

 By Judy Feather, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Waning days of summer and early autumn bring different looks to the garden.

While some perennials have finished their bloom cycles, others flourish with hot days and cooler nights. These may typically need only moderate amounts of water. Black-eyed Susan is a wild form of the garden daisy, and is usually found in mountain meadows and along roadsides. Breeders, though, have produced easy-to-grow garden varieties. These lend bright spots of color to summer and autumn gardens and are also good for cutting. Rudbeckia's common name describes the flower’s center, which is typically dark and raised in a cone or beehive shape.

Some varieties to look for are:

Rudbeckia laciniata or "Herbstonne" Autumn Sun is a good background daisy. Its flowers are green-centered and grow to about 6 feet tall.

Rudbeckia "Goldquelle" is shorter, 2 to 3 feet tall and has fully double flowers.

If you’d like a typical black-eyed Susan type — yellow-orange petals surrounding a dark central cone — try Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii "Goldstrum". It's lance-shaped hairy leaves support branchy, leafy stems 2-3 feet tall. The bright 3-inch daisies last for many weeks.

Rudbeckia Hirta, or gloriosa daisy "Becky Mix" is an interesting daisy comprised of extra-large flowers in a mixture of bright colors—orange, yellow, russet, mahogany-- all on the same plant.

Rudbeckia daisies require average soil and moderate watering. The result? You’ll get many blooms over a long period of time with very little fussing. Good companion plants are Echinacea purpurea, Gaillardia grandiflora, Nepeta, and ornamental grasses.

Autumn doesn’t need to be boring if you keep this plant in mind. Use it to brighten your late summer and autumn borders.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Feather.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010