Black-Eyed Susan Grow, Care and Propagation Tips

HomeHow ToCare GuideBlack-Eyed Susan Grow, Care and Propagation Tips

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Black-Eyed Susans, or Rudbeckia hirta, are cheerful wildflowers that boast golden-yellow petals radiating from a prominent, dark brown central cone. These hardy perennials are native to North America, flourishing in meadows, prairies, and open woods across the continent. It has a rich history intertwined with indigenous cultures and early settlers. Native American tribes revered the Black-Eyed Susan for its medicinal properties of colds, and flu, and as a poultice for snake bites and minor wounds.

In the early 18th century, It was named Rudbeckia hirta by the famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in honor of, Olaus Rudbeck, a renowned Swedish botanist. By the 19th century, Black-Eyed Susans were introduced to European gardens, where their bright, daisy-like flowers quickly gained popularity. In 1918, the Black-Eyed Susan was designated the state flower of Maryland. From their origins in the wild prairies of North America to their prominent place in gardens and cultural traditions, Black-Eyed Susans have a rich history that reflects their enduring appeal.

Botanical Name
Rudbeckia hirta
Plant Type
Perennial/Annual/Biennial
Family
Asteraceae
Height
Typically 1-3 feet
Foliage
Rich green, hairy leaves
Bloom Time
June to October
Climate
Prefers temperate regions
Sun Exposure
Full sun to partial shade
Soil Requirements
Well-drained, not too rich
Hardiness Zones
3-7
Flowering
Daisy-like with a dark brown center
Seasonal Features
Attracts butterflies and bees
Special Features
Drought-tolerant once established
Toxicity
Considered non-toxic

Where to Plant Black-Eyed Susan

For the most vigorous growth and blooming, ensure they get plenty of sunlight. Before planting, observe the sun patterns in your garden to identify the best locations that receive full sun. Choose south or west-facing locations that receive the most sunlight and avoid dense shade.

When and How to Plant Black-Eyed Susan

Plant seeds or young plants in spring after the last frost when the soil has warmed up. Or you can plant seeds in late fall to allow natural stratification, leading to spring germination.

  1. Prepare the Soil: Choose a location with full sun. Prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of about 12 inches and mixing in compost to improve drainage and fertility.
  2. Sow the Seeds: Scatter the seeds evenly on the soil surface. Press them lightly into the soil but do not cover them completely as they need light to germinate.
  3. Watering: Water the seeds gently but thoroughly. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination, which typically takes 7-21 days.
  4. Prepare the Planting Hole: Dig a hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball of the young plant.
  5. Spacing: Plant Black-Eyed Susans about 18 inches apart to allow for growth and air circulation.
  6. Position the Plant: Place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil.
  7. Backfill and Water: Fill in the hole with soil, pressing gently to eliminate air pockets. Then water the plant thoroughly.

How to Care for Black-eyed Susan

Water

During the first growing season, Water the plants deeply about 2-3 times a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. Adjust the frequency if the weather is particularly hot or dry. Watering deeply ensures the water penetrates the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches to encourage deep root growth.

Established Plants require less water and can go longer between watering sessions. Water every week to 10 days if there’s no natural precipitation. Water in the morning use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to reduce the risk of disease. Before watering, check the soil moisture by inserting your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Sunlight

Black-eyed Susans thrive best in full sun conditions. They require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day to produce abundant blooms. If plants are not thriving due to lack of sunlight, consider transplanting them to a sunnier location. While they prefer full sun, Black-eyed Susans can tolerate partial shade, especially in hotter climates where afternoon shade can help prevent heat stress.

Fertilizer

They thrive in moderately fertile soil. Black-eyed Susans generally do not require heavy fertilization. Excessive fertilizing can lead to lush foliage with fewer blooms. Incorporate compost into the soil at planting time to improve soil structure and provide a slow release of nutrients. Applying a layer of organic mulch around the plants helps retain moisture and adds nutrients as it decomposes. If the soil is particularly poor, a slow-release, balanced fertilizer can be used in the spring. For almost all Black-eyed Susans, a fertilizer with a 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 NPK ratio is suitable.

In the absence of a soil test, they can be maintained with an application of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet in early to mid-April, when new leaves begin to emerge, and again in September at a ½ pound per 100 square feet.

Soil

A pH of around 6.8 is ideal for Black-eyed Susans, which is slightly acidic to neutral. They are not particular about soil richness and can grow even in poor.

They can grow in a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. You can mix in 2-3 inches of compost or organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil to enrich it and improve moisture retention without becoming waterlogged. In areas with heavy clay soil, adding sand can help improve drainage, but it should be done in conjunction with organic matter to avoid soil compaction.

Prune

Remove spent flowers regularly to encourage continuous blooming. Regularly inspect and trim off any diseased, yellowing, or damaged leaves and stems. Every 3-4 years, divide clumps in early spring or late fall to rejuvenate the plants and prevent overcrowding.

In early spring, cut back any old growth from the previous season to make room for new shoots. Pruning in spring can help the new stalks become shorter and bushier, leading to a healthier plant.

In midsummer, if the plants start looking leggy or untidy, you can cut them back by one-third to encourage bushier growth and a second wave of blooms.

During fall after the first frost, or once the plant has finished blooming for the season, cut back the stems to about 2-3 inches above the ground. This helps clean up the garden and prepares the plants for winter.

Temperature & Humidity

Black-eyed Susans thrive in warm summer temperatures. They prefer temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (about 15.5 degrees Celsius) and above. They can tolerate high temperatures, but in extremely hot climates, they may benefit from some afternoon shade to prevent stress. They can tolerate cold winter temperatures but may die back to the ground in colder climates and regrow in the spring.

Black-eyed Susans can tolerate a range of humidity levels, but they generally prefer moderate humidity. While they can withstand humid conditions, good air circulation is important to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

Container

For growing Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) in containers, you’ll want to choose a pot that can accommodate their root system and provide enough space for growth. Select a pot that holds at least one gallon of soil. The pot should be at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep and have a 10-12-inch diameter. A larger pot is almost always better, A five-gallon container is ideal. Make sure the container has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Using a pot that is wider at the top than the bottom makes removing the plant easier if necessary.

How to Propagation for Black-eyed Susans

Propagating Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) can be done through several methods, including division, seeds, and stem cuttings.

Division

  1. Divide established Black-eyed Susans in early spring or late fall, preferably every 3-4 years, to rejuvenate the plants and prevent overcrowding.
  2. Water the plant thoroughly a day or two before dividing it to make it easier to lift from the soil. Prepare the planting area and containers for the divisions.
  3. Dig up the entire clump of Black-eyed Susans using a garden fork, being careful not to damage the roots. Gently shake or brush off excess soil to expose the root system. Use a sharp knife or spade to divide the clump into smaller sections, ensuring each division has healthy roots and shoots.
  4. Plant the divisions at the same depth they were originally growing, spacing them 12-18 inches apart. Water the newly planted divisions thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.

Seeds

  1. Collect mature seed heads from healthy Black-eyed Susan plants in late summer or early fall when the seed heads have turned brown and dry.
  2. Remove the seeds from the seed heads by gently crushing or rubbing them. Clean the seeds by separating them from any chaff or debris.
  3. Prepare a seed-starting tray or pots filled with well-draining seed-starting mix. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil and lightly press them into the soil. Mist the soil surface to moisten it, then cover the tray or pots with plastic wrap to create a humid environment.
  4. Place the seed tray or pots in a warm location with indirect sunlight.
  5. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Seeds typically germinate within 1-3 weeks.
  6. Once the seedlings have developed several sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual pots or the garden bed.

Stem Cuttings

  1. Select healthy, non-flowering stems from established Black-eyed Susan plants in late spring or early summer.
  2. Use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to take 4-6 inch stem cuttings. Remove the lower leaves from the cuttings, leaving only a few leaves at the top.
  3. Dip the cut end of each stem cutting into rooting hormone powder to encourage root development (Optional).
  4. Plant the stem cuttings in pots filled with well-draining potting mix. Water the cuttings thoroughly and place them in a warm, bright location with indirect sunlight.
  5. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Roots should develop within 2-4 weeks.
  6. Once the cuttings have developed a healthy root system, transplant them into individual pots or the garden bed.

Types of Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is a species of flowering plant within the Rudbeckia genus. Rudbeckia hirta is the most common and widely recognized variety, there are several other cultivars and species within the genus that are also commonly referred to as Black-eyed Susans. Each type offers unique characteristics in terms of flower color, size, and growth habit.

  • Rudbeckia hirta is the classic Black-eyed Susan with bright yellow petals and a dark brown or black center and is typically a biennial or short-lived perennial.
  • Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange Coneflower) is also known as Orange Coneflower, this species features golden-yellow petals and a prominent dark center and is a true perennial.
  • Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-eyed Susan) often called Brown-eyed Susan, this species has smaller flowers compared to Rudbeckia hirta, with yellow petals and a brown center. It’s a biennial or short-lived perennial and self-seeds readily.
  • Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ is known for its compact growth habit and abundant blooms. It has golden-yellow petals and a dark brown center and is a popular perennial plant.
  • Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ is a hybrid variety known for its large, semi-double flowers with yellow petals and green centers. It’s often grown as an annual.
  • Rudbeckia ‘Cherokee Sunset’ is a hybrid variety with stunning double or semi-double flowers in shades of orange, yellow, and red. It’s often grown as an annual or short-lived perennial.
  • Rudbeckia laciniata (Cutleaf Coneflower) also known as Cutleaf Coneflower, this species has bright yellow flowers with a green or black center and is a perennial plant.

How to Get Black-Eyed Susans to Bloom

Getting Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) to bloom involves providing the right growing conditions and proper care. Ensure they receive enough sunlight and avoid over-fertilizing. Deadheading spent flowers can also promote further blooming.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are not just a sight to behold, they are a symbol of resilience in the floral world. However, even the hardiest of flowers can fall prey to the relentless advances of pests and diseases.

Aphids, spider mites, and slugs are the usual suspects when it comes to pests. Aphids sap the life out of leaves, spider mites weave their destructive webs, and slugs chew through the foliage, leaving unsightly holes. Diseases like root rot, gray mold, and leaf spots can turn a vibrant plant into a withering one. Root rot lurks beneath the soil, waiting to strike at the heart of the plant. Gray mold casts a shadow over the bright blooms, and leaf spots mar the lush green canvas of the leaves.

The key to managing these issues lies in vigilance and timely intervention. For pests, a blast of water or insecticidal soap can work wonders. As for diseases, ensuring proper drainage, air circulation, and sanitation can keep most problems at bay.

FAQs

Are Black-Eyed Susans Deer-resistant?

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are considered moderately deer-resistant. This means that while they are not a preferred food source for deer, they are not completely immune to being eaten.

How Long Do Black-Eyed Susans Live?

As perennials, they can live several years, but some varieties are annuals or biennials.

What are Black-Eyed Susans Used For?

Black-Eyed Susans are popular in gardens and landscapes for their bright, cheerful flowers. They are often used in flower beds, borders, and wildflower gardens.

What Does the Black-Eyed Susan Symbolize?

The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) carries rich symbolism, often connected to its vibrant appearance and resilient nature. These symbolic meanings make Black-Eyed Susans popular in various cultural contexts, including gardening, floral arrangements, and art, where they convey messages of positivity and perseverance.

What are The Cons of Black-Eyed Susans?

They can spread aggressively through self-seeding, potentially taking over garden areas and crowding out other plants. Overall, despite these drawbacks, Black-Eyed Susans are highly valued for their beauty, hardiness, and ecological benefits.

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