The Q&A Archives: Pruning or cutting back

Question: I am very new and learning this year on gardening. I purchased a home last June and I had to read and research what I have in my garden bed. I believe they are black eyed susans and they were dead from the winter frost. I did cut the stems half way down. But I am not sure, are they going to grow back next year or early fall this year? I now see some more little leaves that are growing in the garden bed around the same area that I cut the stems. Please tell me do they automatically grow around the same area, or what is the nature of this plant? Please help I am dying to know.(very Beautiful last year)

Answer: First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of gardening. It's a hobby that often turns into a passion. The more you learn, the more you want to learn - and share with others!

Black eyed Susan plants are considered an annual, although they can sometimes live for two or three years, depending upon weather.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirt) are very drought tolerant once they have been established, and they can adapt to most soils, even clay or sand. They reseed freely, so though you may only get two or three years out of one plant, more will pop up to take over for those. They also bloom for about 8 weeks if deadheaded and will provide lovely color in the fall with the mums and asters.

Rudbeckia does best in full sun and soil that has been amended with compost. All varieties can be easily grown from seed. Direct seed 2-3 weeks before the last frost in your area, or start indoors 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors in the spring. They do need light for the seeds to germinate, so press the seeds into the soil, but don't cover. Keep the seeds fairly moist, but not wet while waiting for them to germinate. Once the seedlings start growing don't let the soil dry out. Rudbeckia is hardy in Zones 3-10, so it's a trooper, and can handle cold temperatures.

Butterflies love Black-eyed Susans, so that is another plus to growing them! They are nice companions to other wildflowers such as oxe-eye daisies and asters.

It sounds as though the original plant is dead but little seedlings are popping up where the original plant was living. This is called self-sowing or reseeding in gardening terms. Each of the little sprouts will grow into a plant and will fill your garden with beautiful flowers all summer long.

Best wishes with your Black eyed Susans!

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