Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2009
Regional Report

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Herbstsonne rudbeckia is dramatic in the fall sunlight.

Black-Eyed Susans are Hot!

This time of year, it is almost impossible to drive down a rural road or neighborhood street and not see black-eyed Susans. These landscape favorites start their show in mid July and continue through frost, depending on the variety. There are hundreds of varieties available, and their tolerance of drought and heat makes them favorites in the perennial, prairie, naturalistic, and native plant gardens.

Rudbeckia, the scientific name for this group of plants, thrive in a sunny, well-drained site. They are not fussy about soil, don't need to be fertilized often, and only require irrigation in extremely dry times. In fact, if they are given too much water and fertilizer, they flop and the flower show is reduced. They tend to re-seed themselves, but don't usually get wild and spread like crazy.

Winter Care
Don't be quick to cut back rudbeckia seedheads for winter, because they provide seeds for songbirds such as goldfinches and chickadees. The seedheads also catch snow, offering a beautiful accent in the winter garden. During the growing season, they provide nectar for butterflies.

So, enjoy these beauties right now, and make a few notes for plants to add to your landscape this fall or next spring.

Goldsturm Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is certainly a mouthful, but this is one of the most common cultivars sold in garden centers. This was chosen as the Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant association in 1999 because of its beauty and sturdiness. It is compact, about two feet tall, and has 3- to 4-inch golden flowers with black centers. It spreads by rhizomes and re-seeds itself, making it an amazing ground cover.

Black-Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta is the traditional black-eyed Susan that you see in fields across the country. It is native to most areas of the eastern and southern United States. The flowers are 2 to 3 inches across with bright yellow to orange-yellow rays and domed, dark chocolate-brown center disks. These plants blooms throughout the summer on stiff, leafy, upright 1- to 3-foot-tall stems.

Great Coneflower
Rudbeckia maxima has pretty blue-green basal leaves that can be up to 18 inches long. The flowers are borne on 5- to 6-foot stalks above the mound of leaves in masses of small golden-yellow flowers with dark centers.

Herbstsonne Shining Coneflower
The shining coneflower is an attractive southern native, but Herbstsonne was developed because of its dramatic presence. The plants grow to 7 feet tall with masses of yellow flowers with green centers. This plant makes a gorgeous statement at the back of the border or anyplace that needs some huge drama in late summer.

Brown-Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia triloba is another native that can grow to 6 feet. It has many stems with smallish pale yellow flowers and brown-purple centers. This plant may look a bit ragged as the summer progresses, but giving it an extra dose of water now and then will help prevent this. Otherwise, it is sturdy, hardy and a beautiful addition to the native garden.

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