Black Eyed Susan
Carithers Flowers Design Favorite
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), the state flower of Maryland since 1918, is one of the most prolific and well-known American wildflowers, and a member of the sunflower family. Also commonly called Brown-eyed Susan, Blackiehead and Brown Betty, the Black-eyed Susan is so named for the dark brown or brown-purplish central button of its daisy-like flower. The genus name Rudbeckia comes from Olaus Rudbeck, who was a professor of botany at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. Hirta is Latin for “hairy”, aptly describing the rough, lance-shaped leaves of this tall plant with erect branches. Its beautiful golden-yellow flower rays blanket fields, roadsides, prairies and woodlands throughout the eastern US (and where they have been introduced in the West) from June to October.
Black-eyed Susans are easily recognizable. They tend to appear in large numbers in the open fields, stunning the lucky observer with their size and beauty. The plants can grow to over 3 feet tall, with leaves of 6”, stalks over 8” long and flower diameter of 2-3”. Native to most of North America, they bloom in late summer into early fall. Butterflies, bees and a variety of insects are attracted to the flowers for the nectar. As they drink the nectar, they move pollen from one plant to another, causing it to grow fruits and seeds that can move about easily with the wind. These plants are territorial in that they tend to squash out other flowers growing near them. They are also known as “pioneer” plants, meaning they are among the first ones to reappear after a fire has occurred.
Growing Recommendations - Black Eyed Susans
These hearty flowers really enjoy the sun. Like most wildflowers, Black-eyed Susans may be sown by seed in loosely covered soil. They prefer full sun and fertile, moist soil. After the first season, they can reseed themselves. These plants are susceptible to powdery mildew fungi, so begin an organic antifungal program if the lower leaves turn brown and twisted.