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Rudbeckia_hirta_2007-10-05
Rudbeckia hirta
    ( Rudbeckia        hirta )
Black eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy, Yellow Ox-Eye Daisy, taken on October 5, 2007.
Photo Credit: Mike Strickland

One of the true thoroughbreds for color in the native plant world is the well-known Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta. You will often see a stand of this plant along roadways that have been left to nature or planted on purpose by GDOT. With a bloom time that can begin as early as June and extending into October, this plant willingly shares its sunshiny yellow petals surrounding a very dark, raised center. This yellow is easily seen from a distance, no need to plant it up close. Very forgiving of soil (anything but poorly drained wet soil) and light, Rudbeckia hirta performs best in full sun but tolerates morning sun with afternoon light shade as well; planting in differing light situations might help prolong the time you can enjoy the bright color. An herbaceous perennial, Black Eyed Susan, also called Gloriosa Daisy and Yellow Ox-eye Daisy, takes a very brief intermission in late fall as the birds enjoy its seed heads then begins re-establishing its presence as a ground cover by March providing a nice touch of low green growth as winter finishes. First growth is a rosette of leaves providing protection for the soil during winter's final cold temperatures.

This is a biennial or short-lived perennial, winter hardy to USDA Zone 3-7, some sources list to zone 10. Because Rudbeckia hirta self-seeds, if you do allow it, you will have new plants every year. Some deadheading encourages continued blooming and can be useful in controlling the number of new plants each year. Growing in clumps, and fast, this native's seed heads and blooms attract birds and butterflies; it is the larval host for Gorgone Checkerspot, Bordered Patch butterfly. Sometimes differing petal shapes and numbers of petals may surprise you in your patch.

There are other plants with the common name Black eyed Susan and many cultivars have been developed from Rudbeckia hirta. Rudbeckia hirta is a coarse, hairy (hirta means hairy) plant with bright yellow to orange-yellow rays and domed, dark chocolate-brown center disks. The lance-shaped leaves (3-7") are rough and hairy with short bristles, as are the stems. The blooms are held up on stiff, leafy stems 1-3' tall.

As your first patch of Rudbeckia hirta expands, dig a few rosettes for a new spot in your landscape. Enjoy how different sites will come into bloom at slightly different times. Because this native does grow and spread rapidly, you (and the butterflies) can quickly enjoy large concentrations of brilliant yellow petals. Cut some stems for that bouquet you are making!

Common uses for this plant include: Rudbeckia hirta will brighten up the edge of a flower bed in full sun or partial sun. Butterflies and bees visit this easy to grow native. Propagate easily by moving divisions to various other places in your landscape in early spring or late summer. Easy to grow, this plant once established tolerates dry conditions but also responds well to occasional watering. Consider giving Rudbeckia hirta its own space in which to expand in a meadow or a natural bed to itself and make dead heading maintenance even easier by mowing on a high setting once mature seed cones are formed. Deer do not seem interested in this plant. Cheer a loved one with a bouquet of flowering Rudbeckia hirta.

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