Black-eyed Susans growing in today’s gardens are descendants of wildflowers from the midwest of the United States. They are short-lived perennials or biennials that bloom reliably from seed the first year. Black-eyed Susans are charming, daisy-like flowers that are a staple of perennial borders and look lovely planted in masses behind smaller groups of flowers like lavender.
How do you grow black-eyed Susan flowers?
You can start rudbeckia hirta seeds (black-eyed Susans, brown-eyed Susans, brown Betty) indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost in seed trays. Plant the seedlings out after the threat of frost has passed into a location with fertile well-draining soil and full sun. To grow abundant blooms, add compost at the beginning of the growing season and provide consistently moderate water.
Choose the Variety of Black-eyed Susan Flowers You Want to Grow
Black-eyed Susans are members of the aster family. These summer bloomers are a staple planting addition to the back of borders and in sizeable mass drift plantings.
They also make lovely stand-alone displays with swaths of bright yellow blooms.
The plants bloom with 2-3 inch-sized golden to lemon yellow petals, often marked with deep orange, deep maroon, and bronze. Blooms have brown centers, and semi-double and double flower varieties are available.
The yellow flowers are long-lasting, and their flowering season is from mid-summer until the first frost, making them a valuable commodity in the late summer garden.
Be sure to pick the varieties that are hardy to your growing region.
Here are four of our favorite recommendations:
Cherokee sunset has big beautiful blooms in rusty orange, golden yellow, dark chocolate, brown and varying bi-colors that produce until the first frost.
These plants have primarily double flowers but can have a few singles and semi-doubles.
Short-lived perennial in zones 2-9.
Rudbeckia triloba is a densely branched plant that works well as a filler plant for bouquets. These plants are common black-eyed Susans and have cute mini blooms with small black centers in bright yellow.
These plants make excellent cut flowers.
Short-lived perennial in Zones 2–9.
Indian summer black-eyed Susans are flowering plants with semi-double and single blooms measuring 4–7 inches. These plants have sturdy straight stems with vigorous branching that do not require support.
Tender perennial in Zones 9–10.
Gloriosa produces large, primarily double blooms on strong long stems.
Beautifully fluffy 4–5″ flowers resemble mums—a unique black-eyed Susan.
Tender perennial in Zones 9–10.
These black-eyed Susans have green eyes! The large 4-6 inch golden blooms have petals with primrose-colored tips surrounding a light green center.
These plants are perfect for cut flowers.
Tender perennial in Zones 9–10
Start The Seeds Indoors 6-8 Weeks Before Your Last Frost Date
For black-eyed Susan blooms the first year from seed, start your seeds indoors at least 6-8 weeks before your area’s last predicted frost date. Here are the steps to growing Rudbeckia indoors from seed step by step:
Refrigerate Rudbeckia Hirta Seeds Before Planting
Prepare rudbeckia hirta seeds for indoor sowing four to five months before your last predicted spring frost.
Store the seeds in a small plastic bag filled with lightly moistened sphagnum moss and place them inside the refrigerator.
Use New Potting Mix
Prepare to plant containers approximately six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. Fill seed trays with four parts potting soil, 1 part medium-grit sand, and 1 part perlite.
Do not use garden soil; start with fresh loamy seed starting mix. Garden soil can be heavy and can have insects and diseases.
Sow Black-Eyed Susan in Seed Flats
Place two black-eyed Susan seeds in each cell. Roughen the soil, place the seeds on top, and gently press them into the soil’s surface. Rudbeckia requires light for germination, so you will want to sprinkle very little earth over the top of the seeds.
Water and Place The Seed Flats Somewhere Warm
Lightly water the seeds with a spray mist to avoid displacing the seeds. Place the cell near a window or under grow lights. Plants will require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
Loosely cover to Maintain Moisture
Lay a transparent plastic sheet over the cell trays to prevent the soil from drying.
Keep Soil Moist
Continue to water with a spray bottle when the soil’s surface is nearly dry.
Black-Eyed Susan Germination Time
Black-eyed Susans require heat of 70-75F for germination. You can use a heat mat or place the seed trays somewhere warm, like on top of a fridge or near a heating vent.
Seeds will germinate quickly, and you should see seedlings emerge in 5-10 days.
After the seeds germinate and have at least two sets of leaves, thin all growing cells to one seedling.
Or Save Time and Buy Seedlings at a Garden Nursery
You can also buy fully developed Rudbeckia hirta plants at a nursery in spring for planting out. You can also purchase bare roots from many online flower suppliers.
Next, Choose a Sunny Spot with Well-Draining Soil to Plant your Seedlings
Rudbeckia hirta is a North American flower in the plant family Asteraceae. These native plants grow in Eastern and Central North America. To create the best growing environment, you will want to mimic their native habitat:
Rudbeckia hirta is a heat-loving biennial or perennial often grown as a half-hardy annual. They can tolerate light frost and will self-seed and rebloom in some regions.
Check the varieties for zone growing requirements, as some varieties will fair better in colder regions than others.
Black-eyed Susans require full sun to produce abundant blooms but can tolerate light shade.
We planted black-eyed Susans on the east side of our foundation in our last home, and they grew exceptionally well despite having morning and late evening shade.
Black-eyed Susans will tolerate poor dry soil, but they grow best in rich, well-drained soils. If you are growing your flowers for cutting, you will want to add some compost to their planting area each year.
Planting Out With Proper Spacing
Transplant seedlings out into the garden after all threats of frost have passed.
Space seedlings 1-2 feet apart. Black-eyed Susans will spread rapidly, and you want to ensure each plant has enough room to grow. Spacing also allows airflow around the base of the plant, which will help with the development of diseases like powdery mildew.
Direct Sowing Brown Eyed Susan Seeds
You can also seed your black-eyed Susans directly into the garden when the soil can be worked in spring.
These plants will self-sow and will return year after year.
Related: For more yellow flowers that will come back year after year, check out this post dedicated to just yellow perennials!
Provide One Inch of Water Each Week
Black-eyed Susans are drought-tolerant.
But if you want to grow your flowers for cut flowers, they will require consistently moderately moist soil. So be sure to provide at least 1 inch of water, either from rain or manual watering a week, and you will be rewarded with large yellow flowers that bloom longer and more prolifically.
Learn More: See our list of the best drought-tolerant perennials.
Feed Black-eyed Susans During Spring Planting
Black-eyed Susans only require a good feed at the start of the growing season and should not require any supplemental feedings through the summer.
Watch for Pests Like Aphids, Japanese Beetles, and Caterpillars
Generally, black-eyed Susans are relatively pest free, and even a small amount of problems rarely impact large drifts and displays.
However, insects like aphids can gather on the stem bud to suck juices from tips,
Beetles and caterpillars can also chew holes in leaves and flowers.
A quick blast from a garden hose is usually enough to control an infestation to handle aphids.
However, if the hose method does not work, you can use an insecticidal soap every 3-5 days until the populations of pests are under control.
For beetles and caterpillars, it is best to hand pick and drop in a bucket of soapy water.
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Watch For Late-season Powdery Mildew
Black-eyed Susans are generally disease-free, but the occasional fungal infection can cause rust or leaf spots on the leaves. However, the diseases are seldom serious and rarely require a control method.
Powdery mildew will usually present in late summer with fine dust on leaves and flowers. The fungus Erysiphe cichoracearum causes it during hot, humid weather.
Plants that have not been given adequate space to grow or have reseeded over the years and become overgrown usually develop powdery mildew due to lack of air circulation.
Infected plants can become distorted and stunted, and leaves may drop off.
To help control powdery mildew, spray plants with wettable sulfur twice weekly, starting as soon as the powder mildew is visible.
Poor drainage and overly wet locations will cause roots to rot. To prevent crown rot, be sure to plant your black-eyed Susans in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.
Destroy any plants that have crown rot, do not compost.
Save Seed Heads for Replanting Next Season
When all the flowers have shed their petals in the fall, you will be left with a black cone.
Remove the cones from the plants and place them in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
Place the lid on the container and give the whole thing a 20-30-second shake. The shaking will release the seeds from the cone.
You can save whole seed heads or release seeds in a labeled paper bag. Keep the seeds in a cool, dry place until ready to use.
The plants will also self-seed readily if the seed’s heads are left on them, although they may attract birds.
- Learn More: We have an entire article about seed saving, including the best plants and successful seed savings methods.
Split and Transplant Black-Eyed Susans When They Get Overgrown
Divide and split black-eyed Susans when the plants are dormant, usually in early spring or fall.
Dig around the black-eyed Susans about 12 inches from the center of the plant.
You will want to dig deep to avoid damaging roots. Then, lift the plant from the ground with the soil and transplant it into its new home.
Add a handful of compost to the planting hole to give the plants a good start in their new location—water well.
Use black-eyed Susans as Cut flowers.
Black-eyed Susans make a lovely filler flower for bouquets and arrangements. The cut flowers will last up to 10 days in a vase.
Use a sharp pair of cutting shears to cut the flower stem at an angle. You will want to cut flowers early in the morning when they are at the freshest and when the flowers are almost fully bloomed. Then, place the cut flowers directly into a bucket of cold water and leave them in a cold room overnight for conditioning.
When ready to create your arrangement, give the stems a fresh cut and add the flowers into new clean water.
- Learn More: Interested in a cut flower garden? See our list of the best flowers you can grow at home for a cut flower garden.
Add Companion Plants To Contrast With Rudbeckias Bright Yellow Flowers
Companion Plants for black-eyed Susans are almost too many to list. Still, a few reliable choices include globe the thistle, zinnia, sedum, echinacea, and ornamental grasses. The bright yellow flowers look stunning against blue and violet flowers like catmint and lavender.
- Learn More: Companion planting is more than just making your gardens look good; many vegetables, herbs, and flowers bring potent benefits to the gardens. See our beginner’s guide to companion planting to learn more.
Dry Some of Your Black-eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susans are perfect flowers for drying.
They press exceptionally well and tend to maintain their vibrant golden-yellow color.
You can also hang full bouquets of flowers to dry in a cool dark room or closet. The flowers will lose some of their vibrancy with this method, but the bouquets, when dried, are lovely.
You can also preserve the shape and color of your rudbeckia hirta by drying your flowers and stems in silica gel.
- To learn more about drying flowers, check out our popular how-to-dry flower post for step-by-step instructions for each method.
- See our post on caring for your dried flower bouquets and displays to keep them looking their best.
- Check out our guide to drying rose petals in under 2 minutes.
- How To Care For and Fertilize Pepper Plants For Big Harvests
Easy Growing Black-Eyed Susans – A Cheap Way for a BIG Display
There is no better bang for your buck than a packet of black-eyed Susans. They are easy to grow and care for, rarely succumb to pests and diseases and get along just fine with a bit of neglect. They are also very deer resistant!
They are perfect for borders, beds, cutting flower gardens, small containers, and extensive mass plantings.
The best part is for the open-pollinated versions of black-eyed Susan like triloba; next year, you can save your seed heads and plant as many as possible! Rudbeckia hirta also self-seed readily!
For the price of a packet of black-eyed Susan seeds in a few years, you could have massive displays of beautifully vibrant yellow petals.
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