Remember the good ol’ flowers of yesteryear – as kids we picked bouquets of daisies, black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, buttercups … whatever we could find. Those black-eyed Susans were the only native ones in that bunch and their bold colors made them a real standout.
Black-eyed Susan is generally the plant classified as Rudbeckia hirta, but the common name is also applied to some of the other species in the genus that have the black/brown center: R. fulgida and R. triloba. Rudbeckia also shares the common name “coneflower” with several other genera.
They are one of the first yellow composite flowers to bloom in my area and often get lumped into a group of “yellow flowers” by people that can’t seem to tell a Rudbeckia from a Helianthus from a Silphium from a Coreopsis …. I’ll admit that trying to identify yellow warblers is equally confusing for me.
Rudbeckia is native throughout the US, from the mid-west to the north-east and to the south/mid-atlantic. Even California and the pacific north-west have species. Waxy coneflower (Rudbeckia glaucescens) is particularly beautiful. Various species are adaptable to both dry and moist conditions. Green-headed or cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is particularly wet tolerant. Most are easy to grow from seed. And they are great for pollinators!
Rudbeckia species in general are considered perennial although R. hirta can behave as an annual or biennial. A fellow down the road from me lets them grow on a steep bank that he doesn’t mow. I look for them every year and just this week the first bloom opened up and I smiled when I drove by.
So if you need a dependable plant for a sunny area (wet or dry, pick your species appropriately), you can’t go wrong with a Rudbeckia. They were dependable flowers in pioneer gardens and in gardens ever since. They are still a good choice today. Look for them at native plant sales, as pass along plants from a friend or you might just find them in a nursery.
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