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Botanical name: Rudbeckia hirta
Common name: Black-eyed Susan
USDA zones: 3 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Needs lots of water at first; drought tolerant once established
Sun requirement: Full sun to partial shade; does best in full sun
Mature size: 12 to 36 inches high and 12 inches wide
Benefits and tolerances: Pretty tolerant of dry conditions and can thrive in most kinds of soil
Seasonal interest: Mounds of leaves in the spring; blooms in mid to late summer, often into the early fall
When to plant: Put nursery plants in the ground from late spring through midsummer; sow seeds in fall or spring.
Distinguishing traits. The golden-yellow petals of black-eyed Susan surround a deep brown cone in the center. It blooms from June to August and sometimes even into September, depending on your zone. The petals are very similar to those of daisies.
Black-eyed Susan attracts beautiful and important pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
Even after the flowers have withered, the black "eyes" add interesting texture to a fall garden, especially when mixed with the feathery heads of grasses.
Once all that's left of the flower is the brown cone in the center, wait for the stem directly beneath it to turn a dark tan or light brown color. Remove the cones, lay them out to dry for a few days and then shake the seeds out of them.
How to use it. These plants colonize easily, so they are a great choice for mounding and creating swaths of golden yellow.
The bright blooms are often the primary source of yellow in a colorful cottage garden.
Tip: Be sure to check the estimated mature size on the variety you choose. It can range anywhere from approximately 1 to 3 feet high. This will affect your plans for placement when you're plotting out a planting plan.
Planting notes. Plant seeds in late fall or mid spring, in loose soil about an inch deep. Step on them gently and water regularly.
Place plants about 18 inches apart. Dig a hole about twice the size of the plant. Remove plant from container, give it a gentle shake and place it in the hole. Fill the rest of the hole in with the extra dirt and be sure to water.
While these plants are quite drought tolerant, give them plenty of water until they are established. Because they colonize so easily, you'll likely want to thin out the clumps every few years to keep them thriving. They are quite transplantable.
Don't be disappointed if you don't get blooms the first year you plant black-eyed Susan. It will do much better the following year.
More: Great design plants