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Plant of the Week: Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta photo credit

The common name, ‘Coneflower’, includes a variety of native plants including the Purple Prairie Coneflower, the Blanket Flower, the Upright Prairie Coneflower and the focus of today’s post, the Black-eyed Susan, just to name a few.  All of these wildflowers belong to the Aster Family (Asteraceae) but may come from a number of different genera.  No matter where they fall in the scientific classification, the one common characteristic that ties all of them together is their domed center (disk flowers) surrounded by longer petals (ray flowers) making a daisey looking flower. 

Blanket flowers are a pioneer species, meaning they easily establish from seed in disturbed soils and are often found in mass along roadsides or other disturbed areas.  This trait can make them ‘weedy’ in a flower garden but an annual thinning of seedlings or careful deadheading of the flowers will keep them under control.  Blanket flowers are bi-annual and will produce only a ring of leaves (rosette) which lie on the ground their first year, die back for the winter, and then shoot up a flowering stock that can be as tall as 3 feet their second year.  Each flowering stock produces yellow petaled flowers with a black/brown center that attract a wide variety of insect pollinators including butterflies and honeybees.

Seeds for Black-eyed Susan can be purchased from wild flower distributors or garden bred varieties can be purchased from any local garden center.  Plant seeds early in the spring, about two weeks before the average last spring frost, and thin seedlings to about two feet apart after they have produced their second ‘real’ leaf.  Seedlings can also be started indoors about 6 weeks prior to the last spring frost and transplanted into a prepared garden bed.  Black-eyed Susan prefer full sun to very slight shade and should be watered the equivalent of 1 inch of water every week.

Please Note:  Respect native prairie plant communities!  Do not dig up wild plants or gather wild seed.  They are a part of a greater community that depends on them.  Thank you!

Happy Gardening! 🙂