The Susans Are Here!

The Susans always make their presence known in August. There’s Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), also known as Orange Coneflower. And then there’s Brown-Eyed Susan (R. triloba), which I like to think of as R. fulgida’s big sister.

Black-Eyed Susan

These are flowers meant to be grown in masses.

DSC_0050The Susans have pretty much taken over the Parkway Bed in August and September.

DSC_0051Black-Eyed Susan takes up the sunnier spots.

DSC_0053And Brown-Eyed Susan makes itself comfortable in the shadier area at the base of the Hackberry tree (Celtis occidentalis).

DSC_0037Brown-Eyed Susan grows to 4 or 5 feet tall in our garden, at least twice the height of R. fulgida. . In the Parkway Bed, though, I cut Brown-Eyed Susan back hard because I don’t want anything to get too tall. It responds quite well to this treatment.

Brown-Eyed Susan

In the Sidewalk Border, though, Brown-Eyed Susan gets to reach its full height. It needs support to keep from flopping.

DSC_0061R. triloba flowers are smaller than R. fulgida, but they come in glorious masses. Brown-eyed Susan has a lighter, airier feel than its shorter relative.

DSC_0068Both of these Rudbeckias have rather nomadic habits, especially Brown-Eyed Susan. It self-sows readily but also tends to be fairly short-lived, so you will find it disappearing over here but then popping up over there. Black-Eyed Susan is more of a steady expansionist.

Neither of these plants need coddling. They like moisture but will tolerate dry soil, and R. triloba can live with quite a lot of shade.

DSC_0055Native bees like the Susans. And birds reportedly like the seeds, though I have rarely seen Goldfinches and their ilk feeding on these plants. I suspect that birds more frequently eat the seeds after they have fallen to the ground.

Some people find the Susans tiresome, mainly because R. fulgida is so widely used. This attitude is wrong-headed, in my opinion. Summer would not be the same without the Susans and their cheerful blooms.

24 Comments on “The Susans Are Here!”

  1. I love my Rudbeckias, even with their nomadic habits. Careful editing of R triloba has resulted in one lovely plant this year, tucked in among a Joe Pyle and Brazilian sage. R fulgida — love it, period, especially the species with its smaller flowers. But even a cultivar from one of my gardening pals is reasonable, too.

  2. Susans certainly hold their own in the garden here too. I find her invading beds other than the one she was planted in. I usually leave her be. It is fun to have those pretty golden yellow faces cheering you on through the August droughts and those full brown eyes feeding the Goldfinches during fall and early winter.

  3. Rudbeckias are looking bright all over Portland and Astoria. It seems like a particularly good year for them here, in fact. Although I have grown both R. fulgida and R. triloba, I don’t have any now because I can’t provide the sun they need. Yours are beautiful, and make me want to walk along the sidewalk through your garden!

  4. I’m curious what you use for support, and how much water you actually give them. Or maybe you don’t have to water in summer as much as we do here, if you get rain (we get almost none for at least two weeks, sometimes longer, in summer). My Susans in full sun this year got overlooked, and shriveled before I noticed I hadn’t watered them.

  5. I rip out so many of these each spring but enough escape that I always have a nice show somewhere and would never want to be without. This was my first year with triloba and I never thought it would do so well planted under other things. The flowers came right up and it’s a new favorite!

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