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Black-Eyed Susans Add To Landscapes
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Passing motorists should view Black-eyed Susans beside the road like billboards proclaiming "THESE WILL WORK IN YOUR YARD, TOO!"
Mother nature has been putting on a beautiful show this year with the Black-eyed Susans. These Rudbeckias are native to Mississippi; in fact, there are 30 to 40 species native to the United States.
Their site and care is fairly standard. They prefer organic-rich beds in full sun with adequate moisture. The Rudbeckia fulgida "Goldtsturm" may be our best perennial Black-eyed Susan.
They bloom from May until the first hard frost. The leaves are fairly large, oval and dark green. Keep well watered during droughts, and remove dead flowerheads for maximum bloom.
In the early spring, divide what will be a tightly grown clump. Plant with seeds or purchase as transplants.
They are great planted along sunny borders. I have mine combined with the blue and lavender Tapien verbenas. They also work well with asters, goldenrods, homestead purple verbena and liatris or gay feather.
The Rudbeckia triloba is another outstanding choice for Mississippi. This is a Georgia Gold Medal winner and could qualify here as well. It is a prolific blooming perennial -- sometimes treated as an annual.
It has an abundance of yellow flowers with button-shaped black centers produced at the ends of many branched stems.
It is very erect, growing about 3 feet tall, spreading and bushy. The leaves are dark green and divided into three oval parts, hence the name triloba.
Rudbeckia triloba originated on the prairies of the United States. Plant in full sun in organic-rich beds. Prompt cutting back just as the bloom finishes can extend the plant's life-span. Otherwise, let the seeds ripen and collect them.
Plant in the middle of the border with cosmos, zinnias and one of the new plants you've seen this year called angelonia. Be bold and create large drifts of color.
If you would like a Rudbeckia with a green eye, look no farther than "Irish Eyes." It has a green cone and single flowers opening 4 to 5 inches across. With its foliage reaching about 30 inches, Irish Eyes are not only striking, but they are unusual. They are grown as an annual or short-lived perennial.
The all America selection for 1995 was Rudbeckia hirta, or "Indian Summer." This is one gorgeous flower even if it is an annual. The plant reaches 42 inches in height and produces its heart out with large softball-sized blooms.
A mass planting of these combined with a mass of purple coneflowers will make your border look like you are the "Gardener of the Year."
These flowers are so striking they even can be planted as spot plants. They are sold in early spring, but not in bloom, which is my preference. They are being sold now in bloom, which makes it near impossible to resist.
A nursery/landscape firm in Magee has demonstrated that planting in bloom this time of the year works well, but only if watered twice a day until the roots get established in the surrounding soil.
Black-eyed Susans are great cut flowers with a long vase life if you condition them. The secret is to place a cardboard sheet on top of a deep pan of 100 to 110 degree water.
Cut holes in the cardboard to allow the stems to be placed through and into the water. When the petals are flat and the stem is straight, it is ready for the vase.