The Black Eyed Susan (aka: Rudbeckia hirta) is a lovely, daisy-like flower and a North America native. This hardy perennial makes an excellent choice in USDA hardiness zones 4-9a. They grow enthusiastically in the wild, and blanket vast fields with dazzling bright yellow blooms.
These native herbs make a gorgeous addition to any flower, herb or veggie garden and are very beneficial to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
In a pollinator garden, Black Eyed Susans are a real hit. They provide nectar for bees and butterflies and establish the perfect conditions for moving pollen from plant to plant, thereby supporting life on earth.
With a lengthy blooming season, you, the bees and butterflies can enjoy Black Eyed Susans throughout the summer months and well into the fall.
In this article, we will share some tips to help you establish beautiful, useful Black Eyed Susans in your yard and garden. We will also share some good tips on making the best use of this hardy, health-giving plant. Read on to learn more.
Choose The Right Variety For Your Setting
How tall do Black Eyed Susans get? The average height for Rudbeckia hirta plants is about three feet, but it is possible for them to be smaller (i.e. one foot) or quite a bit larger. Again, this depends greatly upon location, care and the weather. It also depends upon the variety selected.
Most people know the tall, bright yellow native version of the plant, known as Sonora. This typical variety sports deep black eyes and bright yellow blooms.
However, you’ll find a smaller variety ideal for limited spaces. Toto is a dwarf variety that looks like the full-sized plant and better choice for container gardening.
How To Grow Black Eyed Susan From Seed?
It’s a good idea to wait until the soil reaches a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit before sowing your seeds. Generally speaking, this would be between the months of March and May.
Once planted, your seeds may begin to sprout in a week, but may take as long as a month. This depends upon your choice in sowing location, the care provided and weather conditions.
It goes without saying that these sunflower family members desire full sun, but it is possible to grow them in partial shade.
Plant seeds in moist, well-drained, fertile soil. Cover the seeds loosely, and keep them moist until they sprout and established themselves.
Take Care Of Rudbeckia hirta Plants
As mentioned, keep seeds and seedlings well-watered until they become established. During the first growing season, take care that your new plants don’t dry out. Once established, a deep weekly watering will probably be sufficient. Soaker hoses make the task an easy one.
It’s a good idea to start plants out with a 12″-15″ space between them. Plants tend to spread and may become crowded within a couple of years. Divide plants every three years or so help plants and roots get good air circulation and enough nutrients.
It is also smart to deadhead Black Eyed Susans throughout the blooming season. Removing spent blossoms on a regular, ongoing basis promotes more blooms and a longer blooming season.
Diseases & Pests To Guard Against
The practice of keeping plants well-divided, removing spent blossoms and leaves will provide better air circulation. This in turn helps prevent pests and fungal type maladies to which Black Eyed Susans are prone. Here are the hazards you should watch out for:
If your plants do develop a mold problem, such as Rudbeckia leaf spot, take decisive action to remove all affected leaves and stems and dispose of them properly. Follow up by treating your plants with a good fungicidal spray.
Keep in mind – all the above problems listed thrive in damp, crowded conditions. Keeping plants groomed helps avoid mold problems and pest infestation. On the upside, you will not have to worry about deer! They do not eat Black Eyed Susan.
What To Do With Black Eyed Susan At The End Of The Growing Season
If you deadhead your spent flowers, seeds will not be an issue. If you want seeds, let your last round of flowers go to seed in autumn. Then you can either collect the seed and save it in an envelope in a cool, dry place until the springtime, or you can simply allow it to fall to the earth naturally.
Black Eyed Susan seeds are edible for birds, and leaving them on the plants provides a good source of food for your avian friends in the fall.
To keep your Black Eyed Susan where they are, simply allow them to reseed. If you want to “move” your flowerbed or add another one, collect seed for planting next season.
How To Prune & Divide Black Eyed Susan
Once plants begin to wither, cut them back dramatically in preparation for winter. Leave only an inch or two of stem. This will help the plants and roots conserve energy, which enables them to survive the long winter months ahead.
You may also want to divide and thin them at this time. Because they are so hardy and spread so easily, care must be taken when growing them in a garden setting. They are just as enthusiastic when domesticated as when wild, and they can take over your garden.
When you do divide them, don’t throw away the roots you don’t replant. You can use the roots to create an herbal tonic to build up your immune system and help you survive the long winter months ahead!
Uses & Benefits Of Black Eyed Susan
In addition to being beautiful and beneficial for pollinators and birds, this sunny flower is also a native herb. The roots and leaves find uses as food, in creating teas and to make natural medicines.
It may not surprise you to know that these flowers are actually a type of sunflower. At about 3 feet high, they are smaller than the average sunflower, and they do not produce edible seeds as a sunflower does. In fact, the seeds are poisonous to humans (but not birds) so do not consume them.
Related to the coneflower (which provides excellent immune system support), it’s sometimes even called by that name. You may also hear it referred to as:
- Yellow Ox Eye Daisy
- Brown Eyed Susan
- Hairy Coneflower
- Golden Jerusalem
- Poorland Daisy
- Gloriosa Daisy
- Yellow Daisy
- Brown Betty
What Is It Used For Medicinally?
Native Americans traditionally used the plant as a medicinal herb with a wide variety of applications. The use of the plant root and leave infusions made:
- A medicine to rid the body of parasites
- Poultice for wounds or snakebite
- Wound wash
The modern world dismisses many native and traditional practices. Current studies show that the Black Eyed Susan is more effective as an immune system booster than Echinacea.
Modern herbalists often create teas or infusions of Black Eyed Susan roots to help ward off the common cold. In addition to its immune boosting properties, both Native Americans and modern herbalists use the herb successfully in the following applications:
- To relieve symptoms of earache
- As an anti-inflammatory wash
- To treat cuts and scrapes
- To treat dropsy
- As a diuretic
Using natural preparations made with the Rudbeckia hirta plant is safe and soothing. With properly prepared natural healing concoctions, no negative side effects have been associated with the use of Black Eyed Susan. [source] Always consult a medical professional before taking any type of medication!
How To Prepare A Black Eyed Susan Tonic
To make a pleasant tea using the dried roots, clean them thoroughly. Dry them in the open air, in your oven on a low temperature or using a food dehydrator.
To use, coarsely grind the dried root in your blender or in a coffee or spice grinder then follow these steps:
- Measure five teaspoons of the ground, dried root into an 8 ounce measuring cup.
- Add rapidly boiling water.
- Cover and steep for about ten minutes.
- Pour the liquid through a strainer into a cup
Drink the tea once a week as an immune booster. If you feel yourself coming down with a cold, drink a cup right away and have 2 cups a day until you are feeling better.
The Other Black Eyed Susan Vine – Thunbergia Alata
Also called the “Black Eyed Susan” – Thunbergia Alata is an attractive annual vine along with some of the new varieties. In the videos below you will learn to grow and care for this wonderful vining plant, along with how to collect seed. Grown on a trellis or in hanging baskets, they bloom all summer and make great specimens.
Here you’ll see some grown on a trellis as well as baskets.
mrBrownThumb shows how to collect Black Eyed Susan seed
It’s easy to see the many good reasons to add Black Eyed Susan to your yard, garden and tea cabinet. When you do, you provide yourself a feast for the eyes, and the local birds, bees and butterflies will enjoy a literal feast. Being able to create home remedies with this native herb provides even more incentive to bring this enthusiastic grower home.