Vermont Garden Journal: Rudbeckia
Rudbeckia or black-eyed susans, are such a common flower we often overlook them. These wildflowers are found naturalized along roadsides and, of course, in many home gardens. While the native version is very common and popular for discerning true love, you know she loves me, she loves me not, there are some great new varieties of rudbeckia that expand the color pallet and size of this perennial flower.
"Indian Summer" and "Cherokee Sunset" are two hybrids with semi double, bronze, red, and orange petaled flowers. "Irish Eyes" features an unusual green cone with yellow petals. "Toto" only grows 1 foot tall and "Green Wizard" has green petals with a large black cone. Unfortunately some of these new hybrids are only short lived perennials in our climate. For hardier rudbeckias that come back faithfully for years, try "Golden Glow" and "Goldstrum." "Golden Glow" is also known as the privy plant. While rudbeckias usually stand 2 to 3 feet tall, this giant grows 6 to 7 feet tall with double golden colored flowers. It used to be grown around outhouses to camouflage them.
Rudbeckias are easy to grow. They love full sun and well-drained, moist soil. The hardier types self sow readily so be prepared to weed them out each spring. Allow 2 to 3 feet between plants if you have a problem with powdery mildew disease. This will allow plants to dry out before nightfall. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms, but leave some of the cones on plants for birds to enjoy the seeds. I love watching finches pick off rudbeckia seeds in fall. Mulch tender hybrids in autumn to help them survive tough winters.
Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal: organic weed controls.
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