Learn how to grow black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) with this beginner-friendly guide. Discover easy tips for planting, care, and enjoying these sunny blooms in your garden.

One of my favorite easy-care perennials to grow is rudbeckia. This flower, also known as black-eyed Susan, is a must-have for any garden.

It is easy to grow and care for while adding a splash of vibrant color to your outdoor spaces. Today, we are chatting about how to grow rudbeckia and get the most out of it in your garden.

If you aren’t already growing black-eyed susans, I’m sure you will be after today. Wait until you see how fun rudbeckia is to grow!

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Growing Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia is a hardy perennial that can grow up to 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. It blooms in late summer and early fall. It has a yellow flower with black center.

Also known as the Maryland state flower, black-eyed susan is hardy to zones 3-8 and prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. It is best to plant rudbeckia in well-drained soil, but it is also pretty adaptable to most soil conditions.

These plants are known for their bright, daisy-like flowers in shades of yellow, gold, and orange, which bloom from summer to fall. Black-eyed Susans are relatively low-maintenance and are excellent for adding long-lasting color to gardens and landscapes.

Depending on the variety you have, black-eyed susies look best in the middle to back of the border for the most aesthetically pleasing design.

However, there are varieties that are smaller and more compact that look wonderful planted in front of the border.

The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, making it a great addition to any pollinator garden.

  • Genus: Rudbeckia
  • Common Name: Black-eyed Susan
  • Plant Type: Perennial/Annual
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Well-drained, loamy
  • Height: 1-3 feet
  • Width: 1-2 feet
  • Flower Color: Yellow, gold, orange
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Bloom Time: Summer to fall
Growing rudbeckia - A vibrant cluster of yellow daisies with dark brown centers, bathed in sunlight. a bee is perched on one of the foreground flowers, amidst a backdrop of numerous similar blooms.

Benefits of Growing Rudbeckia

If you are not already growing black-eyed susan in your garden, here are 5 reasons you should plant some in your flower garden this year.

  • Black eyed susans are easy to grow
  • They have a long blooming period
  • Rudbeckia attracts pollinators
  • They have beautiful flowers that look great in different garden styles
  • And rudbeckia propagates with ease.
zinias and rudbeckia in the cottage garden in fall

Planting Black Eyed Susan in Your Flower Garden

If you are not sure when to plant black-eyed suzies, the best time is generally spring or fall. They can be grown from seed or purchased as a plant.

If starting from seed, it should be planted in the spring or fall. Rudbeckia seeds should be planted about ¼ inch deep and spaced about 6-12 inches apart. Once the seedlings are established, they can be thinned to one plant every 12-18 inches.

If purchasing a mature rudbeckia plant, it can be planted in the spring or fall as well. The hole should be dug to the same depth as the pot and twice as wide. Amend the soil with compost, backfill with garden soil, and water thoroughly.

Because rudbeckia is so easy to find at the garden nursery, I recommend purchasing a mature plant over starting them from seed. If there are varieties you want to grow that you don’t have access too, look for an online retailer or start them from seed.

Vibrant garden with tall yellow flowers and pink blooms in front of a white house with hanging flower baskets. growing rudbeckia, sedum autumn joy and gomphrena (globe amaranth)

Where is the Best Place to Plant Rudbeckia?

Rudbeckia is pretty versatile and can be grown in a variety of locations, including full sun to partial shade. For best results, it is recommended to plant black eyed susan in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

The plant prefers well-drained soil that is slightly acidic to neutral (pH between 6.0 and 7.5) and can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soil. It’s always a good idea to test your soil before planting a garden to ensure it has a good foundation for growing plants and has the right balance of nutrients to feed your flowers. You can pick up a test from a garden nursery or your local cooperative extension.

When selecting a planting site, it is important to consider the plant’s mature size and growth habits. Rudbeckia can range in height from a few inches to several feet, depending on the variety. Taller varieties may require staking to prevent them from falling over in windy conditions.

In my garden, they are planted en masse near my front porch that topple over every year. I keep them upright with green garden stakes and twine.

Rudbeckia also makes a great addition to wildflower meadows, prairies, and other naturalized areas. When planting in these settings, it is recommended to sow seeds in the fall or early spring, and to avoid using herbicides or other chemicals that could harm the plant or its pollinators.

rudbeckia in fall
My first growing season in our home and I learned that the rudbeckia needed support to stay upright.

How to Care for Black-Eyed Susan: A Simple Guide for Vibrant Flowers

Rudbeckia is one of the best low-maintenance perennial flowers to grow because once established, it can even tolerate drought and heat. They are native in many localities and if you want to grow a more organic flower garden, blackeyed susans are a good plant to include in your design.

Watering Rudbeckia

It is important to water it regularly during the first year of growth to help establish its roots. In the following years, it may only need watering during periods of prolonged drought.

The golden rule to follow: aim for watering the roots, not the foliage. This is why drip irrigation and soaker hoses work incredibly well in flower gardens. Overhead watering can encourage pest problems and fungal diseases. Instead, use watering cans, soaker hoses, or drip irrigation systems to deliver water directly to the root zone where the plant needs it most.

One of the reasons you want to avoid watering from above is because when the foliage stays wet and the sun goes down, that water does not evaporate as well which causes fungal issues like black spot and powdery mildew. The same goes for the soil. When plants sit in wet soggy soil overnight it encourages pest and disease problems. And we don’t want that with our rudbeckia!

In addition to watering the base of plants, it’s also really important to water in the earlier part of the day instead of later in the day. It is better for your flower garden and plants because they will have a chance to dry out before nightfall when the temperatures cool.

Close up of benary giant wine zinnia, limelight hydrangea and rudbekia flowers -7 Lessons I Learned From Growing a Flower Patch
Benary’s Giant Wine Zinnia with Rudbekia and limeline hydrangea

Fertilizing Rudbeckia

Fertilizing is not necessary. I’m a huge proponent of focusing on your soil quality instead of feeding perennials or biennials with fertilizers. If you’ve already taken a soil test, follow any recommendations those results provided. Add compost, aged manure, leaf mold and other organic matter yearly to help improve your soil, improve drainage, and supress weeds.

The only situation I recommend fertizling black eyed susan is when they are grown in pots. In that circumstance, I would use a balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring in addition to adding compost and other organic matter.

Mulching Around Your Rudbeckia

It’s always a great idea to mulch around your black eyed susans. I recommend using organic mulch like wood chips because it will break down and help improve your soil over time while suppressing weeds, maintaining soil temperature, and helping plants retain moisture.

When you mulch, make sure you keep it away from the base of plants. Mulching right on top of the base of plants encourages pest and disease problems – which we don’t want, am I right?

Vibrant Yellow flowers of rudbeckia (black eyed susans)
Rudbeckia Flowers (Black Eyed Susan)

Deadheading Black Eyed Susan Flowers

Deadheading black-eyed Susans is a matter of personal preference, but it can help to promote more blooms and a longer blooming season.

By doing so, you encourage the plant to put more energy into producing new blooms rather than putting energy into seed production. This can lead to a longer blooming period and a more vigorous plant.

To deadhead Rudbeckia, wait until the flowers have started to fade and the petals have begun to wilt. Then, use a pair of clean garden snips or pruners to cut the stem just below the spent flower, being careful not to damage any new growth or emerging buds.

You can continue to deadhead the plant throughout the growing season as new blooms appear. Do this throughout the growing season to keep your plants looking tidy and to promote continuous blooming. If you prefer a more natural look in your garden or wish to collect seeds, leave a few of the last blooms to mature on the plant.

But I have to be honest, I typically leave mine alone so the birds can enjoy the seed well into fall. The dried seed heads can provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and can add interest to your garden throughout the fall and winter.

How to Divide Black-Eyed Susans: Step-by-Step Instructions

Every few years, divide rudbekia in spring or fall to maintain plant health, avoid overcrowding, and grow your garden for free.

Rudbeckia should be divided every three to four years to prevent overcrowding and to keep it healthy.

The best time to divide is in the early spring as the plant starts breaking ground or in fall when it starts to go dormant. To divide, dig up the entire clump and separate it into smaller pieces. Each division should have a healthy root system. Replant each division at the same depth as before, and water thoroughly.

front porch cottage garden in fall with rudbeckia, gomphrena celosia and sedum autumn joy

Common Pest and Disease Problems With Black Eyed Susan

While there are no serious insect or disease problems, black-eyed susans are susceptible to powdery mildew. To help prevent it, space plants well and always water the base of plants in the earlier part of the day instead of watering from above.

Slugs and snails can be a problem so keep an eye out for them. And if they become an issue, you can use this organic bait to combat them.

Do Deer Eat Black Eyed Susans?

If you are wondering do deer eat black eyed susans, I’m here to tell you that it really depends. It depends on where you live, the deer population, weather conditions, and the variety of hydrangeas you have, black eyed susans may or may not be more deer-resistant.

Having gardening friends from around the world, they have very different opinions on this very topic.

Some will argue deer never touch their rudbeckia. While others will tell you deer devour them.

rudbeckia, pumpkins, supertunias on the porch

Are Black Eyed Susans Deer Resistant Gardening Zone 6a, New Jersey

Given so many gardeners have a variety of opinions on whether deer eat black eyed susans or not, I’m here to tell you that if you live in the New Jersey area, they do – but it really depends.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension shared a study that rates all plants by deer resistance and the results are the same for all black eyed susans.

They are each rated with a seldomly severely damaged rating. This means deer have been known to snack on rudbeckia but not as often as something like a hosta or daylily.

I’ve noticed deer damage in early spring when the plant starts breaking ground. To keep my rudbeckia safe from deer damage, I spray them early on during the growing season with deer repellent.

To give you an idea of what plants are rated with a similar rating to Rudbeckia, here are a few plants in the same category.

  • Achillea
  • Asters
  • Astilbes
  • Callicarpa
  • Blazing Star
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Common Lilac
  • Heucheras
  • Delphinium
  • Forsythia
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Japanese Anemone
  • Lantana
  • Lupine
  • Oriental Poppy
  • Primrose
  • Salvia
  • Verbena
  • Weigela
  • Zinnia
sedum autumn joy, rudbeckia, gomphrena and pumpkins by the front porch in fall

Growing Rudbeckia in Pots: Container Gardening Tips

If you lack garden space, you can grow black eyed susan in pots. Select a pot that’s at least 12-14 inches deep and wide to accommodate the roots of your foxglove. Make sure it has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

Use a well-draining potting mix that’s rich in organic matter. A mix formulated for flowering plants is a good option. When grown in pots, digitalis will need to be fed with a balanced fertilizer. Because nutrients wash out of the soil every time you water, it’s a good idea to feed them yearly and repot them every few years to freshen up the soil.

Since pots tend to dry out quicker in the summer, I also recommend running drip irrigation set on timers so it’s easier to maintain.

In colder climates, potted rudbeckia will need protection from freezing temperatures. To successfully overwinter them, choose varieties that are two zones hardier than your growing zone This means, if you garden in zone 6 you’ll want a variety that can handle zone 4.

You can also try moving them to a sheltered location like a garage or unheated shed and insulate the pot with burlap or bubble wrap.

gomphrena, rudbeckia, and my cottage garden in fall in new jersey zone 6a

Top Varieties of Black Eyed Susan

There are many different varieties of black-eyed Susan to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics and growing requirements.

Here are a few popular varieties that gardeners often enjoy.

  • ‘Goldsturm’ – This is perhaps the most popular cultivar of Rudbeckia, with bright golden-yellow flowers that have dark brown centers. It blooms from midsummer to early fall and can reach up to 2 feet tall.
  • ‘Denver Daisy’ – This variety has bright yellow petals with a dark center and a distinctive red ring around the center disk. It is a compact plant, reaching about 1-2 feet tall, and blooms from midsummer to early fall.
  • ‘Cherokee Sunset‘ – This cultivar has unique, double, and semi-double flowers in shades of yellow, orange, and red. It can reach up to 3 feet tall and blooms from midsummer to early fall.
  • ‘Prairie Sun’ – This variety has pale yellow petals that fade to creamy white at the tips and a dark green center. It can reach up to 3 feet tall and blooms from midsummer to early fall.
  • ‘Little Goldstar’ – This is a compact variety that reaches only 12-18 inches tall and has bright yellow flowers with a dark center. It blooms from midsummer to early fall and is well-suited for container gardens or smaller garden spaces.

These are just a few examples of the many different varieties of rudbeckia available. When choosing a variety for your garden, consider your growing conditions, the size and shape of the plant, and the color and style of the flowers to find the perfect fit for your landscape.

Fall garden in front of vintage farmhouse with rudbeckia, hostas, sedum autumn joy and hardy hibiscus on a sunny day

Best Companion Plants for Rudbeckia: 10 Flowers That Look Amazing With Black Eyed Susans

Not sure what to plant with rudbeckia? I got you. Here are some of my favorite flowers to grow with black eyed susans.

fall front porch with cottage garden filled with gomphrena, sedum autumn joy and rudbeckia with pumpkins

Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) FAQs

Black-eyed Susans are remarkably resilient and low-maintenance plants, but a few questions often arise when cultivating these cheerful blooms. Whether you’re wondering about the best time to divide your plants or how to protect them from pests, this FAQ section aims to provide clear and concise answers to your most common queries. Let’s dive into the details to ensure your black-eyed Susans thrive and bring sunshine to your garden year after year.

Does Rudbeckia Bloom Every Year?

Yes, rudbeckia is a perennial plant that typically blooms every year. Once established, it will come back year after year, producing its bright and cheerful flowers in late summer through early fall.

However, it is important to note that the blooming period may vary depending on the growing conditions and the specific variety of rudbeckia you have planted. In order to ensure healthy and consistent blooms, provide your black eyed susan with proper care, including adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients.

For best results, divide the plant every few years to maintain its overall health so the blooms continue for several years.

I planted rudbeckia in my former garden the first year we moved in and it continues to bloom today more than 20 years later.

rudbeckia in fall with good directions birdhouse with copper roof and snapdragons with celosia in new jersey zone 6a garden

Are Echinacea and Rudbeckia the Same?

Echinacea and Rudbeckia are not the same plants, but they do share some similarities. Both plants are members of the Asteraceae family and are native to North America. They are also both popular choices for gardeners looking to add color and pollinator-friendly plants to their landscapes.

Echinacea, commonly known as coneflower, produces daisy-like flowers with prominent central cones that are typically pink, purple, or white.

Rudbeckia, also known as black-eyed Susan, produces similar daisy-like flowers with distinctive dark centers surrounded by bright gold petals.

While both plants are low-maintenance and relatively easy to grow, they have some differences in terms of their growing requirements and overall appearance.

For example, echinacea tends to be taller and more upright, while Rudbeckia is often shorter and more spreading in habit. Additionally, rudbeckia is slightly more adaptable with varying soil types versus coneflowers.

Overall, while echinacea and rudbeckia are not the same plant, they look great together and can be complementary additions to any garden type.

front porch in the fall with rudbeckia, gomphrena pumpkins, cornstalks and an old country garden

Do You Cut Black-Eyed Susans in Fall?

Whether or not you should cut down black-eyed Susans in the fall depends on your specific growing conditions and preferences.

If you live in an area with mild winters, you may choose to leave the plants standing through the fall and winter. The dried seed heads of rudbeckia can provide food for birds and other wildlife, as well as a habitat for pollinators. Dried plants can also add interest to your winter garden.

However, if you live in an area with harsh winter weather, you may choose to cut back the plants in the fall to neaten up the garden’s aesthetic.

This can help make it easier to clean up the garden in the spring. Additionally, cutting back the plants in fall can help prevent the spread of diseases or pests that may overwinter in plant debris left behind.

If you choose to cut back rudbeckia in the fall, wait until the plant has totally finished blooming and the foliage begins to yellow and dies back.

As an aside, the plant looks really pretty in fall as it yellows, so I recommend leaving it until the plant completely dies back before cutting it to the ground.

Use a pair of clean garden shears to cut the stems back to a few inches above the ground, being careful not to damage any new growth that may be emerging from the base of the plant, if there is any.

If the plant had any signs of pest or disease problems during the growing season, remove all plant debris and do not compost it.

good directions birdhouse in my cottage garden by the front porch in fall with rudbeckia, celosia and snapdragons and pansies overlooking the valley
Front Porch in Fall
Zinnia, rudbeckia, roses and echinacea flowers in my garden Bricks 'n Blooms Weekly

Final Thoughts About Growing Black-Eyed Susans

With their sunny disposition and vibrant colors, black-eyed Susans are a joy to grow and a must-have for any garden. Their easy-going nature and ability to attract a flurry of pollinators make them a rewarding addition to your landscape.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, these cheerful blooms are sure to brighten up your summer and fall borders with their fun punch of color. So why wait?

Add a touch of sunshine to your garden and embrace the simple pleasures of growing rudbeckia. Head to your local nursery or order seeds online today and start your black-eyed Susan adventure!

Do you grow black-eyed susans? What are your best tips?

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these post:

To learn more about growing rudbeckia, please read this article from Penn State.

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling
view of new jersey gardens in the fall with rudbeckia (black eyed susans) in zone 6a
close up of black eyed susans (rudbeckia hirta)
close up of black eyed susans with birdhouse in fall garden
Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed
close up of rudbeckia in cottage garden by front porch
Summerific Hibiscus with tall garden phlox and rudbekia in the cottage garden
close up of rudbeckia in fall
close up of rudbeckia and limelight hyrdrangea flowers with rudbekia -gardening zone 6a summer flowers

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10 Comments

  1. Black-eyes Susans are one of my favorite perennials in the garden. And they are so easy to grow. Yours are beautiful!

  2. Thank you for all the great tips & advice. If you leave Black-eyed Susan’s to go to seed, will they germinate & spread on their own? Or, is it best to collect the seeds & germinate them to be transplanted?

  3. When my husband & I moved into our cottage on the lake there were no plants anywhere. As a matter of fact we ended up replacing the entire lawn. Trees & unwanted scrubs were taken out. My first plant were black eyed susans. Twenty three years later the entire back yard is gardens with paths, a pond & lots of black eyed susans. I love them & yes the birds love them. They also look good in a winter bouquet of dried flowers.

    1. Oh they do! Isn’t that incredible! They grow so well right? And I LOVE them en masses – they make such a statement in the landscape!