Black-Eyed Susans Care

Growing Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan is an herbaceous perennial that is part of the Rudbeckia genus of plants. There are over 40 varieties and cultivars of Rudbeckia, all of which have some sort of dark black, brown, or greenish eye at the center of their flower. Black-Eyed Susan will grow in areas that have poor soil and lots of sun. They also tend to set seeds easily and can self-sow and naturalize in open meadows or large garden areas. All Black-Eyed Susans are cold-hardy and survive the winter by dying back to the ground in fall and staying dormant until spring. The flowers are not only lovely in a vase, but are great attractors of insect pollinators, butterflies, and birds. Annual and perennial varieties of Black-Eyed Susan are planted and grown the same. The annual varieties can be allowed to self-seed each summer, providing new plants every spring. 


There is a tropical vine that also has the name Black-Eyed Susan. Black-Eyed Susan vine is in the Acanthaceae family. Thunbergia alata is the genus and species name for this vining plant. In most growing zones of the United States, Black-Eyed Susan vine is grown as an annual and is only a true perennial in zones 10 and 11.   


Planting Black-Eyed Susan

Plant Black-Eyed Susan in full sun in well-draining soil. All soil textures are acceptable. Heavy clay soil can be amended with compost to improve drainage. Place the plants at the same depth in the ground that they were growing in the pot. Planting Black-Eyed Susan too deep will keep it from blooming well and may rot the crown. Mulch around the base and root area of Black-Eyed Susan to improve the soil texture and moisture retention over time. Using organic compost will also supply the nutrients needed to support healthy growth for the whole season.

Watering Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan is very drought tolerant after it has established and matured. Consistent watering when the plant is young will help it produce a strong root system. Watering with soaker hoses and drip irrigation helps to direct water to the roots while keeping the leaves dry. MIldews and fungal diseases are common to Black-Eyed Susan and are easily transmitted by water on the foliage. The average amount of water required each week is between 1/2 -1 inch. 

Fertilizing Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan does not need much supplemental fertilizing. An annual feeding with a slow-release granular fertilizer is enough to support healthy growth and blooming through the summer. A complete fertilizer will supply all three macronutrients, NPK, in different ratios. Look for a fertilizer that has slightly higher nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) content. Potted perennials should be fertilized more often through the summer. A diluted liquid feed should be applied once a month, ending in August so that the plants can prepare for dormancy.


Pruning Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susans require two types of pruning each year. First, spent flower spikes should be deadheaded during the summer. This will help encourage continued blooming and color well into the fall. The second is removal of dead plant material in the fall or early spring, depending on your hardiness zone. The colder zones (3-6) will see Black-Eyed Susan die back to the ground after the first few frosts.

This is the time to cut the plant back to within 2 inches of the ground and apply a mulch for the winter. The warmer zones will be able to let the plant die back over the winter. New leaves may even emerge before winter and stay small until the spring. The last round of flower stems may also be left on the plant to form seed and feed the birds and other wildlife all winter. 

Caring For Black-Eyed Susans in Pots

Black-Eyed Susan grows well in a container with ample drainage. The smaller varieties of Black-Eyed Susan make wonderful additions to containers with mixed seasonal plants. Common companions for Black-Eyed Susan are ornamental grasses, Thyme, Lavender, prostrate Rosemary and Coneflowers. Regular fertilizing during the summer months will be necessary to keep plants healthy and blooming. Diluted liquid fertilizers like fish emulsion or a seaweed blend should be applied once a month. All fertilizing will need to be finished by August so that this perennial can harden off and prepare for dormancy.

Winter Care for Black-Eyed Susan

The hardy nature of Black-Eyed Susan makes it a low-maintenance winter plant. The main consideration is drainage. Poor drainage during the winter is the downfall of most perennials and shrubs. Areas of the garden that seem well drained during the heat of the summer could become waterlogged during the winter months in areas with plentiful rain.

If Black-Eyed Susan is growing in the garden and seems to be too wet during the winter, it can be dug up and temporarily potted to spend the rest of the winter in a sheltered spot. Using mulches of finely shredded bark, leaves or compost will help to insulate the crowns from the cold. Any mulch placed over crowns for the winter must be removed in early spring to prevent rotting and improve air circulation.   

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