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Rudbekia, a Perennial That Thrives in Spite of Neglect

It's not my favorite but landscapers love it. Image courtesy of Nova Scotia Gardens.comRudbekia or Black-Eyed Susan is a perennial that I don’t use. Its colors don’t work in most of my compositions. However, I will not discard it if it has been growing in my clients’ garden and if they have indicated a fondness for it. In such cases, I design a warm-colored  composition around it, adding plants that are far more interesting and beautiful, in order to soften its impact.

Landscapers plant this perennial for clients who have no intention of tending to their gardens. It will blossom reliably, look amazing because it is tall and will appear somewhat theatrical because its flowers are brown and yellow. It will grow exponentially forever and yes, it will be noticed because its flowers are showy and daisy-like and will bloom from mid summer to fall.

Heat and drought do not affect it. It is easy to establish and naturalizes well, even in clay soil. All that is required, and this is essential, is that spent flowers be dead headed to maintain an attractive appearance because the black seed heads appear grotesque. Otherwise, this is a workhorse perennial and truly carefree. It prefers sun and will succeed in zones 3 to 9. While some cultivars grow only 16 inches tall, most reach 6 or 7 feet in height. It is these tall varieties that are most favored for the carefree garden.

If this plant attracts your attention, be sure that its colors blend in well with its intended environment. Do not make it the focal point of the garden because it is too dramatic on its own. For balance, plant equally warm companion perennials in shades of orange, peach, yellow and gold. The Black-Eyed Susan is easily tamed, as well, by ornamental grasses that will echo the tall swaying motion of this controversial plant.

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