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Spotlight On: Black Eyed Susan, Sunny Summertime Garden Companion

By August 17, 2020March 22nd, 2022Plant Spotlight

The Black-Eyed Susan is a summertime perennial that will light up your garden with its bright yellow blooms right through the first frost. It’s a tough little flower that can handle high heat, and survive temperatures that drop below freezing, making it a favorite of late summer and autumn gardens across much of the country, and certainly right here in our home state of New Jersey.

In fact, it can be found in all 48 contiguous states as well as all 10 Canadian provinces!

Golden petals radiate from a dark center cone, which unsurprisingly classifies it as a coneflower. We’ve praised the hardy coneflower before, but the Black-Eyed Susan is so distinctive that it deserves its own story.

In this Spotlight series, we highlight special seasonal plants and flowers for the unique characteristics that make them attractive additions to any garden. Find out why the humble Black-Eyed Susan is a landscaping favorite and uncover some fascinating tidbits you may not have known.

black eyed susan with butterflyHerbal Remedy And A Favorite Of Wildlife

The Black-Eyed Susan has long been used as an herbal remedy by native North Americans to treat ailments from snake bites to earaches. Even today, the roots are used to brew tea and as an extract to boost the immune system and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.

As a species of coneflower, otherwise known as Echinacea, it might not surprise you to know that this plant is often used as an herbal remedy. If you plan to try this at home, be careful, though – the roots are generally safe but the seeds of this plant are poisonous.

This garden gem doesn’t just soothe our senses and alleviate our sniffles. It’s a favorite of wildlife, too, and plays an instrumental role in wildlife habitats.

Its petals emit a unique ultraviolet pattern that attracts bees, which is crucial in propagating the plant across state lines. It’s a favorite source of nectar for butterflies, who love to alight on the large petals. It’s a popular attraction for dragonflies, which are not only beautiful and elegant, but effective at keeping mosquitoes at bay.

And each flower holds a copious number of seeds, which a variety of birds enjoy dining on.

black eyed susan gardenCare And Maintenance

While these summer sun-lovers can tolerate a variety of conditions including a good amount of neglect, they’ll be more likely to reward you with brilliant, long-lasting blooms with a little TLC.

Plant them in full sun for best results, and while they’re drought-tolerant, they’ll reach their full potential if you keep them watered but not wet. Avoid planting them in areas with standing water. They’ll do as well in sandy soil as in clay – in fact you can often see these beauties growing wild at the side of the road, especially in areas that collect water.

They do well with organic matter in the soil but there’s no need for fertilizer. In fact, fertilizing can weaken them, so let these wildflowers do their thing and your garden will thank you.

Leaf spots are the most common malady. They’re caused by a fungus, so keep your flowerbed free of dead debris by cleaning it out in spring and fall, and you’ll remove spores that could infect new plants. Planting them in the sun will also help keep fungus at bay.

Otherwise, these flowers do very well on their own as a native plant that is accustomed to the local conditions in your back yard.

black eyed susan wildflowerWhy We Love It

A Black-Eyed Susan by another name would look as lovely… and boy, do they have a few names! Depending on which part of the country you’re from, they may be referred to as a Portland Daisy, Brown-Eyed Susan, and even Brown Betty, just to name a few.

With stems that reach as high as three feet and a petal spread up to 18 inches, Black-Eyed Susans are a perfect and standout addition to any wildflower garden. They’re great for borders, can grow in containers, and are excellent for erosion control.

As an added bonus the coarse hairs on their foliage and bitter flavor make them resistant to both deer and rabbits.

As native wildflowers, they need very little human intervention to grow and thrive. Simply give them the conditions they love, and they’ll bloom to their heart’s content – and yours. Their native status is why you’ll often see them on the side of the parkway, and even growing happily along railroad tracks.

They’re great for personal use, too. They make eye-catching additions to door wreaths, and are a hardy and lovely addition to summer wedding bouquets.

And if that wasn’t enough, they go from garden to dinner table d├ęcor in one quick snip. Harvest them at the end of summer, add water to keep them hydrated, and you can have a fresh arrangement for a week or more.

With their bold color and sturdy nature, these flowers are a wonderful way to fill out your landscape through the end of summer and into fall. If you’ve fallen in love with Black-Eyed Susans and would enjoy a wildflower garden of your own, contact us for a consultation. We’d love to bring some summer color to your outdoor space.