What’s in a Name: Legend has it the name Black Eyed Susan came from a poem of the post-Elizabethan era entitled, “Black Eyed Susan,” written by John Gay, a very famous poet of the day.
The name Rudbeckia was given by Carolus Linnaeus in honor of his teacher at Uppsala University in Sweden, Professor Olof Rudbeck the Younger (1660-1740), and his father Professor Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702), both of whom were botanists. Rudbeckia is one of at least four genera within the flowering plant family Asteraceae whose members are commonly known as coneflowers; the others are Echinacea, Dracopis and Ratibida.
About the Plant: Rudbeckia is a plant genus in the sunflower family. The species are commonly called coneflowers or Black Eyed Susans; all are native to North America and many are cultivated in gardens for their showy yellow or gold flower heads.
The species are herbaceous, mostly perennial plants (some annual or biennial) growing to 0.5–3 m tall, with simple or branched stems. The leaves are spirally arranged, entire to deeply lobed, 5–25 cm long. The flowers are produced in daisy-like inflorescences, with yellow or orange florets arranged in a prominent, cone-shaped head; “cone-shaped” because the ray florets tend to point out and down (are decumbent) as the flower head opens.
- Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil.
- Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years as new growth begins in the spring, lifting plants and dividing them into clumps.