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Southern Gardening: Make spring rudbeckia choices now

 

With its 9-inch flowers, Indian Summer rudbeckia is a stunning choice for Mississippi landscapes.

With its 9-inch flowers, Indian Summer rudbeckia is a stunning choice for Mississippi landscapes. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension Service

 

Dr. Gary Bachman

 

 

If you've been thinking about gardening this holiday season, it's probably about poinsettias and other decorative indoor plants.  

 

But a plant that I just love for spring and summer landscapes is rudbeckia, which you probably know as Black-eyed Susans. 

 

This is perhaps an odd time to write about rudbeckia, but I look at it like this: We're in the season of celebration -- renewal and a brand-new year. And then the gardening catalogs hit! As you think about the must-have garden plants to grow, I want rudbeckia to be at the top of this list. That makes this a great time to think about new plants for your landscape. 

 

I like seeing rudbeckia in our Mississippi landscapes, because this plant is a great performer when the summer heats up in June, July and beyond. These brightly colored flowers can bring some needed freshness when other flowering plants may be showing heat-related wear and tear. 

 

Here are three great rudbeckia choices to make your garden and landscape unforgettable in 2018. 

 

Indian Summer rudbeckia has received recognition for its landscape and garden performance, having been selected as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 1999. It is still a great choice almost 20 years later. Wherever I have seen this plant in a Mississippi landscape, it always looks stunning. 

 

Indian Summer's upright stems display huge flowers, some of which can be up to 9 inches across. The petal colors are bright, ranging from sunshine yellow to warm oranges at the petal bases surrounding a rich, chocolate-brown center cone. 

 

Cherokee Sunset is another fantastic choice with a blend of warm autumnal yellow, orange and mahogany bronze. At 3 to 4 inches in diameter, the flowers are big and a mix of single and doubles, especially when grown in the full sun. 

 

Cherokee Sunsets grow to about 24 inches tall, and the sturdy stems hold the large flowers without staking. This rudbeckia is a good choice for cutting for use in fall indoor arrangements. 

 

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun is a robust selection that has very distinctive blooms. Its bicolor flowers have unusual, light-green centers and orange petals tipped in bright primrose yellow. The size of these 5-inch flowers makes them hard to ignore wherever they are grown. As with the other Rudbeckia varieties, they make fantastic cut flowers. 

 

For even more colorful rudbeckia selections, check out Denver Daisy and Toto. 

 

All rudbeckias should be planted in full sun with consistent soil moisture for best flowering and color. Installing drip irrigation is one of the best investments you can make in your landscape. I consider rudbeckias to be low maintenance plants, only needing some deadheading to keep them looking good. This attribute is very important to me. 

 

Not all garden centers offer a selection of rudbeckias in the spring, which is why I'm telling you about these flowers now. The home gardener can readily start many rudbeckia varieties from seed. 

 

So check out the catalog and online stores now to find the varieties you want to grow. 

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

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