Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: It's Not All About The Susans, But, It's A lot About Them!

It's been a while since I've written about the Susans/Rudbeckia fulgida! They're a mainstay in the garden, but, easily over looked until mid July when Mother Nature turns on the switch and overnight the garden is a field of golden yellow.
They're pushy and would take over if I let them and truth be told some years I haven't had the heart to rip out all the Susans that I should/could have!

When visitors stop by and comment on the abundance of Susans in the sunny and shady garden areas, I secretly feel like the adoring mother of that unruly, but, delightful child, who's been running amok at a party. "He did what? Really! Isn't he adorable!",  I exclaim as I ignore notice that several salvia have been overrun and the verbena has disappeared.

I adore their sunny faces and how they light up even the darkest corners. They are part of the rough and tumble wildflowers that make Clay and Limestone...well, Clay and Limestone!

Although, I rarely see bumbles visiting the Susans, the showy nectar and pollen rich flowerheads attract many other pollinators, including, small bees, like the colorful green bee above,
small butterflies and skippers,
beetles, wasps and various flies.

The Wavy-Lined Emerald moth (Synchlora aerata) lives out its caterpillar phase on the Susans disguised as a fading flower part covered with petal pieces to confuse the birds that might want it for a tasty meal.

This garden is a lot about the Susans, but not all about them! Each spring I edit and weed, letting the Susans remain growing where nothing else does~over the limestone bedrock that hides a few inches below the soil. Plants that need more room for their roots get planted where the soil is deeper and annuals and tender perennials like Cuphea, agastaches and salvias that also have good wildlife value are planted in containers that sit in spots where nothing can grow.
Don't be turned off by their brilliant yellow color or their lack of a sexy pedigree, the Susans rock even as they fade.

The Susan particulars!
Season: Summer into fall
Height: 1-3 ft.
Flower Color: Gold with black center
Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9
Foliage: Lower leaves are toothed; stem is unbranched or slightly branched
Flower: 1 to 2 in. orange petals and a dark central disk Site:
Dry to moist sites
Propagation: Division spring or fall, seed
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Well-drained
Regions: Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain
Origin: Eastern USA,
Life Cycle: Perennial
Warning: They spread by root and seed! You will have to divide.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. 

Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Your Susans are gorgeous, I love them too. Fantastic photos.

  2. Yes, they are unruly but the do light up darker places in the garden. It is amazing that you don't notice they are there and all of a sudden they turn on the light.

  3. Susans are one of my favorites especially now...I have so many different ones and they are loved by so many around the garden. I have highlighted a spring wildflower though for August.

  4. This is one of the images that always comes to mind when I think of your garden, Gail--all the Susans with their cheery faces. They're lovely! I have these same Susans in several parts of the garden this year, all starting from one mysterious origin, probably a seed gift from the birds. I'm glad to see more of them; so far they've been very polite with their neighbors. I'll try to finish my post later today or tomorrow.

  5. The Susans do rock! I don't have enough sun in my gardens for many of these great plants, but I have some of their relatives and they perform, they provide food for wildlife and they're just so darn pretty. Your photos are magnificent--those bees and wasps captured so beautifully as they go about their business. Thanks for hosting!

  6. The drama in your last photo is breathtaking!

  7. I love my Rudbeckias at this time of year too, especially in the bed where I have them. They're one of the few flowers that remain upright even though they're in a partly shady spot. The small patch of Echinacea next to them flops.

  8. I love the yellow! It's so cheerful, and it's a perfect pairing with your bottle tree. I just got a new bottle tree myself, a bit like yours but based on an ocotillo! When it's too hot to plant, plant a bottle tree, right?

  9. I love rudbeckias, and Pam is right; they contrast beautifully with your bottle tree. I'm fascinated by the wavy-lined emerald moth and will run out to my patch to see if I can spot one.

  10. Your Susans are amazing! I did try to grow them here and they did well the first year but did not repeat for me, except that one very tall plant comes back and I haven't as yet identified it. I have a couple of wildflowers blooming now included in my post for the week. I love your camouflaged caterpillar, I hadn't seen one of those before!

  11. Love the color contrast between the yellow Susans and the blue bottle tree! Gorgeous photo essay.
    Wrenaissance Art

  12. The caterpillar is amazing, great camouflage! The bright yellow is so cheerful and pretty for the end of summer.

  13. IMHO Verbena is overrated. The Rudbeckia is so bright and cheerful and so long-lasting in hot, dry, wet, slightly shaded, and blasting sun conditions. If it does need a bit of a spanking to bring it back to a manageable area, it comes out with a tug - no flamethrower needed. And, I had no idea about all the cool creatures it calls to. The WLEM caterpillar is spectacular.

  14. I love Black-eyed Susans! They are so cheerful. I have noticed some popping up as wildflowers in my backyard and have even transplanted a couple into a bare spot in the garden. I haven't had a garden in one spot long enough for them to get unruly - I usually welcome such boisterousness on the part of such a pretty flower! Thank you for hosting!

  15. Love the Susans with the blue of the bottles!

  16. I have lots of rudbeckia, too. I can't imagine my garden without it. I like how vibrant it is. I don't want a milquetoast garden. I need a garden with some sass and pizazz so I have rudbeckia.

  17. Oh yes, they're blooming all over the place here near Madison, now--along roadsides, in gardens, in the city and the country. I love the Rudbeckias, and I have some in my garden, too. As you mention, they attract so many pollinators! The one I notice the most is the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, which matches the colors of the Susans. Lovely plants. Thanks for hosting, Gail!

  18. Yes, I love the susans, too, but just remembered that I forgot to include a photo of mine. LOL I did get lots of yellow blooms, though, including some different kinds of susans. I love your photos and all of the cool insects. I also noticed how great the bottle tree is looking with the blooms. Yes, I probably have neighbors who think I should be a better disciplinarian with my flower children. :o)

  19. Great post! I love the photo of the disguised caterpillar. I too grow rudbeckia - managed to find a dwarf variety last year which has been just as good the second year despite being moved. Unfortunately the larger variety didn't flower the first year and now it has decided to bloom I can't see it as it is hidden under a rosa and behind a rock rose. I think I will have to move it!! I did hunt around in case I had some of those caterpillars, but I couldn't see any despite it being obvious something was eating the petals.

  20. I agree, the Susans light up the garden! But even less showy plants have their place, one of which I've written about this month.

  21. I love the Susans for their staying power in the garden and I can't imagine my late summer garden without them. One of the anchors of nearly autumn.

  22. My neighbors are not the most attentive gardeners and have let a once nice landscape become overrun with Rudbeckia. I don't complain, it is better than lawn.

  23. That is one crazy caterpillar, now way would I have recognized it as such! My susans are a much smaller patch, but they did seem particularly glorious this year. They are mostly faded away already, and I do miss them!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson