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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Rudbeckia triloba

The Susans are summer sizzling beauties and if you've heard me say this once, you've probably heard me say it a dozen times: I cannot imagine gardening without them.  In fact, I can't imagine gardening without the Rudbeckia family of beauties. When you garden in the middle south you learn to plant and appreciate these rough and tumble golden yellow beauties. Especially in our hot and dry summers. The yellow composites keep this garden floriferous when the Phloxes are beginning to look puny, the Joes have faded and the ex-asters haven't broken into song. All with their golden yellow flowers are must haves in the middle to deep south in our blazing sun. They don't fade or melt in the intense sunlight.**

 I didn't need to learn to appreciate yellow or the Rudbeckias. I am crazy about the entire genus! They're my go to late summer flowers. They're reliable, easy to grow, low maintenance and with the many different species to choose from, you can have flowers from June to frost. 

Growing in a container

One of my favorites in this delightful clan is our Wildflower Wednesday star, Rudbeckia triloba. Rudbeckia triloba also known as the brown eyed or brown-eyed Susan, thin-leaved coneflower or three-leaved coneflower is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Central and Eastern United States. It is often seen in old fields or along roadsides. It's been in my garden since, well, forever, most likely transpooped by a visiting bird. While it is a short lived perennial, it never fails to reseed, sometimes in the perfect spot (like the first photo in this post). It's anywhere from 2 to 3 foot tall/wide to 4 to 5 foot wide/tall.  It's happiest in full sun and moist well drained soil (so many things are).  

smaller plant in dry full sun

Brown eyed Susan is an easy peasy plant to grow. Just scatter seeds and voila... To encourage more blooms deadhead the flowers. I let the seeds fall where ever and transplant them while small.  Songbirds, especially American Goldfinches, eat the seeds in the fall, so, I don't deadhead them. The Rudbeckia triloba  flower is smaller with fewer petals than either R hirta or R fulgida. The bushy plants are more floriferous than all the Rudbeckia.Which is a fabulous gift in late summer before the ex-asters bloom.



Another difference is in the leaves. They have 3 lobes and a rosette of leaves that originate at the base of the stem and persists through the winter, creating an attractive winter ground cover. 


Brown eyed Susan, partridge pea, milkweed and frostweed

 Why plant this beauty?

  • It's easy peasy
  • great wildlife value
  • fills the space it's planted in
  • golden color in late summer with cool purplish stems
  • color does not fade in sunlight, especially intense summer sun
  • rosette of leaves in winter
  • plays well with other wildflowers
  • untouched by deer
  • floriferous and will rebloom when deadheaded 
  • self shows
  • transplants easily
  • Can survive some drought


Look at that list of positives! I am always shocked when I hear gardeners pooh pooh yellow composites. These are mainstays in my garden. One of my favorite English garden designers, Carol Klein, had this to say in an article about growing Rudbeckias: "Some gardeners are snooty about yellow. I used to be one of them." Here's another tidbit from the UK: Rudbeckia triloba has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. I love when our plants get raves across the pond! 

As I said earlier..."golden yellow flowers are must haves in the middle to deep south in our blazing sun. They don't fade or melt in the intense sunlight." 

The Particulars

Family: Asteraceae

Rudbeckia triloba 

Common Names: Brown Eyed Susan

Habitat: Rudbeckia triloba occurs from Vermont to Florida and west to Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Texas.    This species is indigenous to Blackland prairies, savannas, thickets, woodland edges and clearings, edges of fens, creek and river banks, disturbed prairie remnants, abandoned fields, roadsides and railroad right-of-ways.  Plants occur in high quality natural areas but are found more often in disturbed sites. (New Moon Nursery) 

Height: 2-5 ft 

Spread: 2-3 ft 

Spacing: 3 ft 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Maintenance: Prefers moist well drained soil, but can deal with drought once established

Bloom Color: Yellow with  brown cone

Comments: This is a fabulous plant for naturalizing in a meadow, or wildflower garden. Deadhead to keep it blooming. Leave some seeds for the birds.

Wildlife Value: Attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with nectar and pollen in the blooms. This is a larval host plant for Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) caterpillars which have one brood in the north and two broods from May-September in the rest of its range. This plant also supports Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata) larvae. The adults feed on nectar from red clover, common milkweed, and dogbane. Songbirds, especially American Goldfinches, eat the seeds in the fall.

My friends, please embrace R triloba. You won't be sorry, you'll have fabulous golden color in the late summer. Let it naturalize to create a mass planting that will delight you and the critters until frost. 


It plays well with other wildflowers


 **Let's talk about sun light for a bit. Our sun isn't brighter in the south, it just feels that way because the angle of the sun strikes the earth more directly here (and other southern cities) than cities in the north. The closer you get to the Equator the more directly the sun strikes the earth.  I think this affects how we experience colors and frankly, we need intense colors to deal with the sun light.

 Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. 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 and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave your url when you comment. I love your comments, so thank you for leaving them.

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. Great post, as always, Gail. I love Rudbeckia triloba and all the Rudbeckias, and I have some here--naturally growing and purposely planted. Thanks for hosting! Here's my WW post: https://www.clayandlimestone.com/2022/08/wildflower-wednesday-rudbeckia-triloba.html

  2. Rudbeckia triloba flowers in my upper pasture most years. I love how its flowers are so round. They look like the daisies I used to draw as a child. I love all of the rudbeckias except Goldsturm. It tries to take over my garden as you know. However, I do appreciate it this time of year when everything else is having a very hard time growing let alone blooming. Hugs to you my friend.~~Dee

  3. There it’s nothing that makes me smile like a garden full of susans! I especially like my own, because they are my susans from Susan, who passed them along to me.


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