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Rudbeckia and Relatives

July 27, 2010

Everyone knows that your plants will want some water and attention this summer. However, I’d like to introduce you to some rudbeckia varieties that are more tolerant of our summer conditions.

Most folks are familiar with the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm,’) a popular and sturdy plant that willingly tolerates poor conditions once established.

Another family member, R. lacinata, has a similar flower with a green central cone on a much taller stalk. I have had these cutleaf flowers in my yard for several years. They will grow to more than six-feet tall every season while spreading and self-sowing. The birds love the seeds, and they make a nice background plant.

This year, I’m trying a new tactic: I trimmed the stalks early in the season, and now have flowers that are just taller than my bee balm (about 3 ½ feet) which is perfect for that location. These perennials are very forgiving, so you can experiment with them.

One that I especially like and only “met” working here at the park is
Great rudbeckia (R. maxima). The leaves are similar in color to the outer leaves of a cabbage, but more elongated. The leaves alone are worth space in your garden. This variety flowers early in spring on a tall stem with the central cone as its prominent feature. Because it flops so much, we cut it back to the basal foliage here in the Habitat Garden at Busch Gardens.

If you have some of these at home, I’d love to find out how they fare later in the season if allowed to keep their flowers.

Landscaper at Busch Gardens

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