Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Dry to medium
Flowering period: June to September
Host plant for 23 caterpillar species
With their yellow petals and dark centers, black-eyed Susans create a striking cheetah-spot pattern in the garden, especially when grown as a dense patch. In contrast to perennial wildflowers which re-sprout each growing season from long-lived roots, a single black-eyed Susan will generally sprout for just two growing seasons. Plants with such short life cycles tend to proliferate in the early years of meadow creation, however, spreading rapidly through their own seed production. Over time – usually within 5 years – their abundance will significantly decline as they are replaced by perennial wildflowers that are slower to establish.
Including black-eyed Susan and other short-lived wildflowers in one’s garden is helpful, in part, because these plants tend to fill in space that would otherwise be prone to weed encroachment during the garden’s initial phase. Furthermore, many long-lived perennials take several years to begin flowering, whereas short-lived species like black-eyed Susan often flower the first year, providing rapid visual interest. Once black-eyed Susan begins to diminish, mowing a section of the garden for a growing season will generally result in its increased presence the following year.
In terms of pollinator benefits, black-eyed Susan is an early summer pollen and nectar source for both long and short tongued pollinators, including bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and beetles. Long-horned bees, in particular, can often be seen circling the flowerhead’s cone-shaped central disk, gathering pollen from one disk flower after another. Preferring full sunlight and soils of average to dry moisture, black-eyed Susan can be found growing along woodland edges, in meadows, and in urban spaces such as roadsides and vacant lots within its native NE Ohio range. Due to its relatively short stature (1-3’), it is a good choice for garden areas devoted to smallish plants.
Photo by Jeffery Ray Coffman.