Now that summer is winding down, it is time to step back and take a good look at your landscape. Is there a spot here or there that needs some additional work, or maybe a pop of color would help a particular area to stand out more? When considering how to improve your gardens, it is always a good idea to work with native plants. Natives are well adapted to this climate and will perform spectacularly in almost all cases.
Consider Daisy-Like Native Rudbeckia
One workhorse in the native category is the Rudbeckia. The most well-known is the Black-eyed Susan, or Rudbekia hirta, however, rudbeckia come in over 25 species, including brown and green-eyed varieties. (The “eye” is referring to the center of the flower.) Seeds for this prolific flower were once sought by early 20th century flower gardeners from the Department of Agriculture. However, Congress passed laws against the dissemination of “weeds”, including rudbeckia because they infiltrated hay fields and farmers were not pleased. Obviously, one man’s weed is another man’s flower.
Sometimes referred to as gloriosa daisies, these flowers have a daisy-like petals in yellow, orange, mahogany, or red radiating from a dark center. They tolerate frost, self-seed readily, are disease resistant, deer resistant, attract bees and butterflies, have few pests, and are beautiful as cut flowers.
Rudbeckia are Good Multi-Purpose Flowers
Rudbeckia prefer rich, well-drained soil, but will also grow in less than ideal conditions and will tolerate droughty soil. They do best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade. As you plant these, keep in mind that they are a prairie flower. Hence, it is those prairie type of conditions in which they will prosper. Plant them in borders or in masses or drifts. They are good complements to flowers in the blue/purple range such as Russian sage or Veronica. They also work well with other natives such as any of the coneflowers or native ornamental grasses.
Rudbekia can be planted from seed in the early spring. The seeds require light for germination, so cover lightly. Plants can also be purchased and transplanted. Removing the spent flowers (deadheading) through the season will keep the plants blooming longer. However, let the last of the blooms on the plants go to seed, both for winter interest and so that they can reseed. Gloriosa daisies are considered a perennial; however, most plants do not actually survive the winter. New plants will sprout from the seeds that were dropped, making it appear that the plant is a perennial. Unlike many, this plant does not need to be divided as the center never dies out. However, if your bed gets too crowded or you simply want to share your bounty, divide clumps in early spring, just as growth begins.
Certified Master Gardener