Growing Wisdom

Bringing late summer and fall color to the garden with Rudbekia

The fall garden can be quite beautiful with the harsh light of mid-summer gone and the longer shadows adding more contrast to the landscape. While the leaves of many trees and shrubs eventually change to wonderful colors or orange, gold and red, you can add some flowering perennials and annuals in the final quarter of the growing season to spruce up the yard.

Rudbekia are in the sunflower family and are a native plant to North America. Over the past several years more and more cultivars or types of these plants have been developed for the landscape.

Three of the new varieties I like are ‘Prairie Sun’, ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ and ‘Cappuccino’. These three types of Rudbekia will flower throughout the latter part of summer and well into the fall. Some of the Rudbekia you can purchase in the garden centers are not hardy, meaning they will not come back next year. Of the three I mentioned, ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ is reported to be the least hardy. Check out the video below for more specifics about each of these.

Rudbekia Flowers.jpg

Some growers say it will seed itself back into the same spot each year affectively making it a perennial, but the original plant will not make it through the winter.

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All of the Rudbekia are relatively easy to care for and will tolerate drought conditions once established. A plant generally takes a full growing season before its fully established meaning you should water them regularly the first year.

The plants can spread quite rapidly if they are happy and you may find yourself pulling some of them out after a few years. The good news is that most of the Rudbekia can be removed fairly easily. If you want to give them to friends, pull them out in early spring or late fall when the plants have a better chance to survive.

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Some Rudbekia will stay small only growing to about 12 to 18 inches while others will grow over 6 feet tall. It’s of course important to place the taller ones in the back of the garden. Rudbeckia lanciniata is one of the tallest and it can reach 12 feet in ideal conditions.

After a hard freeze, cut the Rudbekia back to the ground. If you still have seed heads with seeds and you cut them back they won’t spread. I tend to leave my plants until early December to be sure the birds have been able to eat all the seeds.

In early spring, after you have cleaned the garden, feed the plants a bit of compost and then put a light layer of mulch around them to keep the weeds out and the moisture in. The mulch will also give a neater appearance the plants.

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If you want to cut your flowers and bring them inside, no problem. Rudbekia make a great cut flower too!

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