Mid-Atlantic summer perennials come in plenty colors and shades. But one perennial that surpasses all the others in terms of habit, color choices, pollinators best choice, variety in color/texture and much more, is the well-loved Rudbeckia genus. Daisy like dainty flowers, Rudbeckias belongs to the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
The Black-Eyed Susan is one of the most adaptable plants that is not just robust in its function but also has plenty aesthetic appeal. The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) has been the official Maryland flower since 1918 when it was designated the "Floral Emblem" of Maryland by the General Assembly (Chapter 458, Acts of 1918; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-306).
The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1701-1778) described and named the flower Rudbeckia after Olav Rudbeck and his son, both professors at the University of Uppsala, and hirta from the Latin meaning "rough hairy."
Rudbeckia hirta and fulgida are common, but one other Rudbeckia species that gets overlooked is the wildflower, Rudbeckia lancinata, the 'Green head coneflower.' Yes! not all Rudbeckias are the same. Instead of inner disk floret having brown/black flowers, the green heads have greenish yellow disk florets and are a delicate looking wildflower good for any garden.
Now dainty might not be the word that comes to mind when it comes to one of the Rudbeckia species which has leaves as large as those of the Skunk cabbage and can reach up to a height of 5-7ft! Yes, the Rudbeckia maxima is a whole story in itself. It has the prettiest bluish/gray/green leaves and the flower stalks are tall slender with a unique flower head. Even one single maxima in a garden could make huge statement in summer.
Black-eyed Susan, Green-head cone flowers, Gloriosa Daisy, and Yellow-Ox-Eye are the many common names for Rudbeckias. When picking a Rudbeckia for a garden, start with a smaller plant and check the mature height of the plant. Some can stay low, but others can fill up a whole garden bed. Rudbeckias are also maintenance free perennials. One could leave the flower heads to dry on the plant, as they provide and excellent source of food for the birds and in early spring you can cut them back. Even better, Rudbeckias self-seed readily!
Daisy like dainty Rudbeckias are also very robust plants. They are extremely drought tolerant, good for erosion control and for slope stabilization. Many species of birds, bees and butterflies also depend on the Rudbecks. Now what's not to dote about this genus with the prettiest canary yellow daisy like flowers!