Rugged, Reliable Rudbeckia

One of the plants in my garden that really outdid all the rest was Rudbeckia. Now – I’m not really a fan of yellow, but while I was a little disappointed with the overall vibrance and success of my garden, it was definitely not Rudbeckia’s fault.

Tall Rudbeckia next to Miss Canada Lilac hiding the eavestrough downspout

While they were growing and before they bloomed I was confused by their foliage – alternating large green leaves on tall sturdy green stems, and I was hopeful that they were Purple Coneflowers. Alas, most of the plants that I had thought were Echinacea were actually different varieties of Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia before the bloom next to the lilac and downspout
A False Sunflower nearby the Rudbeckia, looks like a Rudbeckia but has lighter centre and fewer broader petals

It was natural that I would confuse the foliage though. Echinacea and Rudbeckia are both from the Aster family. The False Sunflower or Oxeye (Heliopsis Helianthoides) above also has similar foliage, as it is also a member of the Aster family.

Rudbeckia has a different shape to it’s flower though. Like Purple Coneflowers, they have a prominent dark raised centre, surrounded by petals. They are sometimes called Coneflowers, but not Purple Coneflowers (like Echinacea) and Black Eyed Susans. They are a herbaceous perennial, native to North America with lovely yellow and gold and even orange flowers blooming from mid summer to fall. There are annual wildflower varieties – native to Mexico and the Southwestern United States. They are available in a variety of heights – from 1.5 ft to 6 ft. In my garden, I enjoyed some 3 and 5 foot height blooms.

Tall and lush Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

What’s the difference between Echinacea and Rudbeckia? They are both hardy flowers, native to North American, and enjoy full sun, good drainage and are drought tolerant. The main difference is the appearance of the flower – Echinacea is mainly purple, pink and black – but can be yellow just to confuse things, but tends to have a larger flower – while the Rudbeckia is typically yellow or gold – but honestly – you can get yellow Echinacea and pink Rudbeckia – so I think we gardeners shouldn’t worry about that too much! Both flowers grow on long green stems with large green leaves alternating – and a solid root system. Rudbeckia tend to tolerate a slightly cooler climate than Rudbeckia, and in my Zone 6A garden they bloom a tad later in the season, and last a little longer then Echinacea.

Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) with pink Phlox and Purple Rose of Sharon

I confess that as a pink, blue and purple flower fan, the yellow Black Eyed Susans weren’t really what I wanted to purchase for my new garden – but I started planting my garden after a season of digging up weeds and starting new flower beds. The plants that I purchased were available after July, when we had finished the “demolition”, and so the things that were prominent in the garden centres were the late blooming yellow and gold plants – hence Rudbeckia and more Rudbeckia.

A pot of Sunflowers nearby also looks like Rudbeckia but has a different shape of flower

Despite my disdain for yellow, the Rudbeckia have had long flowering times, are low maintenance and give a pop of colour when least expected. They attract butterflies and bees, and love full sun, but in my garden don’t seem to mind a bit of shade and lack of water. Most of all, they are regularly trampled by my 100 pound Goldendoodle, and don’t seem to mind. I prop up the 5 foot tall variety hiding my downspout with a wire trellis.

Rudbeckia and pink Phlox

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