Is there any flower more evocative of sun-drenched pastures than the black-eyed Susan? These showy flowers are an excellent choice for an informal garden. Many companion plants are available that will help balance them in scope, and complement them in color.
Black-eyed Susans are self-seeding, and will grow as perennials if treated well, especially in USDA Zones 4 through 8. Their blossoms last throughout the summer and into the fall, often attracting butterflies.
Where to Use Them
Black-eyed Susans are excellent for planting in drifts to create informal borders or to brighten up a fence. With their long-lasting blooms, they are also excellent for planting in cut-flower gardens.
They are very easy to grow and care for. They require only average, well-drained soil and need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Direct sunlight helps them to grow upright and develop stiff stems that they need to support their profuse blossoms. Depending on the variety, blossoms can range up to 6 inches wide, with some species growing as tall as 3 feet.
What to Plant with Black-eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susan looks great with almost any of the native prairie and meadow species, but it looks particularly nice with airy white flowers such as flowering spurge (Euphorbia corallata), White Shasta Daisies, White phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘David’), or Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).
They are also well-suited to planting colorful flowers such as the brilliant orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), clasping coneflower, purple coneflower, purple Salvia nemorosa, or the deep blue-purple Delphinium exaltatum. Other good companions include lance-leaf coreopsis, butterfly milkweed, gaillardia, Russian sage, stonecrop, and ox-eye daisy. You can use it with daylilies, hollyhock and aster, as well.
To balance the scale of black-eyed Susans, you can even interplant them with Hosta, or (as they are often used in roadside plantings) plant them with ornamental grasses such as variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus') in drifts. You can even plant them as borders around your rose garden.
Some gardeners plant black-eyed Susan in their vegetable gardens, not only for visual interest, but to attract pollinators useful for vegetable growth.
Tips for Planting
Plant in clumps in late spring. Use to jazz up picket fences or other spots with less-than-perfect soil. Water weekly. Make sure to deadhead the flowers.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Black-eyed Susan is very forgiving of poor soil, so try it out in areas of full sun to light shade where other plants might not grow. Mix it with bulbs, with woody-stemmed flowers such as peonies—be creative.
Since they do grow tall, make sure to plan your garden design in advance, with taller plants in the rear, and shorter plants in the front. Think about complementary colors and balancing thick plants with airy ones. Finally, plan your blooms—black-eyed Susans will fill in with bright yellow for most of the summer, so a rotating cast of companion flowers can use them as a backdrop.