Plant of the Month: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ is a superior breeding improvement on the classic Black-Eyed Susan. Like it’s parent, Rudbeckia hirta, ‘Indian Summer’ has hairy leaves and stems, the foliage is alternate and spread out along the main stem, there is only one flower per plant, and both are biennials. There the comparison ends.

‘Indian Summer’ has a large flower–approximately 5″ (13 cm) across–the petals are uniformly flat, rather than drooping, and the petals overlap slightly. The flower color is a soft golden yellow that looks stunning against dark green, pure white or a Caryopteris blue. Although even a single flower is lovely, its beauty is best appreciated in clumps of five or else in drifts. Since the stalks and leaves are not especially attractive, if planting in small groups use slightly shorter plants in front to hide the scrawny foliage. When planted in masses, the sparse foliage is disguised by grouping plants close together.

When we think of biennials–plants that need two years to complete their life cycle–we tend to think of a plant such as parsley that simply goes to seed in its second year. However, Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’ looks just as attractive its second year as it does during its first year. The plant can be purchased at garden centers as an annual or can be grown from seed. Since this is only the second year my neighbor has had her Rudbeckia planted, I can’t say what the self-seeding offspring will look like.

The plant is about 20″-24″ (51-61 cm) tall and, like all members of the Asteraceae family, requires full sun. It is not fussy about soil; heavy soil is okay. Catalogues suggest the plant prefers a moist soil, but my neighbor’s plants have been doing well in a dry location with only natural rainfall for moisture. ‘Indian Summer’, contrary to what the catalogues say, begins blooming towards the end of July and continues blooming into September. It doesn’t appear to be bothered by pests or diseases. Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’ is a worthy addition to cottage gardens, wildflower gardens or naturalized locations.

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