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Sturdy, colorful Rudbeckias are solid landscape choices

The Rudbeckia Indian Summer is a real show-off in the landscape. The upright stems display flowers up to a whopping 9 inches across.
The Rudbeckia Indian Summer is a real show-off in the landscape. The upright stems display flowers up to a whopping 9 inches across. Mississippi State University Extension Service

When the summer season heats up starting in July, I really like seeing Rudbeckias in our Mississippi landscapes. Who can argue how the brightly colored flowers bring needed freshness when some of our other flowering plants may be showing wear and tear?

There can be some confusion in terms of labeling, but I think Rudbeckia hirta and Rudbeckia fulgid both look good.

Rudbeckias are pretty easy to grow from seed, but it’s a little too late to start them now. Mark your calendar to sow their seeds next spring. This time of year, garden centers usually have containers with large plants in full bloom. My wife bought a big container with a gorgeous Denver Daisy rudbeckia a couple of weeks ago.

Rudbeckias have received recognition in Mississippi for their landscape and garden performance. Here are some of my favorites.

In 1999, the Rudbeckia Indian Summer was selected as a Mississippi Medallion winner. It has been a real showoff wherever I have seen this plant in the landscape. The upright stems are sturdy enough to display the huge flowers, which can be up to a whopping 9 inches across. Petal colors are bright and cheery, ranging from sunshine yellow to warm oranges at the petal bases. Each flower has a delicious-looking, rich chocolate-brown center cone.

Cherokee Sunset is a fantastic choice that blends warm, autumnal colors of yellow, orange and mahogany bronze. The flowers are big — 3 to 4 inches in diameter — and are a mix of singles and doubles, especially when grown in full sun. Stems will reach about 24 inches tall and are sturdy enough to hold the large flowers without staking. Cherokee Sunset is a good choice for cutting for use in fall indoor arrangements.

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun is a robust selection with distinctive blooms. The bicolor flowers have orange petals tipped in bright primrose yellow with light-green centers. The size of these 5-inch flowers makes it hard not to notice them wherever they are grown, whether in your landscape or a large container on the patio. As with the other Rudbeckia varieties, these make fantastic cut flowers.

These three great Rudbeckia choices are also All-America Selections winners.

All Rudbeckias should be planted in full sun for best flowering and color. These plants grow best in compost-amended, well-drained soils, but they tolerate poor clay soils. While they are known and grown for their tolerance of droughty conditions, this attribute sometimes comes at the expense of flowering. For best landscape performance, provide consistent soil moisture. If you can water during dry times, you will be rewarded with continued flowering.

Rudbeckias are considered lower maintenance plants, but you must deadhead the fading flowers to keep the plants blooming all summer long.

The home gardener should take advantage of this summer-long blooming by bringing the landscape inside with gorgeous, cut Rudbeckia stems. To increase vase life for all Rudbeckias, condition the cut stems, which opens the vascular tissues for better water uptake. To do this, place cut stems in warm water of about 100 degrees for about 10 minutes.

If Rudbeckias aren’t already in your landscape, choose some now to bring home instant color and freshness.

Gary Bachman is a professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.

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