Late summer through fall when temperatures begin to moderate and growing conditions become more favorable is one of the best times of the year to plant flowering perennials. This includes plants such as purple coneflower, Shasta daisies, gaillardia, rudbeckia, daylilies, verbena and more.
Of these, you need to give rudbeckia a try if you have not already done so. Rudbeckia is what we also call “Black-eyed Susans.”
The best of the rudbeckia is the Goldsturm variety. It is widely available in Louisiana. Normally, this variety flowers twice during the year. A good bloom occurs in late spring through midsummer, and you also can get some fall flowers. This is the most reliably perennial rudbeckia variety for Louisiana. Divide them every three years to keep your planting vigorous.
Indian Summer is another popular variety. It is a former All-America Selection winner and also has been named a Cut Flower of the Year by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.
Indian Summer produces gorgeous, golden flowers. Many of the flowers can have diameters of 7 to 8 inches, but 6 inches is probably the average. Plants reach between 3 and 4 feet tall. Mass plantings of these combined with purple- and blue-flowered plants are a real winner in Louisiana landscapes.
These plants typically behave as an annual in Louisiana, but they may be perennial in north Louisiana. Bloom time of three to four months is common in late spring and summer.
You have many other popular rudbeckia varieties to consider. These include Prairie Sun, Becky Mix, Toto and Cherokee Sunset.
Prairie Sun is an All-America Selections winner from a couple of years ago, while Cherokee Sunset was an All-America Selections winner in 2002. Cherokee Sunset has rich autumn-like flower colors, and flowers are semi- to fully double. Plants reach about 30 inches tall. Prairie Sun has 5-inch, golden yellow flowers that have light green central cones. This makes the flowers very eye-catching.
Toto is more compact-growing — it reaches only about 12 inches in height. It is early-blooming and tends to support itself better than other varieties. Toto is available in lemon, rustic and gold colors.
Becky Mix is another compact grower with very uniform growth and flowering habit. Plants reach 12 inches tall and flowers are about 4 to 5 inches across. Colors vary from golden yellow to red with chocolate-colored centers.
Rudbeckia are ideal for mass plantings in sunny locations. They need occasional irrigation but generally are considered fairly drought tolerant. Heat tolerance is also there. Seeds can be readily germinated in a couple weeks under ideal conditions. If you prefer, plants of many of these varieties are readily available at your local garden centers in 4-inch, quart and one-gallon containers.
Rudbeckia are recommended for Louisiana landscapes. Give them a try this fall, or add some to your landscape next spring. You should be very pleased with the landscape color and low maintenance.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.