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Rudbeckia hirta – Black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’

Introduced in 1995, and often sold to gardeners as an annual, black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’ is a short-lived perennial.

Short-lived perennial is the catch-all term for plants that may or may not return each year. Indian Summer is the showiest black-eyed Susan I am aware of, with golden yellow petals on flowers that can reach over 8″ across. It is a cultivar of Rudbeckia hirta, which is native to North America. Black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’ is very easy to grow, so long as there is plenty of sun.

Rudbeckia hirta Indian Summer
Ruckbecka hirta ‘Indian Summer’.

Rudbeckia hirta is native to the eastern United States. Indian Summer, along with Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, is easily found at your local garden nursery.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ is among the showiest of the black-eyed Susans.

Hirta is Latin for ‘rough’ (and means ‘hairy’ in Esperanto). The reference to the species name is to the coarse nature of the stems. Leaves are medium green, lance-shaped and around 6″ long. ‘Indian Summer’ black-eyed Susans can get tall and floppy if grown in too much shade, requiring staking. You may also find that first-year plants are a bit top heavy as well. Should Indian Summer survive your winters, stems should get stronger over time.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer' gardening
Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’. Note the flowers borne at the top of stems 18″-24″ high. Consider planting lower growing perennials in front of ‘Indian Summer’

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ is easy to grow. While it would be a stretch to call ‘Indian Summer’ drought tolerant, supplementary water needs are minimal once established in the garden. Widely tolerant of varying soil conditions and quality, although I suspect winter dieback in wet soils may be a leading cause of Rudbeckia hirta not returning the following spring.

Scientific name: Ruckbecka hirta ‘Indian Summer’
Common name(s): black-eyed Susan ‘Indian Summer’, gloriosa daisy
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial (Often sold as an annual).
Height: 18″-42″ tall.
Native status: Rudbeckia hirta is native to North America.
Bloom period: Early June-August.
Winter hardiness:  3-8. Short-lived perennial worth growing as an annual in areas where it does not survive winter. Very easy to grow and blooms the first season.
Of note: Easy to grow native perennial. Reseeds easily but not aggressively. An informal plant that shows best in informal gardens. Cottage gardens, meadows, and prairie gardens are excellent habitats for Rudbeckia hirta. Deer do not tend to eat Rudbeckia hirta.

If it comes back year after year, consider this a gift. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ is not reliably hardy…sometimes it comes back and sometimes it doesn’t.

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