Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Gaillardia 

Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Gaillardia 

Written by Ingrid Hoff

Right about now I am really appreciating drought resistant plants. The shine of spring is gone in the garden and it’s about this time of year that I start to think everything is just brown and well… over. That is until I see my first “summer daisy.” I am thinking of brown-eyed-Susans (rudbeckia), coneflowers (echinacea), and blanket flowers (gaillardia), and no matter where I see them growing (in a container, a mixed garden bed, or planted en-masse) they never fail to make me smile and think of wide-open meadows and summer evenings. The best part is they are ridiculously easy to grow, and surprisingly similar in their habits and needs. 

Beloved by pollinators (the bees, and butterflies will thank you), these plants are native to North American prairies, although the cultivars we plant in our gardens often look very different from what you’d find “out on the range.” They are herbaceous (dying down to the ground in the winter) clump forming “mostly” perennials. Ah yes, the murky waters of is it a perennial or annual or biennial, the answer… yes. Ugg, sometimes I irritate myself, but the answer really is they can be perennial, annual or biennial depending on the species in question. The good news is it really doesn’t matter that much since most of them are so good at self-seeding that you will have an ongoing show no matter what.   

These three summer daisies are best planted in moist but well-drained soil. Don’t worry about fertilizing them, a top dressing of compost in the spring is all they need. In fact, too much nitrogen can mean less flowers and leggy plants. Make sure that they have a minimum of 4-6 hours of sunlight, these plants like the sun and heat (they are from the prairies remember). Water them well in the first year and then enjoy not having to worry about them after that. 

The flower show starts in early to mid-summer and continues on right into the fall. Deadheading is definitely recommended to encourage more flowers. But it’s good to give your plants a break in late summer, stop deadheading and let them produce some seed. Seed heads can be left to overwinter and will provide food for the local birds.   

Black-eyed-Susan (Rudbeckia sp.) 

There are two main groups of rudbeckias, the perennial Rudbeckia fulgida and the annual/biennial Rudbeckia hirtaand here are a few of my favourites of each.   

Rudbeckia fulgida 

  • ‘Goldsturm’ standing strong at 60cm tall, with brown-eyed golden-orange flowers, awarded the honour of Perennial Plant of the year in 1999 

  • ‘Little Goldstar’ is a smaller version of ‘Goldsturm,’ 40cm tall 

Rudbeckia hirta 

  • ‘Cherry Brandy’ rich and velvety chocolate-burgundy coloured flowers that fade to crimson on the outer edge. Grows to 60cm tall. 

  • ‘Cherokee Sunset’ has double and semi double flowers in shades of yellow orange, red bronze and mahogany. Grows to 75cm tall. 

  • ‘Sonora’ large golden flowers with a ring of mahogany and chocolate coloured centre. Grows to 60cm tall.  

Purple coneflower (Echinacea sp.)  

Or as I like to call them “not-just-purple” coneflowers.  

  • ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is an all-American gold medal winner in 2013, the flower colour ranges through sunset shades of purple, pink, red, orange, yellow to cream. Growing 45-90cm tall. 

  • ‘Magnus’ has big, rose-purple flowers and was named the 1998 Perennial Plant of the year. Grows to 90cm tall. 

  • ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ fiery orange-red petals surrounding a chocolate brown cone. Grows 60-65cm tall. 

  • ‘Frankly Scarlet’ a new variety with scarlet orange almost glowing flowers. Grows 60-70cm tall. 

  • ‘White Swan’ pure white petals surround a copper/yellow cone. Grows 60-90cm tall. 

Blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.) 

Called the blanket flower for its ability to spread and blanket the ground, but also due to the bright colours and patterns of the flowers being reminiscent of blankets made by Indigenous craftspeople. Expect these short-lived perennials to happily self-seed. 

  • ‘Celebration’ the vibrant scarlet coloured flowers are very prolific. Grows to 40cm tall. 

  • ‘Arizona Apricot’ apricot coloured petals with orange tips and a vibrant orange centre. Grow 30cm tall.  

  • The ‘Mesa’ series are a number of different gaillardias that range in colours of burgundy, peach, and to scarlet. 

  • ‘Goblin’ banded yellow and orange flowers on a compact plant, grows 30cm tall. 

So don’t let the heatwave get you down, our gardens really can provide us with season-round colour in the form of some easy to grow plants. Plant some summer daisies, grab a cold drink and enjoy the summer vibes. 

Tags: