Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia Hirta): Collecting & Planting Seeds

Black Eyed Susan are included in almost every pollinator seed mix – and for good reason! They are a joyful, reliable plant that can be counted on to germinate in almost every soil and climate. They flower quickly, return each year, and reseed themselves.

Planting Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Hirta) Seeds

Black Eyed Susan will probably be the easiest plant you’ll ever grow. If you you just tossed the seeds on the ground, they would be highly like to grow.

In fact, that’s pretty close to how we planted our native prairie (of course, we prepared the ground and planted the seeds by seed drill…but essentially, we added the seeds to the ground and walked away. No watering, no mulching, no babying.)

In addition to the prairie, our large community gardens grow black eyed susan and we volunteer for a couple prairie maintenance groups, so we’ve had the opportunity to see Rudbeckia grow in many environments.

The best time to plant Rudbeckia seeds is in the spring. The seeds will readily germinate without stratification. You can also plant them in the fall and the seeds will get started as soon as spring arrives. Of course, you can also plant them in the summer, but if you do, it’s best to plant them in containers or in an area where you can water them.

Seeds contain knowledge in them, and it’s possible your summer sown seeds will wait until fall or spring to germinate. And some will wait and germinate years later.

Sow the seeds lightly on the surface of the soil and lightly cover. That’s it. You could winter sow if you wanted, but it’s not necessary. Save the hard stuff for tougher projects.

Where to buy Rudbeckia Seeds & Plants

You can buy Rudbeckia Hirta seeds from us or from any other seed dealer. They are a reliable plant and as long as the seeds are fresh (and the plant identification is correct) almost any black eyed susan seeds will germinate and survive. We only sell our seeds from October to early June. Then we toss any unsold seeds back into our prairie, ensuring that our seeds are always fresh.

Rudbeckia plants can also be found at almost every nursery. You may get a seed propagated plant or a cultivar.

Are there Different Types of Black Eyed Susan?

Black eyed susan is Rudbeckia Hirta. There is only one type. But…. there are many plants that are similar and there are cultivars of Rudbeckia Hirta.

Brown eyed susan looks a lot like it’s black eyed cousin. And there is black eyed susan vine – not at all like rudbeckia hirta. What you will find in most greenhouses are various rudbeckia cultivars. They have been selected for height, bloom time, bloom variety, and sterility.

This is a gorgeous cultivar selected for the ring around the “eye”

This is important to consider. Having grown many black eyed susan cultivars, most landscapers end up choosing the Goldstrum variety. It doesn’t drop seeds (so it may be sterile.) This is great for keeping unwanted seedlings from invading your flower beds, but not so great for pollinators.

Most of the other cultivars we’ve encountered still drop seeds. We are champions of seed grown plants. Because it’s much more rewarding and it’s better for pollinators. All of our plants are seed grown and we get an interesting mix of variables in our plants. Some of our wild grown black eyed susan have the rings around the eyes (as seen above,) some have slight color variation in the petals, some are shorter, some are taller.

Collecting Black Eyed Susan seeds in the wild

Black eyed susan seeds are easy to collect. The flowers bloom all summer and just start to wane in early October. We wait for a sunny day and go out with a scythe to remove buckets and buckets of flower heads.

We allow the flower heads to dry completely on screens. This prevents molding or seed damage. Now, how to get seeds from black eyed susans flower heads?

This is the fun part. We shake them. Shake, shake, shake and the seeds fall out. Then we take all of the plant debris and redistribute it to the prairie. We never get all the seeds, but that’s okay. More seeds go back into the prairie to rejuvenate the plant stock.

If you want to plant the seeds on your own, that’s all you need to do. There will be plant debris and chaff mixed in with your seeds. That makes spreading the seeds easier, but if you were going to pass them on to friends or sell them, it’s best to go the next step and pass the seed through a series of sieves to separate the seed from the waste.

If you are gathering seeds in the wild, be sure to ask the property owner’s permission. And do not gather the seeds until the petals are falling off and the seed heads are drying. You want fully ripened seeds.

Bottom Line

Black eyed susan are easy, hardy plants that brighten up our world.

There are gorgeous cultivars available, but we believe the best black eyed susan variety is the one you grow from seed. You get variety and the accomplisment of taking something from start to finish. Not all seeds are as forgiving or reliable as the black eyed susan, so this is one that is defintely worth trying from seeds.

And if they become too aggressive and reseed in places you don’t want – you can pot them up for friends, or use a hoe to quickly dispatch with them.

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