Easy care and dependable, black eyed susans have become a very popular feature in gardens across the United States. They produce daisy-like bright yellow petals with darker centers that sit high above ovate green leaves with a rougher texture. This wildflower is native to the central United States, and you can see it growing in natural spaces along roadsides across the Midwestern portion of the country. The plant’s ability to self-seed makes it a fantastic choice to plant in wildflower gardens, but it also leads people to wonder how to grow black eyed susans in pots. You can plant it after the last frost of the season, and it’ll flower the first summer. However, it’ll take two or three years to reach the full height potential.
There is a huge variety in the Rudbeckia genus, but most of the 25 species are excellent plants with very few issues. The fast-growing black eyed susan is generally the most common one, and it offers daisy-like flowers with big seed heads. It also produces hairy, scratchy leaves that are common with the genus. If you’re wondering how to grow black eyed susan in pots in standard and vine form, we’ll outline it below for you. We’ll also touch on common uses for this cheerful flower below.
The black eyed susan is a very cheerful and bright plant that does well in containers and in the ground, and it blooms for weeks.
Black Eyed Susan – General Overview
|Bloom Time:||Summer and fall|
|Common Name:||Brown betty, black eyed susan, hairy coneflower|
|Flower Colors:||Orange, yellow, and red|
|Hardiness Zone||Three to nine|
|Mature Size:||Two to three feet tall and one to two feet wide|
|Native to:||North America|
|Plant Type:||Short-lived perennial|
|Soil pH:||Neutral, acidic|
|Soil Type:||Moist and well-drained|
Black Eyed Susan History
Americans found the black eyed susan growing in the wild and harvested it to use as an astringent and diuretic to treat earaches, snakebites, common sores, and diarrhea. The plant ended up in hay bales and got transported across the country in them, and this allowed the plant to get to both the western and easter shores of the United States and up into Canada.
Christopher Columbus brought the black eyed susan back to Europe, and from Spain, this plant traveled through Europe to reach Sweden, and it was here that Olof Rudbeck the Younger studied it, and he was a biologist who mentored Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus then dedicated the botanical name for this plant to his teacher. So, the flower has a version of Rudbeck’s name.
Women who attended the Maryland Agricultural College fought for the black eyed susan to be named the state flower. However, there was extensive initial opposition from Marylanders at first, and they complained that this flower wasn’t native to the state and that it was a common weed from the Midwest region. But, the black eyed susan dominated fields and roadsides in Maryland, and the black-brown eye contrasted with the bright yellow petals made it a forerunner. The black and yellow colors were used on the crest of the first Lord Baltimore ensured its victory, and Maryland’s General Assembly named the black eyed susan the state flower in 1918.
Annual and Perennial Black-Eyed Susans
The black eyed susans you find growing along the roads are usually very short-lived perennials. Seeds get planted in the spring and produce flowers during the summer of the second year, and this makes them technically biennials. Trick the seeds by planting them indoors roughly six weeks before the last frost of the season and they’ll flower during the first year. It’s hit or miss whether your plants will bloom year in and year out, and this is why many people like to grow black eyed susans in pots, so they can have more control.
Today, there are some long-lasting perennial cultivars in existence, like the fragrant and showy sweet black eyed susan. You can get these plants as seeds, or you can get the Goldsturm that comes as a plant. They work to attract bees, butterflies, and songbirds while flowering in the fall months. Your containers will fill with flowers for several years or more with these cultivars.
There is a very rich history attached to the black eyed susan plant, and they’re known for being very hardy and easy-care.
Growing Black-Eyed Susan in Pots
Black eyed susans are a perennial that works nicely in containers either alone or planted with other seasonal plants. The smaller cultivars like Little Gold Star grow in virtually any sized container without needing to be re-potted or divided on a regular basis. Black eyed susans in pots will add a cheerful bright yellow hue to a sunny deck or patio.
You can also place pots of perennials in areas of your garden where perennials that bloom earlier in the season or bulbs have already come and gone. The pots will burst with color to fill in a temporarily empty spot. Perennials you plant in containers will need slightly more attention to keep them looking fresh throughout the growing season, but it’s usually well worth the effort.
Planting Black-Eyed Susan in Pots
Potting your black eyed susan in spring will give your plants enough time to establish a great root system well in advance to the active blooming period later in the summer months. Make sure your area gets at least six hours of sunlight a day and it’s protected from excess rain exposure from roof edges or downspouts. If you want to have single specimen plants, they’ll need pots that are a minimum of 12 inches in diameter.
Bigger planters will be a requirement if you would like to make a mixed planting with other seasonal specimens. Black eyed susans work well as a filler or a thriller, and the containers need to have great drainage so that the roots can get to air molecules and not stand in sitting water.
Caring For Black-Eyed Susan in Planters
Black eyed susans in pots rely on you for many of their care requirements, much more than plants in the ground do. You’ll be responsible for all of their food, water, and winter care, along with any routine maintenance. Below, we’ll outline how to keep them happy and thriving.
Fertilizing Black-Eyed Susans in Pots
You’ll have to add supplemental fertilizer to your black eyed susans in pots. The nutrients from the potting soil regularly get leached out by watering, and you have to replace them. You should apply a liquid fertilizer once a month from spring until the first frost. Applying a well-balanced fertilizer is essential for any container-grown perennials you have. Alaska seaweed or fish emulsion blend are good choices, and the nutrients get released much slower with this formula than a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 20-20-20 would.
Soil For Black-Eyed Susan in Pots
The best soil for black eyed susans in pots is an all-purpose, peat-free potting mix, without or with added fertilizer. Since this plant won’t require much additional feeding, your fertilizer levels should be on the low end. You won’t need to add in a layer of gravel or rocks at the bottom of the pot. This can actually slow down the drainage by creating a perched water table that the root system can’t get to. Putting a coffee filter over your drainage holes will help stop the soil from washing out.
Add a layer of mulch on top of the pot, and it’ll give you the same benefit of using it in the garden. The mulch will work to keep the soil cooler and help retain moisture. The confined, small space of the container means that mulches can be more artistic and decorative than you can get in the garden. Mulches of marble, river rock, or beach glass can help elevate how your containers look.
You want to pick out a quality all-purpose potting soil to give your plants the best opportunity to thrive in their pots.
Watering Black-Eyed Susan in Pots
Black eyed susans in pots require a lot more supplemental watering than if they were in the ground. You should wait until the soil has dried out roughly two inches from the top of the soil to water. Black eyed susans won’t tolerate soil that is waterlogged or too wet. You want to water your pot long enough so that the water runs from the drainage holes in the bottom. This will help ensure that all of your potting soil is well saturated. During periods of extreme drought or heat, you should check your containers daily for watering. It’s not unusual to have to water them each day or even twice a day during the hottest parts of the year. Smaller containers will dry out much quicker than larger ones.
After the Blooms Fade
Take a gamble and see if you can get a second round of blooming flowers for the season by cutting off the dead flowers. You may be surprised to see younger, new flowers appear, and this can easily extend the growing season well into the fall months. Deadhead your flowers during the season to send energy to the healthy flowers, and this will also help circulate the air throughout your container garden.
If you leave the wilting flower heads in the pot attached to the plant, they’ll drop seeds, and this gives next year’s garden a head start. Birds will enjoy the seeds too, and if your container is outside, watch all of the wildlife that gets drawn in. You won’t see rabbits or deer though as they don’t like these seeds. Once your flowers have finished for the season, you want to cut the stems down to roughly two inches from the top of the soil. This will force energy to go to the roots as they get prepared for the cold season to help them survive until spring.
Winter Care For Black-Eyed Susans in Pots
Black eyed susans are actually a herbaceous perennial that will die back to the ground during the fall months in preparation to go dormant in the winter. Any dying or dead plant material should get cut back to the soil level or to any emerging basal leaves. Otherwise, you won’t have to take any other steps to protect the plant.
If the container is ceramic or terracotta and you live in a planting zone that gets harsh winter conditions, you may need to protect it. The best way to do this is to remove the plants and repot them in a more durable composite resin or plastic container. Dry and clean your terracotta pots and place them in a frost-free basement or garage until the warmer spring weather comes around.
Always make sure that you have excellent drainage during the winter months. Pots that are typically dry all summer long could get waterlogged in the winter and fall months. If you live in a planting zone that has heavy winter rains or excess snow melt from the roof lines late in winter, you want to move your pots out of the runoff area or elevate your container or bricks to help them drain better.
Watering is a very important aspect of keeping your black eyed susans in pots alive and thriving, and it’s a delicate balancing act to give them enough water without overdoing it.
Growing Black-Eyed Susan in Pots Indoors
Black eyed susans generally don’t make good houseplants. They are cold-hardy and they don’t need to be protected indoors during the winter months. Herbaceous perennials require a dormancy period to allow them to grow vigorously the following spring. The cooler weather during the fall months triggers the start of the dormancy period, and the warming temperatures in springtime will signal the end of the dormancy period.
Growing Black Eyed Susan Vines in Pots
The black eyed susan vine is a great plant to put in containers or hanging baskets. It’s very popular due to the vivid coloring it offers, and the flowers come with dark centers, just like any other black eyed susan cultivar. The leaves are heart or arrow-shaped, and they will get up to three inches long. This is a climbing vine that will wind its way up support structures instead of clinging with tendrils. It grows very quickly on flowers when you plant it in warmer spring soil or in pots. The vine will bloom for many weeks during the summer and into the fall months to attract bees and butterflies.
Black Eyed Susan Vine – General Overview
|Botanical Name:||Thunbergia alata|
|Common Names:||Clock vine, black eyed susan vine|
|Flower Color:||Red, yellow, orange, white, and pink|
|Hardiness Zones:||10 and 11|
|Mature Size:||Three to eight feet tall and three to six feet wide|
|Plant Type:||Annual, perennial, vine|
|Sun Exposure:||Partial, full|
Black-Eyed Susan Vine Care
Black eyed susan vines generally get planted as an annual in containers or in hanging baskets with mixed plantings, but you can also plant them as black eyed susans in pots and have them grow upward to cover fences, arbors, trellises, or other support structures. This plant works well to cascade down over your retaining walls, or you can allow it to grow as a ground cover.
If you’re growing from seed, it’s best to give your vine a support structure in the pots for the seedlings, before then even necessarily need it, so you don’t have to disrupt the seedlings later. You can plant them by a fence, put up a tripod, stand up a cage structure, or plant them by a tall pole.
Black eyed susan vine is on the smaller size, and it tops out at roughly eight feet when you grow it in containers or grow it in temperate zones. However, in frost-free zones, this is an evergreen plant that can easily top out at 20 feet or more.
Types of Black-Eyed Susan Vines
Cultivars in this plant family all come with very similar foliage and overall growth habits. You tell them apart by the color, and popular cultivars include:
- African Sunset – Cream to brick red flowers
- Angel Wings – White flowers with a light fragrance
- Arizona Dark Red – Deep orangish-red flowers
- Blushing Susie – Apricot and rose flowers
- Bright Eyes – Pure white flowers
- Canary Eyes – Yellow flowers
- Lemon A-Peel – Bright yellow flowers with a darker center
- Orange Wonder – Bright orange flowers with a light center
- Raspberry Smoothie – Light lilac-pink flowers and greenish-gray foliage
- Superstar Orange – Extra-large orange flowers
- Susie Mix – Orange, yellow, and white flowers
There are many black eyed susan vines available, and you tell them apart mainly from the flower colors.
Feed your black eyed susans in pots every two or three weeks, no matter if they’re indoors or outdoors, during the active blooming season. Follow your fertilizer’s directions, but in many instances, it’s best to dilute it to half-strength to help boost blooms while avoiding overloading your pot.
Grow your vines in full sun to partial shade. Some afternoon shade is great, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Getting direct sun at this point during the day can easily damage your plants.
Plant your black eyed susan vines in a fertile, rich, well-draining potting soil. The potting soil should offer medium moisture retention properties, and it likes to have a pH level that is very close to neutral.
Temperature and Humidity
Black eyed susan vines thrive when planted in humid, warm climates, and this explains why it’s considered to be invasive in tropical spaces. However, it will grow anywhere in the zone range, provided you give it enough water. It tends to flower best once summer’s hottest days have gone.
When the top inch of soil dries out, you should water it deeply and regularly until you see water dripping from the drainage holes. Pour out any excess water from the saucer, but if the soil still feels wet or damp to the touch, hold off on watering it for a day or two. Then, keep your pot’s soil moist but not overly wet. If the leaves start to wilt, the soil is most likely too dry and it needs more water. In containers, never let the soil dry out completely.
How to Grow Black-Eyed Susan Vines From Seed
This vine is usually started from seeds that you sow directly in the garden after the last expected frost date of the season. The soil should be a minimum of 60-degrees Fahrenheit.
In cooler climates, start your seeds indoors in a mini greenhouse six to eight weeks before the last frost date. You’ll want to soak the seeds in warm water one or two days before you plant them to help them germinate. Plant your seeds ¼-inch deep and keep the soil evenly moist at all times. Germination will take 10 to 14 days when the temperatures sit between 70 and 75 days, and up to 21 days in cooler temperatures.
Growing your vines from seed requires tricking them to start growing well before the last frost date of the season, and this also improves your chances of getting blooms in the first year.
Potting and Repotting Black Eyed Susan Vines
Black eyed susan vines grow in big pots and on vertical structures to form pretty decorations outside as well as inside of your home. You can set a pair of them to flank the front door or define the edges of a patio or a deck. Inside, adding a pot of climbing vines in the corner is a great way to brighten up your sunroom or a bright, large bathroom.
Get a sturdy pot of any material, but make sure it’s strong enough to hold the heavy root system. Fill it with a top-quality potting soil and water it when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Feed your indoor and outdoor vine plants every two or three weeks during the spring and summer months.
Propagating Black Eyed Susan Vines
Propagating this vine from stem cuttings is a great option if you have a cultivar because the new plant will be identical to the parent plant. If you collect seeds from a cultivar plant, there is zero guarantee that it’ll be true to type. In cooler climates where you grow the plant as an annual, you should take cuttings in the fall and root them indoors so the new plants are ready to go in the spring. You do this by:
- Get a pair of sterilized, sharp pruners or scissors and take a four to six-inch cutting from a healthy plant, making sure you cut just below the stem node.
- Remove the bottom leaves of the cutting and dip the end into a rooting hormone.
- Put the cutting into a four-inch container that you fill with potting mix. Make sure your pot has larger drainage holes.
- Put the pot in a warm location in indirect but bright light. Make a point to keep it evenly moist at all times.
- Grow your vine until spring, and then transplant it to a bigger container and move it outside after the frost threat has passed.
Overwintering Black Eyed Susan Vines
Move your black eyed susan in pots inside so the vines can flower during the winter, provided you give them a lot of sun and a temperature that doesn’t dip below 60-degrees Fahrenheit. Feed your indoors overwintering container vines every two or three weeks during the blooming period in the cold season.
How to Get Black-Eyed Susan Vines to Bloom
Black eyed susan vines are popular for their summer and fall colors. There are a few reasons why your vines could be stubborn and not blooming, and this is something you can possibly fix with a little attention. One reason for them not blooming is because the weather is very hot or the sun scorched the plant to cause it not to flower. The vine needs to grow in a cool, sunny spot and it can’t stay directly in the sun for hours on end. Try keeping the vine in the shade during the day to cool off, and you may see blooms.
Other reasons why your vine isn’t blooming is that the soil is too dry, and you can add mulch to keep it moist. Or, your soil may be too cold because it dipped below 60-degrees Fahrenheit, and you can’t really control this. You could have also added too much fertilizer to your plant. If the vine is young, it may not bloom during the first year, so you may just need to be patient. If your plant isn’t blooming, it could feel crowded. Use a trellis that can support your vine when it stretches out. Giving it a little breathing space can encourage it to bloom.
Getting your vines to bloom can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure what is holding them back. A lot of the time, they just require patience.
Uses for Black Eyed Susans
Black eyed susans are a pretty perennial flower, but they also have potential medicinal benefits attached to it. It’s closely related to echinacea, and they share a lot of the same medicinal properties.
Significance to Cultural Communities
Black eyed susans are native to the eastern part of Africa, and they have been naturalized in other parts of the world. You will find it in Brazil and Hawaii in Cerrado vegetation, along with the eastern part of Australia and in the southern parts of the United States in Florida and Texas. The name “black eyed susan” was thought to come from a character that is featured in many traditional songs and ballads. In John Gay’s the Ballad of Black-Eyed Susan, Susan goes on a ship in-dock to ask the sailers where Sweet William, her lover has gone.
The Native Americans used this plant’s root to make a tea to help with a variety of ailments. They also used the plant’s yellow disk florets to create a bright dye to color rushes they wove into mats. The black eyed susan is also the state flower of Maryland. At the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the winner will get a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of black eyed susans draped around their neck. Black eyed susans are usually found growing throughout Maryland and most of the United States.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
In some Native American herbal medicine, adding an infusion of black eyed susan roots were historically used to treat dropsy, cold, and worms in kids. This mixture was also used to treat snake bites and sores, and the liquid extracted from boiled roots was used to treat earache. The Potawatomi and Menominee Native American tribes used it as a diuretic as well as cooking the leaves to eat as spring greens.
How to Grow Black Eyed Susan in Pots – FAQs
Since growing black eyed susans in pots is a common practice, there are huge amounts of questions about the process. We picked out the most frequently asked ones below.
1. What perennial goes best with black eyed susans in pots?
Black eyed susans, along with other Rudbeckia plants go well as a companion plant to purple and blue flowers. This includes Veronica and Russian Sage, or you can mix them with other jewel tones, like New England asters, purple coneflowers, or sedum Autumn Joy.
2. How do you properly winterize your black-eyed susans?
Black eyed susans are actually winter-hardy up to zone three, so they don’t have to be winterized. However, they will benefit from cutting back the plant stalks in the fall and covering them with a thicker mulch layer.
3. Are black-eyed Susans resistant to deer?
The tender young growth can get nibbled by deer. However, once they mature, the leaves become hairy and coarse, and they are resistant to deer.
You can easily grow black eyed susans in pots, but they do require more general upkeep and care to keep them healthy. We’ve outlined everything you need to know to grow standard and vine cultivars in pots and have the cheerful blooms ready to go all summer and fall long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.