Going for gold – Black-eyed Susan earns top honors in 2023

A new year brings new traditions and new practices, and for many gardeners, new plants to add to their gardens. One plant to consider this year is the American Gold Rush black-eyed Susan. It was selected as the Perennial Plant Association’s 2023 Plant of the Year and is a favorite of many gardeners. Each year, the association highlights a low-maintenance plant with multi-season interest, which is pest-free and can be grown in a wide range of climates.

American Gold Rush is a hybrid nativar; there are more than 30 coneflower species native to America. Its bright golden flowers with deep brown centers cheerfully cover the compact green foliage. Deadheading or removing spent flowers throughout the summer will encourage continual blooming from July until the first frost in fall.

Robust clumps of stems and foliage, reaching 2-3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, withstand the weight of the abundance of blooms without flopping over. The leaves and stems are covered in small hairs that make the foliage appear shimmering silver in the sun.

A hardy and reliable herbaceous perennial, the American Gold Rush black-eyed Susan tolerates hot and humid weather and will withstand a mild drought due to its extensive root system. It grows best in well-drained soil and full sun (at least 6 hours a day).

The specific cultivar was bred for resistance to Septoria leaf spot. Caused by a fungus, it results in chestnut brown leaf spots and plant decline. The spots will first appear on the lower leaves of the plant and progress upward. Other black-eyed Susan species can be susceptible to this disease in favorable growing conditions.

This perennial of the year has many uses in a variety of landscapes. It is a showstopping focal flower in perennial gardens, borders or meadows, and when planted in masses, it creates large drifts of yellow. They are also dependable cut flowers with their prolific blooms and long vase life. Coneflowers can lightly self-seed in a garden. New seedlings can be dug up and replanted in a more desirable location, or seedheads can be removed from the plant before maturing to prevent any new plants from popping up in the garden.

Pollinators are frequent visitors to black-eyed Susans. The flowers are an important source of nectar for butterflies and other pollinators.
The dried seedheads create texture in the winter garden but are often enjoyed by songbirds looking for a tasty treat. However, one creature that does not prefer to munch on them is deer.

The American Gold Rush is low maintenance and has few pests or diseases. Foliage and seedheads can be left to stand through the winter, but plan to remove the brown foliage in spring before the new leaves emerge. Clumps should be dug up and divided every few years in the spring to prevent overcrowding. Replant the divisions in a new spot in the landscape or share with a friend.

Consider past Perennial Plant Association Plants of the Year, as they are often favorites of many gardeners, including little blue stem, calamint, Japanese spikenard, betony, ornamental onion and butterfly weed.