8 Reasons Your Black-Eyed Susan Flowers Aren’t Blooming

Are your black eyed susans struggling to bloom this season, and you aren't quite sure why? There are a number of different reasons this can happen, and not all are treated the same. In this article, gardening expert Jenna Rich examines why your rudbeckia may be struggling to bloom, and the best way to get them to flower.

When you hear Black-Eyed Susan, a daisy-like bright yellow flower with a fuzzy brown or black center likely comes to mind. But would you believe me if I said there are around 40 different varieties of this beloved wildflower? 

Black-Eyed Susans are native to the plains of the US. They have also adapted quite well to other locations, growing in all different regions across the country. They are fairly recognizable and low-maintenance flowers. Both home gardeners and cut flower farmers adore Black-Eyed Susans for their consistency, brightness, and potentially long season. 

Although easy to care for, you might wonder why yours aren’t blooming. Stay tuned as we get into 8 reasons why that might be happening below. 

Contents

Pest Pressure

A golden beetle can be seen at the center of a Black-Eyed Susan flower. The beetle's metallic sheen adds a pop of color to the already vibrant flower. The petals of the flower are bright yellow and radiate outward.
They do not attract many pests or critters, making them a fairly safe choice for your garden.

There’s nothing worse than waiting for your long-awaited flower garden to bloom than going out one day and noticing petals being munched, causing them to be unattractive and unmarketable. Luckily Black-Eyed Susans do not attract many pests or critters, but they are not safe from everything. 

On our farm in New Hampshire, Japanese beetles cause serious damage to our crops. They do not discriminate against many crops, be it vegetables, flowers, or grass.

Unfortunately, this includes our Black-Eyed Susans. They usually wait until the petals are just starting to uncurl. Then, just a day or two from peak harvest time, they begin to feed. 

We are also often visited by the Tarnished Plant Bug, which does not discriminate. This little monster ruins any and every part of the plant that it wishes to eat. It’s also extremely hard to catch or kill. 

Other pests known to go after this flower are the cabbage moth caterpillar, aphids, grasshoppers, and lacebugs. Luckily, critters such as deer and rabbits tend to stay away from Rudbekia due to their hairy stems and leaves.

Weed Pressure

Several Black-Eyed Susans with bright, yellow flowers and slender, green stems are cultivated in a grassy field. The flowers add a beautiful touch of color to the green expanse of the field.
Using woodchips for mulching can effectively reduce weed growth in a sustainable manner.

Like many flowers, Black-Eyed Susans can only manage so much competition for nutrients, sun, and water before they are negatively affected.

For this reason, it’s best to prep an area of your garden fully, especially if it is a brand-new area that you are converting from grass or that was previously unused. You can use cardboard boxes or a silage tarp to help kill back any fall and early-season weeds. 

Remove the tarp only when you are ready to put out compost and fertilizer and start planting to avoid any unwanted weed germination. Be sure to cultivate around your plants about 7-10 days later to catch any newly germinated weeds. Eventually, your plants will shade out any new weeds sprouting up. 

Mulching with woodchips is an environmentally friendly way to keep weed pressure down. If you have access to free and local woodchips, jump on the opportunity to use them in your garden. As a bonus, they will eventually break down and add organic matter to your soil. They can even serve as food for worms! 

Lack of Full Sun

A close-up of multiple Black-Eyed Susan flowers. The intricate details of the petals can be seen up close, with each flower featuring a dark brown center. The warm yellow hue of the petals is highlighted by the sun.
When planning where to place Black-Eyed Susans, consider their native environment on the plains.

Black-Eyed Susans are native to the plains regions of the United States, so they are used to hot, sunny, and sometimes dry conditions. They thrive in full sun, so if you have a sunny place for them, they would prefer that.

They can tolerate partial sun, but you will not get as many blooms, and the season may be shorter. Keep this in mind when planning where to place these flowers, especially perennial varieties. 

Pro Tip: If you notice your plants aren’t doing well in the garden spot you placed them, split the clump of roots in the fall before winter cleanup and after the first frost or in the spring when life is coming back. Simply move a clump to a new spot in your garden that has full sun. All perennial Black-Eyed Susan varieties should be split every 3-4 years for optimal performance.

These flowers also do well in containers. So, if you don’t have a full sun spot in your garden available but could place a pot out on your deck or patio, they should do very well there. 

Poor Quality/Compacted Soil 

The soil shown has recently been tilled. The rich brown color of the soil suggests that it is fertile and ready for planting. The texture of the soil looks crumbly and loose, ideal for seeds to take root.
To begin, check if you can easily press your finger into the soil.

Black-Eyed Susans prefer well-drained soil, so be sure that before planting out, you have tilled or, ideally, broad-forked the area. This will allow any fertilizers and compost you add, as well as water, to infiltrate into the soil. This step should be done after your initial garden prep, which might have included tarping a grassy or weedy area. 

As a starting point, you should be able to push your finger fully down into the soil easily. If you cannot, your soil may be too compact and might need some work before planting.

I will also encourage you to do a soil test if you have recently opened up a brand-new growing area. This can be done at home with a simple kit or sent to an Extension Office for more detailed results and recommendations. 

Pro Tip: If your Rudbekia plant has lots of foliage but not a lot of blooms, you can use the foliage as a backdrop for a rustic wildflower bouquet.

Too Much Water

A close-up of a vibrant yellow Black-Eyed Susan flower with a dark center attached to a hairy, green stem. The water droplets on the petals add a sparkling effect, making it look even more striking.
It is suggested that you install drip line irrigation or soaker hoses at the bottom of your plants.

Remember, again, that Black-Eyed Susans are native to plains regions of the United States. Although they might be used to occasional extreme storms and getting lots of water, they don’t typically like to be overhead watered or soaked daily. If plants are overwatered and the soil is not well-draining, this could result in root rot.

Placing drip line irrigation or soaker hoses at the base of your plants is recommended. You should also water consistently each week. Use a timer if you can so you don’t forget. 

Black-Eyed Susans are extremely drought-resistant, so luckily, if you do forget, they’ll probably forgive you!

However, if you live in a particularly dry region or plan to be away for a while, you could use woodchips to mulch. This will help the soil retain moisture, buying you a little extra time. 

Disease Pressure 

A close-up of deeply lobed, green leaves that are covered in powdery mildew, displaying a whitish-gray appearance. The mildew appears to be spreading across the leaves, indicating a need for prompt attention.
You will most commonly encounter a few diseases with Black-Eyed Susans.

Although uncommon, the most common diseases you’ll run into with Black-Eyed Susans are powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spots, root rot, and downy mildew. 

Disease Prevention

Proper spacing will help create ample airflow, and buying seeds from reputable sources is recommended. These are two of the best ways to prevent disease.

If you are starting seeds or growing indoors, you can add fans to your growing area to increase airflow. Keep your eye on any white spots; yellowing, browning, or curling of leaves; and stunted growth. 

Variety Growth Habit

A close-up of a transparent pot filled with brown soil, where small green plants are growing. The plants seem to be thriving, with healthy green leaves and delicate stems growing out of the soil.
Starting Black-Eyed Susans seeds indoors and transplanting them out improves the chances of having a productive year.

The earlier you plant Black-Eyed Susans, the better the chances are you’ll have a productive year. This is why most growing experts recommend you start seeds indoors and transplant them out.

No matter what variety you choose to grow, they will all bloom in some fashion in year one. The show just won’t be as big if you transplant them out in late summer. 

Here in New Hampshire, we treat our Black-Eyed Susans as tender perennials. We don’t rely on them every year for cut flower bouquets.

They live in a perennial patch, and we allow them to go to seed each fall in hopes of getting an early start the following spring, which really just depends on the year’s spring temperatures. Since we let mature flowers drop seeds, we see new roots being put down each season and blooms each year, giving us the benefits of a perennial. 

That being said, most varieties are true biennials, blooming every other year and becoming stronger and more productive with each passing season.

If you live in a warm climate, especially USDA Growing Zone 7 or above, you also have the option to do an early fall planting of Rudbekia. Once it goes through winter, the following spring and summer should bring prolific blooms

If you live in zones 7 or below, it’s best to choose a variety that takes 100 days or less to mature and definitely start seeds indoors.

We grow Indian Summer because they are consistently beautiful, have great stem length, and have a shorter maturity time than some other varieties, just 90-105 days. If your region offers a longer season, I highly recommend Cherry Brandy or Cherokee Sunset. They are real stunners, and both will produce blooms in year one. 

Pro Tip: Cut back your plants in late fall after the first frost and cover them with a few inches of straw or seedless hay in order to keep them a bit warmer throughout the winter months. Peel back the mulch when temperatures start to warm up. This could give you a jumpstart in the spring. You can also leave the dried stalks in your garden until spring, allowing birds and insects to feed on the seeds during the wintertime.

To keep it simple, you can choose any variety you like, no matter what region you grow in, and treat them as flowering annuals to avoid any of this worry. If you are looking for a true perennial Rudbeckia, try Rudbeckia fulgida.

Not Deadheading Enough

A man wearing gardening gloves is carefully cutting the stem of a plant using pruning shears. The plant's flowers are slender, and bright yellow in color. Green plants can be perceived in the blurred background.
Deadheading can prevent them from feeling the urge to reproduce.

As previously mentioned, Black-Eyed Susans can have a very long season if planted early enough. However, plan to deadhead several times throughout the year to prolong the season even more and ensure your plants don’t go to seed too early. 

Remember, all plants have the primary goal of reproducing. When stressful conditions arise, they may be driven to drop seeds sooner, so their kind can live to see another day. You can delay their “need to seed” by deadheading. 

Deadheading is the act of cutting back dead, wilted, or unused flowers to encourage more blooms and branching out. You can typically cut about a stem’s length down.

Pro Tip: If your Rudbekia plant has lots of foliage but not a lot of blooms, you can use the foliage as a backdrop for a rustic wildflower bouquet.

Final Thoughts

Black-Eyed Susans are a backyard grower’s favorite for many reasons. They are fairly low maintenance, there are many colors to choose from, and they can have a long growing season when grown properly. 

If you follow a few simple steps with this highly productive, cut-and-come-again flower, they will bloom for you again and again. 

Happy growing! 

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