Beauty of Brown Eyed Susans: A Complete Guide

Beauty of Brown Eyed Susans: A Complete Guide

In the world of flowers, few species have as pretty of a name as Brown-Eyed Susan. This is due to the somewhat contradictory name that perfectly matches its appearance. A combination of a reddish brown center and yellow exterior makes this flower look like the eyes of an animal staring out at you. The overall color scheme works extremely well with landscaping choices around the home, where you can incorporate red, green and yellow.


The brown-eyed Susan is a member of the genus Rudbeckia, which contains about 100 species in North America. The common name is derived from its flower color, which ranges from yellow to orange and red.

This perennial grows to 12 inches (30 centimeters) with a spread of 24 inches (60 cm). Its leaves are oblong and pointed at the tip, with serrated edges. The flowers range from dark brown to deep red and have five petals, each measuring up to 1¼ inches (3 cm).

Brown-eyed Susans are easy to grow from seed, but they also make good-cut flowers for use in bouquets or arrangements. As part of an informal landscape design scheme, they look especially nice when planted along roadsides or in shrubbery borders.

Growing From Seed

Below is a list of all the steps to grow your Brown Eyed Susan from seed.

Step 1: Prepare your soil before planting. Make sure it is free of weeds and debris. Use a garden tiller or rake to break up any large clumps from previous plantings. If you have soil that has been recently prepared, then skip this step.

Step 2: Dig holes deep enough so that when you plant your seeds, they will be covered with about 1/4 inch of soil. Each hole should be spaced about 12 inches apart from other holes for optimal growth.

Step 3: Place seeds in each hole and cover them with loose dirt, so they are barely covered with soil (about 1/4 inch). This prevents the seeds from getting eaten by birds or rodents lurking around your yard. After covering them with dirt, water each one thoroughly with water until water runs out of the holes where you have planted seeds.

Hardiness Zones

The Brown-Eyed Susan has a wide range of hardiness zones. The plant grows best in zones 3 through 9 but can also be grown in zone 10. The plant does not tolerate frost well.

Brown-Eyed Susans are native to North America and are found most often in the eastern portion of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.


The brown-eyed Susan can be grown in containers, which makes it an ideal choice for patios or decks. You can also grow this flower inside during winter if you come from an area where it does not die completely yearly.

  1. Prepare the potting soil.
  2. Make a hole in the potting soil the same width as the root ball and deep enough to hold the plant with its roots covered by soil.
  3. Gently remove the plant from its current container and place it in the hole you have prepared in step two.
  4. Fill any holes with extra potting soil, then lightly pat down around the sides of the plant's root ball with your fingers to secure it firmly in place. If you need to, add more soil around the top and bottom of the root ball until it is completely covered.
  5. Water your new plant thoroughly until water runs out of drainage holes or wicks through its entire root system (about 30 minutes).

Light Requirements

The lighting requirements of brown-eyed Susan are not very demanding. The plant does well in a sunny location but can also tolerate partial shade. However, the amount of sunlight the plant receives will affect its growth and flowering habits.

Brown-eyed Susan plants need at least six hours of direct sun daily to grow well. A few hours of indirect sunlight is also beneficial for this plant. Brown-eyed Susan can also be grown indoors under fluorescent lights or artificial light from windowsills.

Water Requirements

Brown Eyed Susan is a drought-tolerant plant. It requires little water once established but will do better with regular watering in hot and dry conditions.

Watering Methods 

Water Brown Eyed Susan regularly, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to avoid wetting the leaves, which can cause disease problems.

Watering Frequency

Water Brown Eyed Susan about once every 1-2 weeks during periods of active growth. Brown Eyed Susan may need more frequent watering in warm summer months than in cooler months due to increased transpiration rates caused by heat stress.

Soil Requirements

Brown-eyed Susans like a light, sandy loam that drains well. Avoid heavy clay soils with poor drainage because these soils will cause root rot problems and stunt the growth of plants. Use compost or other organic matter to improve your soil if necessary, and add mulch around plants to help keep moisture levels even throughout the year.

The Brown Eyed Susan prefers a soil pH of 5.5-7, which makes it an easy plant to grow in most regions of the U.S. However, suppose you live in an area with alkaline soil or have recently changed the pH of your soil. In that case, you may need to add some lime to the soil before planting Brown Eyed Susans to help prevent nutrient deficiencies and other issues that can damage this beautiful flower.


The best time to fertilize Brown Eyed Susan is in the spring before it blooms. There are two types of fertilizer you can use: organic and synthetic. The organic fertilizers include manure, compost, bone meal and fish emulsion. These fertilizers are made from natural products and do not contain any chemicals or preservatives. The synthetic fertilizers include urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) and ammonium sulfate. These fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium - essential plant nutrients that cannot be found in most soils naturally.

Pests and Disease Problems

Brown-eyed Susan is a very hardy plant that does not require much care. Insects, however, can be a problem for this plant. Two types of insects attack the brown-eyed Susan: aphids and leaf miners. Aphids suck the sap from plants, leaving a sticky residue on leaves and stems. Leaf miners are larvae of various moths that burrow into leaves while they feed on plant tissue.

Stem rot can also affect Brown-Eyed Susan, which can cause leaves to wilt or turn yellow and prematurely fall off the plant. Stem rot is caused by disease organisms such as Pythium sp., Rhizoctonia sp., Phytophthora sp., Alternaria sp. and Botrytis cinerea (gray mold).

How To Plant Brown-eyed Susan in Your Garden

The best time to plant this flower is from March until October. To ensure success, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a sunny spot with at least six hours of sunlight daily.
  2. Prepare the soil by working in compost or manure into the top 6 inches of soil and add organic fertilizer if desired.
  3. Dig holes about 6 inches deep and space them 12 inches apart.
  4. Set plants into holes, so crowns are barely below surface level, and water them thoroughly once planted.
  5. Water regularly throughout the growing season until plants are established; after that, water only during periods of extreme drought (once every two weeks).

Companion Plants

Companion plants need to be chosen with care so that they complement the planting bed and do not compete for nutrients and water. Here are some companion plants that work well with Brown Eyed Susan.

Lavender: Lavender repels bugs such as aphids, flies, mosquitoes, moths and beetles. It also attracts pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Thyme: Thyme repels aphids, thrips and whiteflies. Thyme also attracts bees and butterflies.

If you're planting a garden, consider adding this hardy perennial. Not only are Brown-Eyed Susan and Black Eyed Susan beautiful in their own right, but they will add interest to your garden by attracting beneficial insects, birds and butterflies.