Growing Black-Eyed Susan In Pots And Planters: A Complete Guide

collection of pots with dill, black eyed susan, sage, nasturtium

Growing black-eyed Susan in a planter, flower pot, or other container isn’t very common, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. 

Black-eyed Susan can easily grow in containers if planted in rich, well-draining soil with regular water. Smaller varieties will perform the best, but all types will need full sun. Starting with transplants will increase the chances of success instead of direct sowing.

The process requires some additional care and attention, but it’s worth it for a long-blooming and bright container garden. 

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Why grow black-eyed Susans in pots?

You might want to grow your flowers in pots because you adore the look and feel of the flower but don’t have the space or access to an in-ground flower bed. Or maybe your soil isn’t suitable, and it’s easier to set up a container garden. 

Fortunately, black-eyed Susans are generally low-maintenance flowers, and growing them in pots won’t pose too much of a problem. 

How to ensure your black-eyed Susan grows well in a pot   

Keep just a few things in mind to get your container flower garden off to the best start:

Pot size 

The first factor you’ll want to consider is the pot size. Remember that black-eyed Susans have long roots that can spread laterally, so choose a large enough container to accommodate the plant’s roots. Otherwise, they may become pot-bound, where the roots circle the container and prevent water absorption.

Generally speaking, you want to plant your black-eyed Susan in a pot that holds at least one gallon of soil. The pot should be at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep and have a 10-12-inch diameter. A larger pot will almost always be better, with a five-gallon container being ideal.

Pro-tip: Use a pot that is wider at the top than the bottom to make it easier to get the rootball and soil out. A pot that is narrower at the mouth than the base is almost impossible to empty without breaking it or damaging the plant’s roots. 

Make sure to get the seeds from a trusted source so that you have a clear idea of how big the black-eyed Susan can grow to make a well-informed decision regarding pot size. You can also harvest seeds from mature plants in your garden. 

Why wouldn’t you want to grow black-eyed Susan in containers? They’re so pretty paired here with red salvia and a blue pot.

Soil for potted black-eyed Susan

The right type of soil for your potted flowers can make or break the entire process of growing in containers. Your run-of-the-mill all-purpose potting mix should do just fine, but mix in a bit of sand for even better drainage. Good drainage is vital for container-grown black-Eyed Susans.

Plain garden soil isn’t a good choice for growing just about anything in pots because it is more likely to compact and choke your plant’s roots. If you’re trying to stretch the potting mix you have, you can add some garden soil, but no more than one-quarter of the volume. 

A great way to use a small amount of garden soil is to make your own with this potting mix recipe:

  • One part garden soil 
  • One part sand or perlite
  • One part peat moss

Mix everything, moisten it, and you’re ready to plant! Since garden soil can have weed seeds in it, you can use purchased soil that’s been sterilized if you want to avoid any weeds popping up. But if you’re garden soil is healthy, and you don’t mind pulling a few weeds from your pots, then garden soil works great.

Mulch is also a welcome addition to your potted plants to prevent weeds, retain moisture, and provide insulation against large temperature swings.

Sunlight and water requirements

Considering that they’re closely related to sunflowers, it comes as no surprise that black-eyed Susans require lots of direct sunlight. The good thing about growing them in a pot, though, is that you can position them where your garden gets the most sun throughout the day.

Another thing black-eyed Susans appreciate as much as full sun exposure is proper hydration. And because the plants’ roots are sensitive to wet soil, choosing a well-draining substrate is vital, as you don’t want to risk root rot.

As seedlings, black-eyed Susans will benefit from a light watering every day or two. Their roots aren’t well-developed yet and are still shallow in the pot. As the plants grow, you can reduce the watering frequency to every 3-4 days.

The best indication of whether you need to water is the soil itself. Check the soil with your fingers. If the upper two inches of the soil still feel moist, it’s best to wait an extra day or two and try again. If the soil is dry, water the soil thoroughly.

A saucer under the pot is a great way to build a water reservoir. The soil will draw the water up as needed, which is helpful on hot days. Just be sure to let the saucer run dry between waterings to ensure the pot isn’t constantly sitting in water. Constantly wet soil isn’t good for any potted plant.

Pro tip: Choose a clay pot for its excellent moisture-wicking ability to prevent waterlogged conditions. Its weight is also helpful to prevent your plant from falling over from the weight of the flowers during the blooming season.

For a little more guidance on watering your container garden, this article will help you: 9 Tips for Watering Potted Flowers in the Summer.

When to start black-eyed Susans in pots

Although you can directly sow seeds into their permanent containers, I prefer to start my seeds indoors and transplant them when they’re large enough. 

Black-eyed Susans are very slow growers as young seedlings, and it can be difficult to keep the soil warm enough and at the correct moisture level very early in the spring. It’s much easier to control the temperature, light, and moisture when you start seeds indoors. 

black-eyed Susan seedlings on tray
These black-eyed Susan seedlings are two weeks old, so they have a while to go before I can transplant them.

Start the seeds indoors about two months before transplanting them outdoors. Black-eyed Susans are slow growers when they’re young, so even 12 weeks is great. 

As with most seeds, you’ll need to keep them warm and moist until they germinate, then water them regularly while they’re growing. Once the seedlings have a couple of sets of true leaves, you can harden them off and transplant them out into their permanent container. 

For a complete walkthrough of starting from seed, bookmark this article: Growing Black-Eyed Susan From Seed: Q&A and How To Start.

The best varieties of black-eyed Susans for containers

Because these flowers are robust with long, deep roots, not all varieties are suited for containers. That’s why choosing the right type and variety to grow in a pot will determine your chances of success.

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia hirta is the annual version of black-eyed Susan, typically living only one year. It can overwinter in mild climates, so sometimes, people call it a tender perennial. The hirta species is also great at self-sowing, so if your plant dies at the end of the season, chances are high that you’ll see volunteer plants popping up next spring. 

Here are some of the best varieties to grow in containers. They’re all relatively compact at under three feet tall.  

Cherokee Sunset

Cherokee sunset is a gorgeous black-eyed Susan whose flowers usually consist of a golden yellow crown with a dark brown disc. They’re perfect for growing in pots, as they rarely grow taller than three feet tall. The flowers themselves usually range in diameter from three to four inches.

This Cherokee Sunset would look amazing in a container.

Amarillo Gold

This variety is unusual with its green center instead of the typical brown one. They’re usually 12 to 18 inches tall (30 – 45 cm), meaning they’re one of the most compact black-eyed Susan varieties you’ll come across. Their size and gorgeous appearance make these flowers an excellent addition to your garden.    

Cherry Brandy

I can’t recommend Cherry Brandy enough if you’re looking for a unique variety. The flowers of this variety aren’t your standard golden yellow or orange. They’re a stunning deep red that creates a beautiful contrast with the dark brown center.

Orange Fudge

This variety can grow 15-20 inches tall, and you’ll immediately notice it when you see one. These flowers boast a stunning gradient coloring that starts as a vibrant orange that fades into a bright yellow at the tips of the petals. The center cone is a lighter brown than many varieties, so it’s an excellent option for something different.

Rudbeckia fulgida

This perennial black-eyed Susan is well-suited for growing in pots because it stays compact at 3 feet (90 cm) in height, while its flowers are usually around two or three inches (5-7.5 cm) in diameter. The slightly curved petals and oval leaves set this variety apart from the rest.

For more on the difference between the different types and which ones might be the best for containers, this article has all the details: Are Black Eyed Susans Annual Or Perennial Flowers?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you take care of a potted black-eyed Susan?

To take care of a potted black-eyed Susan, choose a high-quality and well-draining potting mix, water the plant regularly, and provide at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Choose a container that’s big enough to accommodate the plant’s roots and a smaller variety to prevent overcrowding. 

How much space do black-eyed Susans need?

Black-eyed Susans need approximately 18 inches of space around them. Otherwise, they risk becoming rootbound, as their root system is extensive to allow for rhizome spread. If growing in containers, a five-gallon pot is ideal. 

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