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Goldsturm Makes A Great Perennial Plant Of The Year
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
This really has been a year for the black-eyed Susan called Indian Summer. They are showing off brilliantly in my garden and were one of the Mississippi Medallion winners for 1999.
Goldsturm (Rudbeckia fulgida), which is the most reliable perennial black-eyed Susan, was the 1999 Perennial Plant of the Year, and the award is deserving. Next year, Goldsturm will be the Louisiana Select award winner.
The Goldsturm is one of those plants that gives everybody a green thumb. It makes an expert and gardening enthusiast out of the beginner. If you like tall golden flowers with brown cones from summer through frost, follow this recipe.
Choose a site in full sun for best flowering, although some shade is tolerated. Goldsturm cannot tolerate wet feet so prepare the bed by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like fine pine bark or compost and tilling to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. When preparing your perennial bed, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow release 12-6-6 fertilizer with minor nutrients. Set your plants out at the same depth they are growing in the container, water and then finish the job by mulching.
Presumably you would like some companion plants just as easy to grow. Goldsturm is at home in a cottage garden grouped with salvias like the Blue Anise sage, Indigo Spires and Victoria. Perennial verbena like Biloxi Blue and Homestead Purple look great as understory plants. Surround a purple or plum-colored buddleia with several of these rudbeckias. Hilo Princess angelonia is also wonderful massed adjacent to the Goldsturm. All of the above plants are challenge free.
Some of the best companions aren't plants at all. Place a blue gazing globe in the middle of these brilliant gold flowers. For a country cottage look, stick a birdhouse mounted on a 4-by-4 post towering above the bed or a pedestaled birdbath.
Use this same 12-6-6 fertilizer for a light side-dressing every six to eight weeks during the growing season. Keep the flowers deadheaded for a tidy look and to encourage blooming. After the plants finish blooming in late summer, cut flower stalks at the base and stand by. A new fall flush will develop on a taller, thicker stalk.
To be as honest as possible, some gardeners think Goldsturm is too vigorous and spreading. Most growers can give a resounding Hallelujah. What further testimony would you need that it is an easy-to-grow perennial. Your clump may need an early spring dividing in two years and for sure in the third year. It almost makes you want to go into the rudbeckia business.
The foliage may stay almost evergreen in mild winters, though it might look a little ragged. In the spring following these winters, growth and blooms come fast and the plants seem to be a foot taller. During normal winters, the foliage dies back, revealing clumps of densely packed, tiny leaves gearing up for spring. Remove the frozen growth.
The Goldsturm makes an excellent cutflower and doesn't require the same rigid warm water conditioning as other rudbeckia. Cut your flowers in the morning and place them immediately in the vase or bucket of water.
Even though it is mid-summer, I would have no fears about buying any Goldsturm that might be around. They are most likely at a bargain price. They are such good plants that they are a bargain even in the spring.