Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun'

I have always admired those annual Black Eyed Susan flowers with the green eyes (officially named Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’). Their blooms have bright bicolor golden-yellow petals up to 5” across surrounding a light green central cone.

Unfortunately, it is not a perennial in New England and is only grown as an annual. However, it is such a wonderful addition to any summer garden and makes a great cut flower in summer bouquets. I find it well worth the trouble of growing from seed. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ was a 2003 All-America Selections winner.

I planted about 100 seeds of this Rudbeckia from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine. I have always had good luck with their seeds, they ship quickly and are New England based.

I expect about an 80% germination rate (lower than normal because I’m clumsy and always drop some seeds). These plants take approximately 120 days to mature.

This year I used  Hydrofarm Seedling Jumpstart 81 Pellet Greenhouse Trays that I bought at my local gardening center.

After reading the seed packet front and back I checked my calendar and counted back 9 weeks from when I need to sell the plants for the plant sale. I write the date the seed was sown on the seed packet and keep all seed information in a ziplock bag for future reference.

Front of packet.

Back of packet.

Dry pellets from Hydrofarm Seedling Jumpstart 81 Pellet Greenhouse Tray.

Slowly add warm water.

I filled the trays with warm water just above the pellets and let it soak in.

Soaking up the warm water.

Ready for seeds!

Slowly tap paper holding seeds.

I take a few seeds at a time and place them in folded 8 X 10 sheet of paper. Slowly tap the paper on the tray to get one seed at a time.  Place it in the center of the pellet and gently push a little of the loose peat from the pellet over the seed to cover it.

Placing seeds by hand is slow but I still do it the old fashioned way. Some year I will buy a fancy seed sower with all the dials.

Label for seedlings.

Made a label for my info with the plant name, height, date of sowing, DTM (days to maturity) and put it in the tray.

Put the cover on and placed it on a heat mat.

Usually these seed trays with the cover stay very moist and I hardly ever need to water again before germination.

When the seedlings emerge I will remove the cover,  turn the heating mat off and rotate the tray daily as the little seedlings always reach for the sun. This is the time when I keep my eye on watering. They never should be soaking wet that you could squeeze water out of the pellet or so dry the seedlings fall over from lack of hydration. They just need average moisture and should only be watered from the bottom of the tray with room temperature water.

I will make sure the room it is well ventilated. Just opening a window (not near the seedlings) a crack if it’s cold out and wide open if it’s warm seems to do the trick.

When the second set of true leaves appear (third and fourth leaves) they will need to be transplanted into a larger container, kept shaded for a few days to acclimate to their new container and start being fed diluted liquid food.

If all goes as planned, I can start hardening the plants off the second week in May. This is the period lasting about two weeks that young transplants need to acclimate to their new outdoor exposure. The process  involves taking them in and out each day increasing the exposure time to the elements outdoors until they are acclimated.

The second and third week in May  is a little early to plant around here but we will tell buyers at the plant sale to hold off planting them outside until the forth week in May (depending on the weather forecast).

Susan and I will both be at the plant sale. Come visit us!

Gloucester, MA – Saturday May 19th at Stage Fort Park.  Generous Gardeners will be holding a plant sale to benefit  the Gloucester Education Foundation  The sale will be of donated plants from many different generous gardeners (maybe even you!).  Time will be 9am to 2pm.  Donations will be accepted on Friday, May 18th from noon to 5pm and then on Saturday before the sale starts from 8-9.  100% of the proceeds will go to the non-profit charity, so plants that are donated by a registered generous gardener will receive a tax deductible receipt for the amount given to the foundation based on the sale of those plant.  If you have any questions or would like more information about Generous Gardeners or the plant sale contact

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