‘Prairie Sun’ gloriosa daisy

Story and Photos by Norman Winter
@NormanWinterTheGardenGuy on Facebook

‘Prairie Sun’, one of the most striking gloriosa daisies ever, was chosen as an All-America Selections Award Winner years ago. This followed on the heels of ‘Indian Summer’, another outstanding selection.

Thanks to progressive greenhouse growers and a new generation of landscape professionals, this outstanding cultivar of Rudbeckia hirta is generating a lot of dazzle in both commercial and home landscapes.

Black-eyed Susans or gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) are treated as short-lived perennials or annuals in many gardeners. The flower power they generate is worth every penny regardless of how you use them.

‘Prairie Sun’ is cold hardy in Zones 3-8 but as an annual everyone can enjoy their sizzling color. This is just what you have with the orange petals that give way to primrose yellow tips. The large disk or eye is green, generating even more glances from passersby.

‘Prairie Sun’ tops out at 2½-3 feet with a 2-foot spread. The flowers are huge, reaching 5 inches and commanding attention. This summer one of the most dazzling partnerships used ‘Prairie Sun’ and Wasabi coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides ‘UF0843’) guaranteeing a summer of wow. I particularly loved how the Wasabi echoed the color of the green ‘Prairie Sun’ eye.

I’ll come right out and admit it – I am a gloriosa daisy or Rudbeckia hirta freak. They are the quintessential cottage garden plant but remain the perfect choice for today’s modern landscapes.

Sometimes I get a little uneasy that garden centers are catering to the instant gratification crowd, which means the old-fashioned 4-inch green transplant has given way to instant color from another flower. If you are having a hard time finding transplants in your area, these incredible flowers bloom first year from seed.

Rudbeckias perform best in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Tight, compact clay or soggy soil yields less than satisfactory results. So if you find yourself in this situation, incorporate 3-4 inches of organic matter, such as compost, peat, or humus before planting. Set your transplant in the soil at the same depth it is growing in the container. Finish by applying a layer of your favorite organic mulch.

With gloriosa daisies like ‘Prairie Sun’, ‘Indian Summer’, or the shorter ‘Corona’, the beauty of your garden will command attention from visitors all the while you’ll be bringing in bees, butterflies followed by birds for the seeds. I would say that is hard to beat. 

Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: ‘Prairie Sun’ gloriosa daisy
Botanical Name: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’
Bloom Color: Bicolor yellow and gold with green eye
Bloom Time: Summer through fall
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 3-8, mostly grown mostly as an annual
Size: 2½-3 feet tall, 2 feet wide
Exposure: Full sun
When to Plant: Spring and summer
How to Plant: Space 12-15 inches apart
Soil: Fertile, fertile, and well-drained
Maintenance: Deadhead to keep flowers producing.
In Your Landscape: Use with blue or violet flowers like Salvia ‘Misty’ or ‘Amistad’, and the bog sage (S. uliginosa).

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