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A short-lived perennial or biennial with a long blooming season, brown-eyed Susan bursts with yellow, daisylike flowers with dark centers from midsummer until mid-fall. Preferring moist soils, it can tolerate some drought once established. This is a plant that performs well in cut-flower gardens, butterfly gardens, native gardens, beds, borders, and naturalized areas. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Aster
  • Family (botanic) Asteraceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
  • Soil preference Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Wildlife Birds, Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Brown-eyed Susans are typically 2 to 3 feet tall with a 1 to 2 feet spread. They spread through self-seeding. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Brown-eyed Susans are native to the Eastern and Central United States. C Value: 1.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Brown-eyed Susans attract numerous bee species including a specialist pollinator of coneflowers. Other visitors include goldfinches and other birds, small- to medium-sized butterflies, flies, and wasps. 

Leaf description:

The Latin name for brown-eyed Susans refers to the lowermost leaves of the plant, which are often divided into three distinct lobes. The leaves that grow around the base of the plant (basal rosette) persist through the winter. The upper leaves occur in an alternate arrangement along the stems, and are approximately 2 to 4 inches long. They are primarily ovate in shape, but may be longer and more narrow (lanceolate) with slight to coarse teeth along the edges (dentate margins). 

Flower description:

Brown-eyed Susan flowers are daisylike composites of petallike ray flowers and a center of disk flowers that are approximately 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter, slightly smaller than the flowers of black-eyed Susans. These composite flowers occur singularly or in a pair at the terminal ends of the upper stems. The ray flowers are a bright yellow in color and oblong in shape. The center is a flattened dome, or button shape, and the disk flowers are dark chocolate to black in color. Surrounding the bases of the flowerheads are layers of hairy, pointed, leaflike bracts. 

Fruit description:

The center of disk flowers produce small, hairless, dry, four-angled, charcoal-gray fruit (achenes).

Plant Care:

Brown-eyed Susans prefer moist, sandy, loamy soils that drain well, but they can tolerate some well-drained clay soils and some drought once established. While they can adapt to shady areas, they may need some additional support if they are not receiving adequate sunlight. Brown-eyed Susans are short-lived perennials or biennials, so self-seeding may be beneficial to maintain populations.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Insect pests of brown-eyed Susan include aphids, caterpillars of moths, leaf beetles, slugs, and snails. Deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and other mammals also eat the foliage, but they can be moderately deer resistant when established. Brown-eyed Susans are moderately drought-tolerant. Powdery mildew can affect brown-eyed Susans.


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