Often known as coneflowers, Rudbeckia are tough herbaceous perennials from the North American prairies which do well in Sydney gardens. They belong to the Asteraceae family and have large daisy-like blooms in mid to late summer. There are several types available, including the tall and graceful Rudbeckia laciniata (ht 1-2m) with reflexed golden petals surrounding a prominent central cone. The leaves are deeply lobed and attractive. A vigorous double form, 'Golden Glow', is striking, but to me it lacks the elegance of the single form.
Another popular form is Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm', which is lower growing (ht 60cm) so suits smaller spaces. It has big golden daisies with dramatic dark centres. Rudbeckia triloba (ht to 1m) has a mass of smaller daisies of the same colour combination as 'Goldsturm'. All Rudbeckia do best in full sun, with reasonable soil and adequate moisture, though they will stand periods of dryness quite well. The stems can be cut to the ground in winter.
Whilst these coneflowers look attractive grown with ornamental grasses to give a 'prairie' effect, they mingle very well with subtropical flowers in hot-coloured tones which bloom in Sydney summers, such as red Pentas and red, yellow and orange Dahlia. Brilliant blue Salvia guaranitica Large Form provides a stunning colour contrast to the coneflowers, and the lime-green leaves of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold' gives a wonderful foliage backdrop.
These plants are attractive to bees. They also make good cut flowers.