Zone: 5 to 7 (See notes below)
Soil: Sand to clay
Light: Full sun to part sun
Bloom colour: Yellow and orange
Bloom period: Mid-summer to frost
Height: Up to 7 feet (see species notes)
Moisture: Dry to medium
Attracts: Mostly attracts bees and syrphid flies, but butterflies may stop as well.
Notes: For attracting bees, typical coneflowers are a bit overrated. They do
attract good numbers of syrphid flies and sweat bees. The most common garden variety seems to be Rudbeckia fulgida, which is often grown en masse or with purple coneflower. This particular species can be grown in zones 3 to 9 and tolerates a range of moisture conditions. It is usually 2 to 3 feet in height. It is rare in the wild but it is native to Ontario. This species is perennial and can spread by rhizomes. This makes it suitable for growing large patches but it may require some cutting back when grown around other plants. It has a somewhat similar appearance to shorter-lived Rudbeckia hirta.
Rudbeckia hirta is useful for slope stabilisation. Being an annual or biennial, it spreads by reseeding prolifically; however, the native plant is easy to obtain and quite attractive to bees while the disc florets are actually flowering. The bees will work their way around the disc collecting copious amounts of pollen. Rudbeckia hirta flowers a few weeks earlier than Rudbeckia fulgida and it has hairier leaves.
Rudbeckia triloba is an exotic of Ontario, but native to the USA. It has smaller and more numerous flowers. It is short-lived but reseeds easily.
The larger coneflowers (see below) are excellent bee attractors.My favourite species is Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne', a cross between Rudbeckia nitida and Rudbeckia laciniata. Although it does not produce seeds for birds, its large flowerheads are attractive to bumblebees and butterflies. It is grows quite tall so it should be planted at the back of the border as a specimen plant. It can handle part-sun and grows quickly in clay soil. It may completely flop during large storms so provide it with a couple of layers of support as it grows. This cultivar, being fairly compact, is more suitable for a garden than the native
Rudbeckia laciniata, which can spread too easily by underground rhizomes. Rudbeckia laciniata is great as a specimen plant occupying a larger space or as a background plant. It needs more moisture than the hybrid and if you can give it the right conditions, it will provide at stunning backdrop at the height of blooming.
Grey-headed coneflower is taller than Rudbeckia fulgida or Rudbeckia hirta, but you may want to consider it as an alternative pollinator plant.