Eastern Redbud Growing Tips
Hardy from zones 4 to 9, eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a native from southern Canada to Florida. The deciduous tree is known for its stunning display of colorful blooms that brighten the highway landscape in the early spring (March to April). The branches are profusely covered in white, lavender or magenta pea-like flowers. In the forest, redbuds are understory trees that reach 25 feet tall and 30 feet wide when mature. Redbuds are excellent trees for small gardens. They pair well with forsythia and double-flowering quince.
Redbud thrive in full sun to partial shade and become elongated in full shade as they reach for the sun. Redbuds do well in most soil types but adequate drainage is a must.
The standard vase-shaped habit adds structure and interest to the garden during the winter. Avoid large v-shaped crotches at intersections by pruning when the tree is young to extend the short 25-year lifespan. U-shaped crotches can withstand more weight from foliage, snow and wind. The short life span is not due to breakage so much as it is to the tree's susceptibility of canker, verticillium wilt and root rot.
While the native species is very attractive, cultivars can add even more interest to the garden throughout the year.
There are many different shades and colors of redbud bloom. Consider adding a white blooming redbud to the landscape. White redbuds add a unique twist to the traditional purple bloom. While most native blooming plants are white, white redbuds are extremely rare in the wild. Look for white selections such as ‘Alba’ and ‘Texas White’. C. canadensis ‘Appilachian Red’ has rose-red colored blooms that stand out in a landscape. C. canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’ is a rose-purple redbud that puts on an enhanced display of flowers. ‘Oklahoma’ may look like a standard redbud the majority of the year, but the flowers are far more dense and profuse than a standard redbud.
Redbud can be beneficial to wildlife such as squirrels and songbirds as a last resort food source. The seedpods are far less attractive than other food sources found in the wild. Why not eliminate the invasive disposition and go with a seedless cultivar? C. chinensis ‘Don Egolf’ is a new seedless redbud introduced from the U.S. National Arboretum. This redbud is extremely compact, more of a shrub than a tree, at 9 feet tall and wide in 15 years. The dense blooms and dark green foliage adds interest to the garden throughout several seasons. ‘Don Egolf’ is also one of the most disease resistant redbuds currently available.
Typical redbuds are prized while in bloom 3 weeks out of the year. Colorful foliage can be enjoyed throughout the entire growing season. C. canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a purple-leaved cultivar that adds bold color to any garden.
C. canadensis 'Rising Sun' redbud is a new gold selection that is very resilient in the summer heat. New growth emerges orange and gradually fades to yellow as it matures. By the end of he summer, the majority of the leaves are a chartreuse-green, but the colors return as fall arrives. 'Rising Sun' is also more compact than most redbuds maxing out at 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
Vase-like habits add structure to the garden, but weeping habits make C. canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ a stand-alone specimen. ‘Ruby Falls’ is a weeping redbud with purple foliage similar to ‘Forest Pansy’. The color of the purple redbuds fades to dark green as the summer heat intensifies. It grows as tall as it is trained then gracefully droops to the ground.