Redbud Tree Facts and Care Information
Redbud Tree: Most people never forget the first time they see a redbud tree in full bloom. In my case, the memorable occasion took place at a local arboretum in early spring. The morning sun was shining on a group of nearly a dozen redbuds with flowers fully unfurled, setting off a spectacular show of pink fireworks.
As I returned to observe these trees throughout the year, I discovered that their beauty extends well beyond the spring season, as the fading flowers give way to heart-shaped green to bronze leaves in summer and brown pods that remain on the tree after the leaves fall. These attributes, along with the redbud’s compact size and resilient nature, have made it one of the most popular small trees for residential gardens.
- The blossoms of redbuds look very similar to pea blossoms because the trees are in the same legume plant family (Fabaceae). The blossoms are also edible and can add a bright, citrusy taste to salads. The unopened buds can also be pickled and used as a caper substitute.
- Although redbuds will grow in partial shade, they will produce more blossoms when exposed to full sun.
- Because the redbud is native to a wide range of climates, it’s important to plant a tree started from locally harvested seed. These trees perform better and are more cold-hardy when grown in their native environment.
- The eastern redbud was adopted in 1937 as the state tree of Oklahoma, where it grows throughout the valleys and ravines in early spring, painting the landscape pink.
Eastern Redbud Tree
- Clusters of tiny magenta buds swell into showy rosy pink flowers in early spring before the leaves appear, with the long-lasting blossoms putting on a show for two to three weeks.
- The buds appear to emerge right from the bark of twigs and branches and even on parts of the trunk, adorning the entire tree with miniature clusters of flowers.
- The trunk of the redbud commonly divides close to the ground, creating an interesting multi-trunk shape with gracefully arched branches and a rounded crown.
- Heart-shaped leaves 2 to 6 inches in length emerge a reddish color, turning dark green in summer and then a bright canary yellow in autumn. The flowers also give rise to clusters of beanlike pods that remain on the tree into winter.
- The redbud adapts to a wide range of site conditions and thrives in most types of soil and levels of sun exposure.
Redbud Tree Leaves | Flowers | Fruits
Growth Habit and Form
Eastern redbud is a small deciduous tree. Trees typically grow 20 feet in height with a similar spread and have gracefully ascending branches and a rounded shape.
Eastern redbud leaves are alternate, simple, broadly heart-shaped and 3 to 5 inches high and wide. Leaves emerge reddish, turning green as they expand. Leaves are dark green in summer and yellowish in autumn.
The showy flowers are pea-like and rosy pink with a purplish tinge. Flowers develop before the leaves in spring, emerging in clusters along the branches. Redbud is ramiflorous, bearing flowers and fruits on bare branches. This is a rare trait in trees that grow in temperate climates. Flowers bloom between March and April and persist for 2 to 3 weeks. Flowers are pollinated by bees. By mid-summer, the flowers are replaced by bean-like seed pods (legumes) that persist through the winter. Redbud flowers and young legumes are edible.
The fruit is a flat, oblong legume that is 2 to 3 inches long. Fruit ripens in October and may persist through winter. Legumes have small, red-brown seeds that are ¼ inch long. The seeds are scattered by birds and wind.
American Redbud Tree
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) grows throughout most of the eastern U.S, extending as far west as Oklahoma and Texas and north into Canada. This tree is not picky when it comes to soil preference, but it does best when grown in a moist, well-drained location. Because of their modest size, redbuds work well as understory trees and are particularly stunning when planted in groupings. The horizontal branching pattern adds architectural interest to the garden and makes an attractive canopy for spring bulbs.
Tolerates acidic or alkaline soils as well as heavy clays
Full sun to light shade
Annual growth rate:
13 to 24 inches
Redbud Tree Varieties
Although most redbuds have lavender-pink flowers, certain varieties and cultivars have white, deep magenta, or light pink flowers. The leaf color may also vary, ranging from deep purple to chartreuse.
- ‘Forest Pansy’ (shown) is one of the most popular cultivars, with deep purple foliage and rose-colored flowers. The foliage retains its burgundy color throughout the summer in cooler climates but lightens to green in the hot climates of the Southeast.
- ‘Ruby Falls’ is an excellent redbud for small spaces. Its weeping habit, red-purple flowers, and heart-shaped leaves will bring elegance to any garden.
- ‘Texas White’ produces an abundance of bright white flowers and has leathery, glossy, bright green foliage. ‘Alba’ is another white-flowered variety, with light green foliage.
- The Rising Sun™ offers spectacular color with new growth starting apricot, transitioning to vivid gold, and finally to bright green.
- ‘Ace of Hearts’ is a dwarf variety ideal for small gardens. It tops out at 12 feet and requires no pruning to maintain its shape.
- ‘Silver Cloud’ has attractive variegated foliage with splashes of creamy white and pink.
- ‘Hearts of Gold’ features bright golden-yellow foliage that gradually changes to chartreuse during the summer.
- ‘Merlot’ (a hybrid of ‘Forest Pansy’ and ‘Texas White’) has lustrous dark purple foliage and good heat and drought tolerance.
Weeping Redbud Tree
Western Redbud Tree
Beautiful in all seasons, this highly ornamental small tree is covered with masses of brilliant rose-purple blossoms in early spring. Rounded heart-shaped leaves emerge apple green, aging to blue-green. Long seed pods ripen to purple-brown in summer. Foliage provides excellent fall color. Smooth silvery-gray branches are picturesque in the winter landscape.
Oklahoma Redbud Tree
A wonderful landscape specimen valued for its profusion of vibrant, petite, purple-red flowers that cloak the bare branches to bridge the gap between winter and spring! Lustrous heart-shaped foliage emerges with a soft pink tinge as the flowers fade then matures to a rich green. May develop as a multi-trunk tree. Deciduous.