We’ve had a wonderfully mild winter so far, and with this mild weather come the early spring blooms! Redbuds are an excellent indicator of warmer days ahead. From the bean-like seed pods, we can tell that they are in the Legume (or bean) family. Their flowers come in a range of shades of deep rose, pink, purple and white, as well as a range of forms such as single trunk, multi-trunk and weeping.

Although we often see the native Redbuds growing and blooming in full sun, they also do quite well as an understory tree, tolerating partial shade very  well. To avoid the ever-present “leaf-scorch” in late summer, locating the tree on a northeast corner of a house will help protect it from the hot southwest summer winds, which can dry the leaf margins. Redbuds require well drained soils, and they are fairly drought tolerant once established.

The ideal time to select and plant your Redbud is in the spring when they are in bloom, as you can choose the color that you desire. Be sure to give them room to grow, as they often grow to 20’ wide and tall. Pick a well drained site, and hand water the first year to get them established. Regular watering under the drip line in the following years should be sufficient.

Types of Redbuds

Texas Redbud grows well on thin, calcareous soils. It has a waxy upper surface of the leaves which help retard transpiration (moisture loss). The margins of the leaves may be wavy. The flower color may be pink to magenta, and they open before the leaves emerge. They are relatively drought tolerant once established. They are often seen single-trunked in nurseries or single or multi-trunk in nature. They grow to be 15’-20’ tall and wide, and will tolerate full sun or partial shade. Cold hardiness is to Zone 6.

Whitebud is a selection which has white blooms, and is rarer in the trade.

Mexican Redbud is a smaller tree than the Texas Redbud, and is also more drought tolerant. The leaves are smaller and very glossy, and more way-edged that the Texas Redbud. This tree is almost always found multi-trunked. Flowers are darker as well, in the rose-purple range. They grow to be 10’-15’ tall and wide and are cold hardy to Zone 7.

‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud is an Eastern Redbud variety that has been selected for its red twigs and new leaves which are purple/red in Spring and fade to purple-green in the summer. The veins on the backs of the leaves are a deep maroon and make a striking contrast to the green top of the leaf in summer. This Redbud grows to about 20’x20’, and appreciates protection from the hot southwest winds in summer.

Oklahoma Redbud was a selection of a tree found in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, which produced deep pink to red flowers up and down the stems in profusion in the springtime, before the leaves appear. The shiny, leathery dark green leaves have rounded or notched tips, and are 2’-3’ wide. This redbud variety is a Cercis reniformis  species, and has been grafted on a Cercis canadensis, or Eastern Redbud, rootstock for nursery production. It grows to about 20’x20’ and makes a nice specimen or residential street tree. It is cold hardy to Zone 6.

‘Traveler’ Weeping Redbud is a mounding and weeping variety with dark, glossy green leaves. New leaves are a rich, coppery red. Flowers are bright rosy-red, and appear before the leaves in the spring.  It rarely grows larger than 5’ by 5’-12’, and is used as a small specimen tree in high visibility locations. It is cold hardy to Zone 6.

Just as we buy trees for fall color in the fall when they are actually IN COLOR, so should we buy our redbuds in the spring when their color is showing. Come see us soon, as the buds are swelling!