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.
The selection of Redbuds has grown considerably in recent years, with selections being made of trees that weep, have distinctive colors of new growth or smaller growing habits. There are many varieties to choose for use in different applications in the landscape, whether it be a smaller growing variety for a courtyard or a burgundy-leaved accent in the yard. They all have beautiful pinkish to purple flowers lining the branches before they leaf out in the spring, and most have a yellow fall color. New forms and leaf color have expanded the seasonal interest.
Most Redbuds are winter hardy to Zones 5 to 7. Since we are in Zone 8, we can expect them to winter well in our area.
Redbuds have few requirements. They require well-drained soils and full sun to part sun. They will even do well as an understory tree, although the burgundy-leaved and gold-leaved varieties should have some sun to darken the color in the leaves.
Here are some of the varieties now available:
Texas Redbud Cercis canadensis var. texensis 15’-20’ x 15’-20’ This native redbud has shiny waxy leaves that help conserve moisture. It is grown as a single trunk tree in nurseries but may be found growing multi-trunk where it is native. Zone 6.
Oklahoma Redbud Cercis reniformis ‘Oklahoma’ 20’x 20’ A single tree was selected in the Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma for its abundance of deep purple-red flowers and glossy leaves. This tree is grafted on an Eastern Redbud rootstock. One of the largest growing Redbuds. Zone 6
Mexican Redbud Cercis canadensis var. mexicana 10’-15’ x 10’-15’ A smaller, multi-trunked tree native to limestone soils in Texas. The smaller leaves are waxy and have wavy margins. Flowers are deep purple-red. Zone 7
Forest Pansy Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ 20’ x 20’ This Redbud has leaves that emerge scarlet-purple and mature to maroon. The flowers are a rosy pink. Zone 6
Merlot Redbud Cercis x ‘Merlot’ 12’-15’ x 10’-15’ This smaller Redbud has deep burgundy leaves that hold color well in the summer. Rosy-pink flowers appear before the leaves in early spring. Zone 6
Burgundy Hearts Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Greswan’ 15’-20’ x 20’-25’ Shimmering purple heart-shaped leaves emerge after lavender-pink blooms in the spring. Very distinctive leaf shape. Zone 5
Traveler Weeping Redbud Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Traveler’ 6’ x 12’ This smaller, broader-growing weeping form was discovered by Madrone Nursery in New Braunfels, Texas. It has graceful weeping branches filled with fuchsia flowers before the leaves emerge in early spring. Zone 6a
Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ 6’-8’ x 5’-6’ One of the smaller Redbuds with a compact form and weeping canopy. Foliage emerges a deep burgundy after deep pink blooms in early spring. Zone 5
Rising Sun Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘JN2’ PP #21,451 8’-12’ x 8’ A Greenleaf Nursery selection, this unusual Redbud has leaves that emerge in shades of orange, gold and yellow, turning lime green in the summer. A real “stunner” in the landscape! Zone 5