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How to Grow: Eastern Redbud
Learn about growing morning glories including information on varieties.
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full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Early spring in colors including red, purplish-pink, and white with yellow fall foliage color
Mature Height x Spread
20 to 30 feet x 25 to 35 feet, with some dwarf versions
Native, attracts beneficials, fall color
This small, native, deciduous tree is mostly grown for its jaw-dropping spring flower show. In early spring, before the leaves emerge, redbuds produce fluorescent red, purple, magenta or white colored, pea-like flowers that fill the branches. Since it is one of the first trees to bloom, it is very noticeable in the landscape. It’s also a nice sized tree for most landscapes. The heart-shaped leaves are attractive in summer and the fall foliage color can be a brilliant yellow depending on the variety. This tree is marginally hardy in some parts of New England and may suffer some winter dieback. But grown in a protected location, it can become a focal point in the yard or garden.
When, Where and How to Plant
Eastern redbud is hardy to zone 5. Some varieties are hardy to zone 4 with protection. Purchase trees from a local nursery and plant from spring to early fall in a moist, well-drained soil in a full or part sun location. Space trees 20 feet apart.
Keep eastern redbuds well watered. Create a mulch ring around the base of the trees planted in lawn and mulch with wood chips or bark mulch to keep the soil moist, weed free and to protect the trunk from lawn mowers and string trimmers. Fertilize in spring with tree plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Eastern redbud can be a short-lived tree if exposed to chronic diseases and winter damage. Plant in a location protected from northern and western, cold winter winds, especially if growing in zone 4. Prune the tree after flowering in spring to remove dead, broken, or diseased branches and reduce any branch crowding in the middle of the tree.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant eastern redbuds as a specimen tree in a small yard or mix and match the tree with other smaller flowering trees such as crabapples and serviceberries. Since eastern redbud can be a dwarf tree, consider growing it in a small yard as a patio tree or even working it into the foundation plantings in a spot that won’t block a view of the rest of the garden. Redbuds will flower best in full sun, but can also be planted in a woodland or along the forest edge in part sun.
‘Forest Pansy’ features rosy-pink colored flowers and reddish-purple spring foliage that turns green in summer. It also has reddish-purple fall foliage color. ‘Covey’ and ‘Pink Heartbreaker’ are weeping dwarf redbuds that only grow 8 feet tall and feature pink flowers and yellow fall foliage color. ‘Silver Cloud’ is a green and white variegated leaf redbud with pink flowers, but it doesn’t flower heavily. ‘Hearts of Gold’ is the first gold leaved redbud. The leaves emerge red then turn golden. The flowers are lavender-purple colored.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.
This native tree is one of the first to bloom in spring. It features tiny, bright, pink flowers that open before the leaves emerge, giving the tree a neon glow. The flowers are actually edible, too, and Native Americans used them medicinally. The heart-shaped leaves turn an attractive yellow color in fall. Have you guessed this tree yet? It’s the redbud.
Cercis canadensis is native to the eastern United States. It’s hardy to zone 4 and only grows 20 to 30 feet tall with a graceful, rounded crown. Because of its small size and airy appearance, redbuds are a nice shade trees near a deck or patio.
While the native species is most common, there are varieties, too. But some of these are less hardy and more prone to winter dieback. ‘Appalachian Red’ blooms a little later than most redbuds so is good in areas with late spring frosts. ‘Hearts of Gold’ features yellow foliage in summer. ‘Pink Heartbreaker’ only grows 10 feet tall with a weeping shape. While ‘Silver Cloud’ has variegated white and green leaves.
We learned the hard way where to not grow redbuds. We tried growing one in a perfect spot to view from our house, but unfortunately it was in heavy clay soil and died. Redbuds have taproots and grow best in slightly acidic, loamy, well-drained soils. Although they bloom best in full sun, they can tolerate some shade. Prune to shape them in spring after flowering.