Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis blooms in early spring in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Cercis canadensis blooms in early spring (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Hardy to zones 4-8, native Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud), is a smaller North American tree, and among the first to flower in my zone 5 Connecticut garden. The leafless branches are liberally twined with profuse ribbons of vibrant cotton candy blossoms from one end to the other, creating one of the most spectacular early spring displays. When you factor in the bright fuchsia flower clusters enveloping the broad limbs, the tree appears to be an enormous pink umbrella that has just opened in your yard.

Eastern Redbud's heart shaped leaves in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Eastern Redbud’s heart shaped leaves (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Yet, the show doesn’t end with the flowering; rather heart-shaped leaves unfurl after the floral display to extend the encore.  The canopy is pleasing as the new growth emerges with a bronze cast, gently turning bright green during the summer (and sometimes turning yellow in fall).  If you’re in a slightly warmer zone than me (6-9), you can experiment with Cercis chinensis, native to Japan and China, which produces such prolific clusters of rosy purple flowers that you can’t see the stems.  And last, but not least, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, which has the same stunning fuchsia flowers but also flaunts gorgeous purple foliage in zones 6-9.

Redbud's ornamental seed pods in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Redbud’s ornamental seed pods (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

But wait, there’s more!  Once an eastern redbud is fully leafed out, the flowers are followed by dangling, bean-like seedpods than are about 2 to 4 inches long, each possessing up to 12 seeds. These slender golden pods hang from the limbs like delicate wind chimes, adding another ornamental feature to redbud’s portfolio. Cercis canadensis are also recognized as a food source for the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, as well as many other native insects.

Redbud's dense clusters of bright pink flowers in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Redbud’s dense clusters of bright pink flowers (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

While redbuds differ in leaf color and hardiness, they are unified on the moisture front; they all want some of it. Cercis canadensis grows naturally along streams and in woodlands, so no matter which redbud you choose, remember that it will not thrive in bone dry conditions.  That said, they will tolerate temporary dry spells once established, but don’t want to be planted in standing water, instead preferring a happy medium of moist and well drained soil. It should also be noted that cercis do not like to be transplanted, so try to select a permanent location when planting.

Easter Redbud's fall foliage: missouribotanicalgarden.org in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Easter Redbud’s fall foliage (image: missouribotanicalgarden.org)

Although I’ve read that Cercis canadensis can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide, in my area they seem to range between 12 to 15 feet.  Their size may be somewhat restricted due to the weakness of the limbs, as some of the branches have been compromised on my redbud during severe rain and heavy snows. But take heart, and consider these occurrences nature’s way of pruning your trees and keeping the landscape in check.  My redbud lost a main branch a few years ago, yet it rapidly produced new growth and is as good as new.  Which is a good thing, because with a canopy like redbud’s, one can’t help but want to park underneath for a brief . . . or extended . . . siesta~

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