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Plant a Redbud Tree for Showstopping Spring Color

PamPenick
Published on January 6th 2021
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Pink Texas Redbud in bloom against a blue sky
With clusters of tiny magenta flowers clasped like miniature bouquets along graceful, bare branches, Redbud (Cercis spp.) epitomizes springtime beauty in gardens and woodlands across the U.S. One of our finest native trees, Redbud is an excellent choice for home gardens, especially for smaller properties where a bigger tree like an oak or elm would over-shade the yard.

Where to plant Redbud

Growing to 20 or 30 feet in a spreading, multi-trunked vase shape, Redbud makes a lovely small tree for a front yard, perfect for shading a garden bench or accenting a corner of the house. In the backyard, plant one on the west side of a patio to offer summer shade. Alternatively, tuck one under the canopy’s edge among taller trees – its natural habitat – ideally with at least a half-day of sun for best flowering.
Traveller Weeping Redbud
Traveller Weeping Redbud can be grown in pots © Pam Penick

When do Redbud trees bloom?

As a deciduous tree that goes dormant in winter, Redbud makes its presence known in early spring by blushing vivid rosy pink – a showstopping sight among other still-sleeping trees and a colorful focal point in a residential setting. As flowers fade, glossy, green, heart-shaped leaves unfurl, and dangling seedpods develop – green at first, then turning tan. In autumn, Redbud’s leaves turn a buttery yellow for another pretty seasonal show.
Redbud thrives in warmer-winter regions, in USDA hardiness zones 4-9. Two species are native to the U.S.: Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), which enjoys a vast range from the Upper Mid-Atlantic to Florida and west to the Great Plains; and Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), which grows in the Southwest from southern Utah to Arizona and west to California.
Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) and Mexican Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. mexicana), naturally occurring variants of Eastern Redbud, thrive in the alkaline soils and drier climate of the Southern Great Plains. In addition, growers are continually bringing new cultivars to market that offer an exciting variety of habits and colors, including weeping Redbuds, white-flowering Redbuds, and maroon- and golden-leaved Redbuds.

How to grow Redbud

Redbud prefers average to moist, well-drained soil and grows fairly quickly. Like many smaller, fast-growing trees, it doesn’t live very long, usually declining after about 25-35 years.
Traveller Weeping Redbud
One of our finest native trees, Redbud is an excellent choice for home gardens. © Pam Penick

When to plant Redbud

Fall through early spring is the best time to plant a Redbud and ideally, before the heat of summer arrives. However, if you want to be sure of flower color, choose your tree in early spring when it’s in bloom.

Will Redbud grow in shade?

When siting your new tree, keep in mind that the more sun it gets, the more prolifically it will bloom and the more rounded and compact its form will be. Redbuds grown in shade tend to be lankier and may reach for the sun. In hot or dry, windy areas, Redbud appreciates afternoon shade. Young trees, especially those grown from seed, may not bloom for several years, so be patient as they grow.
Texas Redbud
Redbud makes a lovely small tree for a front yard, perfect for shading a garden bench or accenting a corner of the house. © Pam Penick

Some Redbud varieties to consider for your garden:

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

A graceful small tree for gardens in the eastern portion of the U.S. 20-30 feet tall and 25-35 feet wide. Hardiness zones 4-9.

Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis)

Leaves are rounder and glossier than those of Eastern Redbud, and the tree is better adapted to heat, drought, and alkaline soil. 15-20 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zones 6-9.

Mexican Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. mexicana)

Shorter than either Eastern or Texas Redbud, Mexican Redbud has smaller, shinier leaves with ruffled edges. It’s also more drought tolerant. 10-15 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zones 7-9.

Forest Pansy Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)

Maroon, leathery leaves have their richest color in spring and may turn green in the heat of summer. Fall color is red-orange. 20-30 feet tall and 25-35 feet wide. Hardiness zones 5-9.

Ace of Hearts Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Ace of Hearts’)

This dwarf Redbud tops out around 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Hardiness zones 5-9.

Hearts of Gold Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’)

Bright golden-yellow leaves in spring light up the garden. Foliage color mellows to chartreuse in summer. 15-20 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zones 5-9.

Traveller Weeping Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Traveller’)

With branches arching downward in an umbrella shape, Traveller Redbud makes a striking, small-scale, focal point. 5-6 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide. Hardiness zones 6-9.

Texas White Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Texas White’)

This Redbud is really a whitebud! White flowers create a snowy look in spring. 15-20 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. Hardiness zones 6-9.

Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

A large shrub or small tree native to riparian canyons, Western Redbud is better suited to gardens in the West than Eastern Redbud. It requires a cooler winter to thrive, so it’s best planted away from the coast. 10-20 feet tall and wide. Hardiness zones 7-9.

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