Redbud trees are perhaps one of the most whimsical flowering trees for every spring garden. Its flush of pink blooms is always a delight to see during the blooming season.
The whole tree does not disappoint actually because aside from its small, pink blooms and sturdy trunks, its heart-shaped leaves of varying colors are also sights to behold.
If you want to know more about the various types of redbud trees, you are on the right post because we will cover everything redbud in this article.
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What are the redbud trees?
Redbuds belong to the pea, bean, or legume family called Fabaceae. This deciduous tree is native to eastern North America including Florida and extending to California. The redbud tree is also the state tree of Oklahoma and is considered a sign of spring because of its small, pink blooms that never fail to bloom at the arrival of spring.
It is one of the best shade trees out there forming dense canopies of heart-shaped leaves. Adding to its spectacle are the multi-colored leaves of various redbud cultivars ranging from red, burgundy, golden yellow, green, and orange. The foliage is complemented by white or pink small flowers.
Where is the best place to plant a redbud tree?
Its flowers and multi-color leaves best appear in full sun locations. It is generally low-maintenance and its most important growing condition would be well-draining soils. Most redbud cultivars tolerate heavy-drought. They will thrive well in slightly acidic or alkaline soils. They will also survive in heavy clay soils.
Technically, redbuds are planted in Zones 4-9. Although they best survive with full sun, locations, where the dappled sun is present, are also considered as good places to plant a redbud tree.
Geographically, redbuds are best planted in southwestern states such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee. Redbuds are also planted in Florida, California, Utah, and Arizona. Some cultivars also grow abundantly in Canada.
Redbud leaves have one of the most striking appearances because they come in many colors but all in a heart-shaped form. The leaves first appear after two to three weeks after the redbud flowers bloom.
The leaves of redbud leaves grow alternately in bare branches that are either outstretched or weeping in the habit. Redbud leaves can start as red, maroon, apricot, chartreuse, blue-green, or green in color turning yellow or golden yellow in the fall. It is the leaves of the redbud trees that make them one of the most popular accents and specimen trees out there.
Redbud trees make good accent trees in home landscapes and urban settings because they bloom profusely, forming dense canopies of pea-like blooms. The most common colors of redbud flowers are pink, purple, and magenta.
Some redbud cultivars like the Texas white bud blooms white flowers. Unique hybrids and cultivars produce a combination of white and pink flowers during spring. Redbuds tend to bloom flowers first before the foliage unfurls. Redbud tree blooms often come from brown pods.
Types of redbud trees
Technically, there are only nine recognized types of redbud trees but each type would have several cultivars. On this list, you will find some of the most popular types and cultivars of redbud trees used as accent and specimen trees in many types of landscape.
1. Ace of Hearts (Cercis canadensis ‘Ace of Hearts’)
This one is a dwarf redbud which gets its name from its perfect heart-shaped leaves. It blooms pale pink-violet blooms in contrast to deep green foliage which turns yellow in the fall. It makes a great specimen tree because it is extremely hardy and essentially disease and pest resistant.
2. Alba Redbud (Cercis siliquastrum ‘Alba’)
It is also called the white bud because of its tiny, white flowers blooming during spring. After its bloom time, bronze heart-shaped leaves follow. As it reaches maturity, the bronze foliage turns green in the summer and bright yellow in the fall. It is versatile and is considered one of the lowest maintenance of redbud varieties.
3. Weeping Lavender Twist Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’)
It is considered as a dwarf, weeping cultivar of the eastern redbud with a height only reaching a maximum of 10ft. If you are looking for a specimen tree that thrives well in small gardens, the covey is a perfect fit. It is unique because, at maturity, it resembles the shape and appearance of the Japanese maple tree.
It sports green heart-shaped leaves and clusters of pink/lavender flowers throughout spring. It also has twisting branches, hence, the nickname ‘lavender twist’.
4. Chinese Redbud (Cercis chinensis)
This one has a good reputation as it is considered as the most prolific bloomer of all redbud trees as it produces masses of purple-pink flowers the entire spring. It is also unique for its large, heart-shaped leaves which start as deep green with tinges of red and then turn into pale yellow during fall.
5. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Canadensis’)
This one is native to North America stretching to Ontario and other parts of Canada. It is particularly the state tree of Oklahoma.
It has an interestingly regal appeal with its many trunks, flowers blooming in various shades of pink, brown pods where the blooms appear, and lime green-red foliage which turns deep green in the summer and yellow during fall. It is a favorite of butterflies and bees. It is also low-maintenance and disease/pest resistance.
6. Forest Pansy (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)
It has one of the most attractive redbud foliage of scarlet red and purple color which stays until summer. When the season transitions to fall, the flowers turn burgundy with tinges of green. Its small, pink flowers complement well with the foliage. It is a popular landscape tree and the most sought-after cultivar of the eastern redbud.
7. Hearts of Gold (Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’)
It gets its name from being the first redbud cultivar to produce gold-colored leaves turning chartreuse in color as it matures. The leaves shine with the sun because they are super glossy. The leaves are also said to be burn-resistant. Before the foliage appears, it blooms purple/lavender flowers.
8. Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum)
It is also called the Mediterranean redbud because it grows in the region. It blooms old rose-pink flowers during spring producing a dense dome canopy. Its flowers are distinctly larger than the typical redbud bloom. Its foliage appears two weeks after the blooming period. The leaves start out as copper-red and then turn into the deep green during summer and pale yellow in the fall.
9. Merlot (Cercis canadensis ‘Merlot’)
This hybrid is the product of combining Forest Pansy and Texas Redbud. It is named as such because the color of its thick and glossy leaves highly resembles the color of the Merlot wine. This striking color is enriched by its magenta and pink flowers growing on its leafless branches during spring. If you want a vintage-looking garden, this one is a perfect choice.
10. Mexican Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Mexicana’)
Compared to the Texas redbud, this one might be smaller but is more drought-tolerant. It is multi-stemmed with strikingly shinier, smaller, glossier, and wavy leaves which are blue-green in color. The foliage appears after it blooms violet, pea-like flowers in the spring.
11. Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’)
It is a compact redbud considered as one of the finest accent redbuds thanks to its petite size and clusters of purple-red flowers blooming until summer. It has glossy, heart-shaped, dark green leaves that radiate in the sun. Its foliage turns brown-yellow in the fall.
12. Ruby Falls (Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’)
This one is striking because of its compact appearance combined with a weeping habit as for its canopy. It also makes a good specimen tree for smaller gardens growing at a height of only 6ft. Expect cascading red-purple flowers during early spring in contrast to maroon-green leaves.
13. Silver Cloud Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’)
It is considered as a variegated redbud sporting a single trunk and less dense leaves and flowers. It has a striking appearance though, thanks to its fuschia-silver flowers. Its leaves are green in color, with a shiny surface and prominent white edges. It has become a favorite ornamental tree throughout the years.
14. Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Texensis’)
It is also called the Texas white and is native to Texas and Oklahoma. It is considered as one of the most distinct redbuds because its form looks like magnolia with a coarser texture but only with smaller, white blooms. Its deep green leaves turn yellow in the fall. They make good lawn trees and are also good urban-scape trees.
15. Tennessee Pink Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Tennessee Pink’)
This is another dwarf redbud growing to only 12ft. Aside from being a popular specimen tree, it also makes a good container plant. It produces small, pink flowers during the spring before the green foliage unfurls. The green leaves turn pale yellow in the fall. As the leaves drop during fall, its unique and regal silhouette appears.
16. The Rising Sun Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘The Rising Sun’)
Its profuse lavender flowers during early spring makes this an attractive landscape centerpiece. Along with this is its apricot-colored heart-shaped leaves which turn orange during spring and golden yellow in the fall. At one point, all colors (orange, gold, and yellow) will be present at one time, hence, the name rising sun.
17. Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
It is a prized ornamental tree native to the southwestern USA stretching from California to Utah and Arizona. It is a sight to behold all year blooming clusters of purple flowers in early spring. Its foliage starts at a pale green and becomes deep green in hue as it matures. It is a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds making it a popular accent tree for gardens.
Pros and cons of redbud trees
To be fair, redbud trees may not be for everyone in spite of its attractiveness and low maintenance characteristics. To be completely objective about this deciduous tree, here are some of its pros and cons.
- Low care requirements.
- Most types and cultivars are disease/pest resistant.
- Provides a bright, attractive bloom display from spring to mid-summer.
- High ornamental value (as an accent or specimen tree in various landscape types).
- Can become weedy at the base.
- Requires more and regular pruning annually.
- Occasional diseases could be fatal since it is sensitive to herbicides.
- Slow growing and does not live for many years.
Caring for a redbud tree
While redbud trees are considered as low maintenance and adaptive deciduous trees, it still pays to know specific redbud tree care requirements to make sure that they thrive where you plant them. To know the specifics, here are some care tips for the redbud tree.
Redbuds do not appreciate too much water. As a matter of fact, ample moisture is what they require. Hence, make sure that they get full sunlight every day. You must also make sure that the tree is not planted near a water source.
Once the roots of the redbud tree are established, you can reduce the intervals of watering the tree. Redbuds can tolerate heavy drought but during prolonged dry months, watering them once a week will do. If ample moist is available, mostly during spring or fall, you can water them once every two to three weeks.
To encourage faster growth, it is recommended that redbud trees be fertilized annually and specifically during early spring. You have to look for slow-release fertilizer for your redbud tree.
Generally, redbuds do not need pruning but since it produces dense canopies of leaves and flowers, maintaining its shape would require you to prune your redbud once a while.
If you are thinking about pruning, the best time to do this is after the blooming period. Through this, you will be able to remove dying or already dead branches in time for the leaves to unfurl. Winter pruning is not advisable for this tree as it will encourage bloom loss next spring.
It is also important to note that occasionally, redbud trees might be attacked by specific insects and diseases. We find that this insect/disease infestation is still part of the overall caring tips for the redbud so here are the insects and diseases that you should look out for.
Treehoppers: usually lay eggs under the redbud branches; not serious but produces sticky froth in the branches, producing overmoisture that weakens the tree’s twigs and branches.
Spider mites: causes speckled leaves, usually found in the undersides of the foliage, abnormal foliage curling, and early leaf discoloration.
Scales: creates waxy lumps along with the tree bark; the primary cause of leaves turning yellow or early dropping of foliage
Cankers: considered as the most fatal disease for redbud trees and 50 other shrubs and trees; causes wilting of leaves or foliage dropping.
Leaf spots: this one is caused by overmoisture or overwatering; signaled by black spots on the leaves especially the undersides; may not be serious but will cause early leaf drop.
Verticillium wilt: caused by the verticillium fungi and may be fatal for redbud trees; often spread by overmoisture and unsanitized pruning shears; first signs are yellowing or browning leaves, the emergence of new leaves that are small and already yellow, and slow death.
Almost all of them could be mitigated with the use of reputable herbicides. However, you should know that redbuds are sensitive to these chemicals and instead of rescuing the tree, you might be contributing to its faster demise. Thus, to combat the emergence of these diseases and the attack of these insects, following the care tips mentioned above are imperative.
Frequently Asked Questions
While we have certainly covered the essentials in terms of types, there are still some things that you should know about this amazing tree. So if you are really into planting redbud seedlings anytime soon, you should acquaint yourself with the following FAQs.
How fast do redbud trees grow?
Redbuds are considered slow-growers or having an average growth rate. Redbud trees can grow from 7-10ft but in a span of 5-6 years. Their slow growth rate is usually considered as one of the cons of growing redbuds, especially that they do not live that long too.
How tall does a redbud tree get?
Most redbud trees grow at a range of 20-30ft in height and up to 35ft of spread when they reach their mature phase. Some cultivars would not even get to 20ft (usually 10-12ft only) and dwarf types and cultivars only grow at a maximum height of 4-8ft.
What is the life expectancy of a redbud tree?
This one is dependent on the type of redbud tree but in general, redbud trees are considered as short-lived deciduous trees with an average lifespan of 20-40years.
Between eastern and western redbuds though, the latter registers a longer life expectancy. As a matter of fact, western redbuds (which are native to California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada) are stated to have a life expectancy of 50-75years.
One factor that greatly affects the longevity of redbud trees would be transplanting. Once planted, redbud seedlings do not like to be disturbed. Transplanting and having an overly disturbing growth environment significantly lessens the longevity of redbud trees.
Are redbud tree roots invasive?
There is a bit of a conundrum regarding this since some consider redbud roots as non-invasive while others consider them as potentially invasive. But to settle the clout, redbud roots are considered as non-invasive because the tree produces a shallow root system in general.
The taproot of redbud trees spreads at the same length as their canopy spread, however. This is the reason why it is recommended that redbud trees be planted at least 25feet away from the home’s foundation because some redbud types have longer spread. And although the roots are not as thick as other deciduous trees, it could still pose potential damages to the home’s foundation, if ever.
What can I plant under a redbud tree?
Like dogwoods, redbud trees are considered understory trees. These types of trees are called such because they usually grow in between taller and larger hardwoods in forest floors providing an under-layer canopy to an already existing higher leaf canopy.
Redbud trees are already striking on their own but there are other flowering plants that you could grow under a redbud tree to make a more appealing plant display or accent in your garden.
For starters, you can add Queen of the Night tulips as a contrast to the lighter colored blooms of redbuds. For fuchsia or magenta-colored redbud blooms, Pink Diamond tulips could be a good choice. If the redbud is in a location where full sunlight is achieved, accents of phlox or money plant would be perfect.
Other plants that you can grow under a redbud tree would be the following:
- Wax mallow
- Desert honeysuckle
- Texas sedge
- Sandy sedge
- Blood sage
- American beautyberry
- Canada wildrye
- Texas sacahuista
- Sea oats
While it is true that redbud roots are sensitive to disturbance, the plants mentioned here will barely disturb any root system, not even the shallow root system of redbud trees.
Redbud trees surely are amazing deciduous trees. There is no doubt about the color and bloom display that it offers every spring. There is also no doubt to its general attractiveness even when the branches are bare or when its foliage has turned into different colors. But objectively, it also has its fair share of cons and one of these is that it could not last very long.
Nonetheless, redbud trees continue to maintain their prized status as ornamental and specimen trees. They are planted in urban settings such as parks and national reserves and also make good accent trees in small home landscapes and lawns.
Overall, redbuds are commendable options for any type of landscape. And this is the reason why we have to get to know the tree deeper than what meets the eye.
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