Cercis canadensis, the Eastern Redbud, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful spring blooming American native trees. These are the colorful pink flowering trees that are so often seen in full bloom along highways during the spring. Clusters of showy, deep magenta buds appear on dark gray leafless branches in early spring and open to beautiful rosy pink flowers. The effect in the spring landscape is spectacular.
Redbuds are relatively small trees. In the wild, they grow as understory trees, reaching 20'-30' tall but in cultivation, they often don't get that tall. They have a beautiful shape with a short trunk that divides close to the ground giving rise to several upright spreading branches that form a flat to sometimes rounded crown.
Redbuds make outstanding specimen trees but they are particularly striking when planted in small groupings where the mass of brilliant rosy pink flowers really light up the landscape. They are wonderful trees for a woodland garden where their natural beauty and growth form is perfectly suited.
Redbuds have beautiful wide, heart-shaped leaves that usually begin to emerge just after peak flowering. Sometimes during an unusually warm spring, the trees will leaf out early and the foliage and flowers will appear together. The new growth starts out bright green with a reddish tinge and matures to a lovely deep green. In the fall the foliage turns yellow to yellow-green. Some of the named cultivars have a more attractive bright yellow fall color than the species. Green seed pods produced from the flowers mature to a dark brown in October and often persist through the winter.
Redbuds perform best in full sun to bright shade. They prefer rich, moist, well-drained soils but are very adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions with the exception of very wet or very dry sites. They are hardy to Zone 5 and some may survive in Zone 4 with protection.
Many different cultivars are available. Be sure to talk to a reputable nurseryman to determine the best varieties for your area especially in the colder zones. Andre particularly likes the while blooming form, Cercis canadensis 'Alba'. It is a beautiful tree with pure white flowers.