Red bud trees are a harbinger of spring

Each year among blooming daffodils, chirping frogs and the start of baseball comes another annual part of spring, the blooming of the redbud trees. The redbud, or Cercis canadensis, has tiny pink to purple blossoms covering its branches. Because the buds open at virtually the same time, the affect is for a blanket like affect of color over the trees structure. The native form of the tree will usually grow to only 25 to 30 feet high so it can be added to your landscape in areas where a larger tree might not be appropriate.

Like countless other forms of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, the red bud has been genetically bred to create new forms of this plant. Some of the varieties currently available have purple leaves, white flowers, weep instead of grow upright and also have different leaf texture.

cercis tree or redbud.png

The redbud is an understory tree meaning it does well in the dappled light of a higher canopy of leaves. While this is true, it will certainly be more floriferous if the tree is given at least 4 and preferably 6 hours of sunlight. I find these trees do particularly well when giving sun through about 1PM and then shade in the afternoon when it tends to be hottest.

Redbud trees do not like permanently wet soil, but will thrive in a variety of conditions.

Some of the more interesting varieties are ‘Alba’ which has white flowers and is less hardy than ‘Royal White’, There are reports of some varieties surviving to -24F. A small variety redbud is ‘Covey’ which is a weeping form. This is not as hardy surviving in zones 5 to 7.

‘Forest Pansy’ is a cultivar with red leaves, but can be fickle and seemingly die in winters that otherwise wouldn’t appear to be very cold. ‘Ruby Falls’ is a new variety of weeping red bud with purple leaves. I have just planted this one in my yard in 2014.

I have not seen deer damage to these plants, however, the snow has been high enough for the rabbits to eat some of the newer growth off the plant.


Other than witchhazel I don’t favor any other tree as a true marker of spring. The redbud is easy to grow, flowers reliably and from Minneapolis Minnesota to Orono, Maine you can find a cultivar that is cold hardy enough to grow even in zone 3b and 4. The plants also flower when relatively young, so unlike some other flowering trees, you don’t have to get a very large one or wait long before their pink, purple or white begins to show each year just after the snow is gone.

In the video below I show you some of the redbud trees I have in my own yard. You can also “google” cercis for a bunch of images to help you see how great this tree looks. Tweet me any questions @growingwisdom on twitter.

Jump To Comments