Adaptable and dependable, redbuds include some of our most charming native trees. In early spring, before leaf-out, a profusion of small, sweet peashaped, lavender-pink to rosy purple flowers appears on twigs, branches, and even the main trunk. Blossoms are followed by clusters of flat, beanlike pods that persist into winter and give rise to numerous seedlings around the tree. Handsome, broad, rounded or heart-shaped leaves may change to bright yellow in fall, but fall color is inconsistent.
Redbuds make fine lawn trees, look great in groupings, and have their place in shrub borders and even foundation plantings. In winter, the dark, leafless branches form an attractive silhouette, especially effective against a light-colored wall. Larger types make nice small shade trees for patios and courtyards. And you can't miss when using redbuds in naturalized settings, such as at the edge of a woodland. Do any pruning in the dormant season or (preferably) immediately after bloom.
C. canadensis. EASTERN REDBUD. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern U.S. The fastest growing and largest (to 2535 ft. tall) of the redbuds, and the most apt to take tree form. Round headed but with horizontally tiered branches in age. Leaves are rich green, 36 in. long, with pointed tips. Flowers are small (12 in. long), rosy pink or lavender. Needs some winter chill to flower profusely. Regular water.
Eastern redbud is valuable for bridging the color gap between the early-flowering fruit trees (flowering peach, flowering plum) and the crabapples and late-flowering dogwoods and cherries. Effective as a specimen or understory tree, it is also an important early source of pollen and nectar for native pollinators. Available selections include the following.
'Ace of Hearts'. Charming compact selection, about half the size of the species. Flowers are small but borne in profusion.
'Appalachian Red'. Flowers are deep fuchsia pinknot a true red but close to it.
'Flame'. Double pink blooms look quite different from those of other redbuds.
'Floating Clouds'. Striking green and white leaf variegation. Better resistance to leaf burn than 'Silver Cloud'. Thin, willowy, semi-pendant branches.
'Forest Pansy'. Foliage emerges a gaudy purple in spring, then gradually changes to burgundy-toned green as summer heat increases. Rosy purple flowers. Nice color accent; benefits from light afternoon shade in summer.
'Hearts of Gold'. New leaves emerge red and mature to bright golden yellow. Foliage that is shaded may revert to green, but the two-tone effect is striking. Lavender blooms. Grows 2025 ft. tall and wide.
'Lavender Twist' ('Covey'). Dwarf weeping selection with unusual zigzagging, twisting branches. Lavender flowers; leaves slightly larger than those of the species. Original plant was only 412 ft. high, 7 ft. wide at 40 years old.
'Merlot'. Purple leaves similar to those of 'Forest Pansy', but thicker, glossier, and more resistant to late-season browning. Dense, semiupright grower to 1215 ft. tall and wide.
'Pink Heartbreaker'. Weeping form, with lavender-pink flowers. Improved tiered branching compared with other weeping types.
'Ruby Falls'. Fascinating result of a cross between 'Lavender Twist' and 'Forest Pansy'. Cascading stems hold maroon leaves on a plant just 68-ft. tall and 46 ft. wide. Blooms are deep lavender.
'Rubye Atkinson'. Pure pink flowers.
'Solar Eclipse'. Heart-shaped leaves are lime-green with a dark green margin. New growth is peachy orange. Grows 12 ft. tall and wide.
'Tennessee Pink'. True pink flowers on a plant somewhat smaller than the species.
'The Rising Sun' ('JN2'). Leaves emerge orange to apricot, maturing through shades of golden yellow and lime-green before turning buttery yellow in autumn. Flowers are rosy lavender. Compact grower to about 12 ft. tall.
'Vanilla Twist'. White-flowered weeping selection.
Among the deserving subspecies and forms available are these three:
C. c. alba. A white-flowering form. 'Royal White' is compact, with large, profuse, early blooms.
C. c. mexicana (C. mexicana). From many areas of Mexico. Most typical form is single trunked, to 15ft. with leathery blue-green leaves and pinkish purple flowers. Moderate to regular water.
C. c. texensis. (C. reniformis). Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. To 1525 ft. high and wide. 'Oklahoma' has deep purple buds opening to rosy purple flowers; 'Texas White' bears pure white blossoms. 'Traveller' is a weeping, purple-flowered form to about 5 ft. tall and twice as wide; excellent small specimen tree. All have thick, leathery, dark green leaves and require only moderate water after establishment.
C. chinensis. CHINESE REDBUD. Zones US, MS, LS. Native to China, Japan. Seen mostly as an open shrub or small tree to 1012 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide. Flower clusters are 35 in. long, deep rose, almost rosy purple. Leaves (to 5 in. long) are sometimes glossier and brighter green than those of C. canadensis, with a transparent line around the edge. 'Avondale' is a superior form with profuse deep purple flowers. 'Don Egolf' is compact, with bright rosy mauve flowers and good disease resistance; it produces no seedpods. Full sun; regular water.