In Praise of Redbud

redbud tree and green bench

I always smile when the redbuds start blooming in my area. Flowering with reckless abandon, the magenta-colored trees instantly invigorate the landscape. One of my friends shouts out REDBUD! when her own dazzling specimen bursts into bloom. That seems to me the perfect way to describe the electric flowering of this upbeat, ornamental tree.

Indeed, redbud’s blossoms are hard to ignore. Oversized and fluffy, they envelop the tree’s branches, even covering the trunk. Their effect is fresh, bold and a little bit jaunty.


In the spring line-up of flowering trees, Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is one of the earliest. Following close on the heels of the cherries, it blooms just before the American dogwood (with which it often overlaps.) A small-sized tree, it can be found growing all the way from Florida to Ontario.

redbuds and dogwoods

redbud blooming with an American dogwood.

The tree itself has many attributes, but its breathtaking blossoms are what steal the show. Considered one of spring’s most dramatic displays, they’re borne in clusters of four to ten that all but cover the branches.

redbud blossoms on tree branches

Eastern redbud is a member of the legume family. Its blossoms and seedpods are edible. Most people describe the flavor as tart and slightly sweet, with a hint of green bean. 

Photo credit:


Following its flowers, Eastern redbud’s simple, deep green leaves have their own attractions. Broadly heart-shaped, they emerge a reddish color and gradually turn green as they grow. 

And in the fall, they turn a brilliant shade of yellow.


Topping out at a height of 20-30 feet with an equal spread, redbud is the perfect-sized ornamental tree. Its short, twisted trunk, unique branch structure and wide, umbrella-like crown make it a stunning specimen even in winter.

And its dark, reddish-brown bark takes on deep scales and ridges as it ages.

Redbud bark

In the wild, Eastern redbud is usually found growing in mixed forests as an understory tree. When planted in the garden, it likewise prefers part shade, especially in climates with hot summers. Plant redbuds when they’re young and leave them alone. They don’t like to be disturbed.