I always smile when the redbuds begin blossoming in my area. Flowering with reckless abandon, the magenta-colored trees instantly distinguish themselves from other plants in 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.
Sometimes, however, they can set up some dramatic color clashes. (See below.)
A redbud color clash
ABOUT EASTERN REDBUD
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.
A 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 is a member of the legume family and its blossoms and seedpods are edible. Most people describe the flavor as tart and slightly sweet, with a hint of green bean.
Photo credit: extension.iastate.edu
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
Following the flowers, Eastern redbud’s simple, deep green, leaves have their own attractions. Broadly heart-shaped and ranging from 3 to 5 inches, they emerge reddish and gradually turn green as they grow.
And in the fall, they turn a brilliant shade of yellow.
THE PERFECT-SIZED ORNAMENTAL TREE
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.
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.