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Plant of the Month - Redbud

Redbud Tree, Acreage Insights - April 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl.edu/plant-month-red-twig-dogwood
Redbud Tree

In April many of our plants start to come alive. It is when we can finally start to see color in our landscapes again. One of my favorite spring blooming trees is Redbud. It blooms early to provide us with an intriguing pink color in April.

Eastern Redbud, Cercis Canadensis, is a small tree that grows up to 30 feet tall and up to 35 feet wide. It typically blooms in April with lavender to pink flowers that appear all along the branches prior to leaf development in spring. When leaves emerge later in spring, they are 4 inches long and wide. The heart-shaped leaves are bright green and will turn a nice golden yellow color in fall. The fruits of redbud trees are long, flat, bean-like pods that grow up to 4 inches long. They appear in late summer and remain on the tree through fall.

One of the most common varieties of redbud is Whitebud, Cercis Canadensis var. alba. This is basically the same tree as the redbud, but it blooms with white flowers instead of pink flowers. These two trees have an amazing impact on a drab landscape in the early spring when  planted together.

Redbud is best grown in part shade to full sun. It can be grown as an understory tree because it is naturally found growing in woodlands throughout the Midwest. It can be grown as a single trunk or multi-trunk tree. Redbud is widely adaptable to a variety of growing environments.  For success with this tree though; be sure to purchase your redbud from a locally grown source. If the tree comes from a location further south than where it will be grown, it will likely not withstand our winters. Redbud can be used as a specimen tree or in a naturalized area in your landscape.

An issue often seen in redbud trees is damage from herbicide drift. Redbud is what we call an indicator plant for herbicide drift. It is a tree that is highly susceptible to drift from products such as 2,4-D and Dicamba. When spray drift comes to this tree, the leaves curl upward and will be oddly shaped. This herbicide drift is not usually fatal, but it can  stress the tree over many years of damage and eventually position the tree for failure. Be careful when spraying your lawn with these products, stay away from the tree and ensure that even  light winds are blowing pesticides away from the tree rather than toward it.

Redbud is a great tree for pollinators. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds can be found on this tree. According to the USDA, Native Americans boiled the bark of redbud trees to make a tea to treat whooping cough. The USDA also states the flowers can be fried and eaten.

Eastern Redbud is a wonderful tree for early spring color. It can be grown as a specimen tree or amongst many other trees and shrubs in a naturalized setting. Make sure you purchase Redbud from a local source to ensure longevity, and you will enjoy this plant for many years. So the next time you look for a smaller tree, look at Redbud.

Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE
68310-3514
402-223-1384

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