Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

March 17, 2022

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Redbuds are native from Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Missouri and Texas. A popular small tree for landscaping, they are hardy throughout most of the northeast. One of the most ornamental natives, redbuds provide interest throughout the year.

With short trunks, a rounded form, and a gracefully spreading branching structure, redbuds have dark gray bark and present a distinctive silhouette in winter. In spring, from late April into May, an abundance of stemless, pea-like flowers appears all along the bare branches, highlighting them in purplish pink. Leaves are heart-shaped and dark green in summer, turning a bright, clear yellow in fall.


Pink blossoms cover branches of redbuds in May

Easy to transplant, redbuds do best in deep, fertile, moist, well-drained soil, but they are very adaptable and tolerate a wide range of site conditions including gravelly soils, drought and partial shade.

Redbuds make good specimen trees, especially near a patio. They are also useful for naturalizing singly or in groups along a woodland edge, and are an attractive companion for flowering dogwoods, which bloom at the same time. They even make good street trees.

Redbud species can be found in both North America and Asia. Hybrids are common in the nursery trade, as are varieties of Cercis canadensis. Look for ‘Alba,’ with white flowers and ‘Forest Pansy,’ with purple leaves through early summer.

Redbud leaves and flowers provide food for many insects, including moths, butterflies and carpenter bees. At Bridge Gardens, you can see redbuds planted in the vegetative buffer along Mitchell Lane and behind the vegetable garden.

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