Redbud tree gives early-spring color

By: LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
Redbuds are one of our more popular early spring-flowering small trees. The most common redbud species is the Eastern redbud — Cercis canadensis — the one we primarily plant in Louisiana. Other redbuds include forms that are native to Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Redbuds usually start flowering in mid-February in Louisiana and continue through late March.

Redbuds are very adaptable and easy to maintain once established. They are sometimes slow to establish but then have a moderate growth rate.

It is important to select a well-drained soil. They are not as susceptible to loss as dogwoods due to poorly drained soils, but they do prefer moist to average-moisture sites over dry or wet sites. A slightly acid soil pH (6.0-6-5) is recommended.

It is best to plant redbuds in partially sunny to partially shady locations. Full sun and full shade are not the best. Foliage needs to be protected from western afternoon sun exposure in summer.

Flower colors vary on redbuds. Flowers can be light, medium or dark pink, rosy purple, pinkish purple or fucshia — but they’re not red. A white-flowering variety, typically called Alba, is becoming more available. Flowers eventually develop into brown, bean-like seed pods that are visible from early summer through maturity in late fall.

Forest Pansy is the redbud variety that is currently popular. It was introduced a number of years ago but is becoming highly desired. Foliage color is the unique feature of Forest Pansy. Foliage is dark reddish purple. Flowers are pinkish lavender. Full sun bleaches out the reddish-purple pigmentation in foliage, so partial shade is recommended.

Other redbud species and varieties include Mexican redbuds (Cercis mexicana) with pink flowers, Texas redbuds (a botanical variety of the Eastern redbud) and the Oklahoma redbud (known for nice glossy foliage). There is a weeping variety of redbud (Traveler) that can be found through mail order specialty nurseries.

Redbuds are an under-used native tree in Louisiana. Consider the addition of this small ornamental to your landscape. January and February would be a great time to plant.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

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