In April and May, many neighborhoods are brightened by the purplish-pink flowers lining the dark branches of redbuds before their leaves open. This Chicago native plant, evolved in the understory and along wood edges of forests. It works especially well among evergreens that contrast with its color and shelter it from intense sunlight.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Residential and parks
- Shade tree,
- Medium tree (25-40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Messy fruit/plant parts
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Persistent fruit/seeds,
- Showy fruit,
- Showy flowers,
- Attractive bark
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Size & Form
A small tree, often multi-stemmed, reaching 20 to 25 feet high and wide.
Tree & Plant Care
Best planted in part shade in the spring.
In full sun supplemental water in dry periods.
Buy from a local or regional source to ensure hardiness.
Plants benefit with a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch to protect the tree’s shallow root system.
Relatively short-lived with a 20 to 25 year life span.
Disease, pests and problems
Suffers in full sun or extreme summer heat.
Susceptible to borers, cankers and verticillium wilt.
Disease, Pest & Plant Resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity
Native geographic location and habitat
Commonly found in wooded areas.
Bark color and texture
Brown with an inner orange-red coloration.
Older bark sheds to reveal red inner bark.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color
Simple, alternate leaves, 3 to 5 inches long, leaves are often wider than they are long; heart-shaped with an entire margin.
Dark green changing to a clear yellow; fall color sometimes yellow green.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Flowers are rose-pink to magenta; small clusters of pea-like blossoms appear along branches and twigs in early May.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
A 2 to 3 inch long pod. They turn from reddish green to brown and persist into the winter.
Cultivars and their differences
“These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."
Ace of Hearts redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Ace of Hearts'); 12 to 15 feet high and wide; vase-shaped; a dwarf redbud.
Appalachian Red redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red'): A shorter, 20 feet high by 25 feet wide spreading redbud with bright pink flowers and magenta colored buds.
Forest Pansy redbud(Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'): 20 to 25 feet high and 20 feet wide; upright form with new leaf growth reddish-purple and gradually maturing to a more muted purple. In hot summers it turns more purplish-green. Flowers tend to be darker and more purplish than the species.
Joy's Pride™ redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Morton'): 20 to 25 feet high and 15 feet wide; deep lavender pea-like flowers followed by dark purple, persistent seed pods. A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.
Lavender Twist® redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’): 4 to 5 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide with a weeping form.
MN Strain redbud (Cercis canadensis 'MN Strain'): Very cold hardy selection from Minnesota.
White redbud (Cercis canadensis f. alba): A white flowering form of redbud. Grows 25 to 30 feet high and 20 feet wide with a rounded habit.