In April and May, many neighborhoods are brightened by the purplish-pink flowers lining the black branches of redbuds before their leaves open. This Chicago native plant, evolved for the understory of forests, works especially well among evergreens that contrast with its color and shelter it from intense sunlight.
- Chicago area
- North America
- Residential and parks
- 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
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Alkaline soil
- Messy fruit/plant parts
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Spring blossoms
- Fall color
- Persistent fruit/seeds
- Showy fruit
- Showy flowers
- Attractive bark
- Mid spring
- Late spring
Size and Form
15 to 20 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide; often irregular in form
Tree & Plant Care
Best planted in the spring.
Buy from a local or regional source to ensure hardiness.
A 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch will be beneficial to the tree’s shallow root system.
Relatively short-lived with a 20 to 25 year life span.
Supplemental water is required in dry periods or when grown in full sun.
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
Brownish-black 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; 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
Ace of Hearts (Cercis canadensis 'Ace of Hearts'); 12 to 15 feet high and wide; vase-shaped; a dwarf redbud
Forest Pansy (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.
Lavender Twist® (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’): 4 to 5 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide with a weeping form.
MN Strain (Cercis canadensis 'MN Stain'): Very cold hardy selection from Minnesota.