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TREES & Plants

Redbud

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.  

Botanical name: 
Cercis canadensis
All Common Names: 
Redbud, Eastern redbud
Family (English): 
Pea
Family (Botanic): 
Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial shade (4-6 hrs indirect light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Clay soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Pink
  • Purple
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Rounded
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Massing
  • Patio/sidewalk
Time of Year: 
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
More Information: 

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

Resistant to black walnut toxicity

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10
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.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)Redbud (Cercis canadensis)photo: John Hagstrom

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
D
ark 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.