The Welcoming Eastern Redbud

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Like the return of old friends, every spring I look forward to the beauty of our native shrubs and wild flowers in North Carolina. One of my favorites is the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis a small tree that I planted several of in my yard.

Redbuds are startling in early spring when the pea-like pink flowers emerge directly from the branches and multiple trunks of the tree. They bloom for about three weeks in late March and early April before most of the deciduous trees in the canopy put out leaves. Their beauty of this vase-shaped small tree extends throughout the growing season. As the flowers fade, the heart-shaped leaves appear through the summer until they turn bright yellow in the autumn. Even after the leaves fall, the brown bean-like seedpods stay on the branches and trunk. As suggested, it is in the legume or bean family, Fabaceae.

The redbud grows naturally in deciduous forests of eastern U.S. and Canada, and prefers a moist, well-drained location; however, it can grow in a wide range of site conditions, soil types and sun exposure. In full sun, they should be mulched and watered regularly. These attributes, along with the redbud’s compact size and environmental resilience, have made it a popular small tree for residential gardens. Some ornamental varieties of redbuds have purple to bronze-colored leaves or may have white flowers. It is suggested that they should be purchased from regionally grown stock to be more tolerant of your area’s environmental conditions, whether it be heat resistant or more cold hardiness.

Some plants have personal significance to us or our families. We always called redbud our son’s tree since it blooms on his birthday and brightly greeted us when we brought him to his first home.

Written by Jeannie Kraus, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer – Carteret County