By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner
Have you seen the Redbuds in bloom? Driving where the
native foliage has been undisturbed look for a shrub
that is leafless, with colorful sweet pea shaped, magenta
flowers growing on the branches and even the trunk. These
are the Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). They are native
to the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada below 4000’.
During the summer they are inconspicuous among the other
native plants. They usually grow about 8 to 18 feet tall.
Most grow several trunks from the base. Leaves are bluish
green about 3” on diameter. In the fall the leaves
turn a light yellow or red.
They are useful in low water use landscapes. Use them
on a dry bank or hill for interest. Try planting trailing
manzanita (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), or ‘Canadian
Creeper’ (Cotoneaster) underneath, to help with
erosion, or add a carpet of green. The shrub Ceanothus,
or mountain lilac is great with redbud as it blooms at
the same time as redbud. Ceanothus has bright blue flowers
that look great with the magenta flowers of redbud.
Don’t try to transplant them from the wild. Like
so many native shrubs they dislike being moved from their
original home. They are not always easy to find in the
garden centers either. Redbuds Help Bridge the gap between
the early flowering trees, like ornamental plums, and
the later blooming flowering cherries and crabapples.
There is another type of Redbud that is sold more frequently.
The Eastern Red Bud (Cercis canadensis) is native to
the eastern U.S. It is the largest and fastest growing
Red Bud. They can grow 25-35 feet tall. They are
usually a tree shaped plant with a single trunk, unlike
the natives many trunked form. It has horizontally tiered
branches that form a round head. The flowers are rose
colored rather than magenta. The leaves are larger growing
from 3 to 6 inches.
The Eastern Red Bud is one of my favorite small patio
trees. They have an easy care habit, and a pleasing appearance.
They’re a various varieties of the Eastern Redbud
that have been developed. ‘Forest Pansy’ is
a variety of Eastern Redbird that deserves special mention.
While it has flowers just like the Species, ‘Forest
Pansy’ has beautiful purple leaves. ‘Oklahoma’ is
probably the most widely sold variety. It comes with
flowers that are wine red. ‘Texas White’ has
white flowers instead of red or magenta. It is a great
patio tree, or anywhere a twenty- foot tall tree would
be nice. “Avondale’ is a dwarf variety that
grows to about ten feet tall and eight feet wide. Flower
color is deep magenta.
Redbud is a shrub or tree that can be enjoyed by all,
as it has very good deer resistance. Average to less
than average water will suffice once the plant is established. The
Western Red Bud is drought resistant once established.
The Eastern Redbud prefers regular water, but will tolerate
less than average water. The Eastern Redbud takes
average garden conditions better than the native redbud.