Eastern redbud is one of the first trees to bloom and produces bright pink or red blossoms often before any other trees sprout. Relatively small, redbud is often used as an accent tree in gardens and yards. George Washington himself recognized the beauty of this tree and planted eastern redbud in his garden. It is also the state tree of Oklahoma.
These trees are commonly found growing along stream banks and rivers to dry plains, demonstrating their high level of adaptability. Redbuds are relatively short lived but the spectacular floral display they provide is well worth planting them. The tree grows at medium rate adding about 1 to 2 feet of new growth per year. Rebud trees are found in the majority of the United States and grow well in hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Redbuds trees can grow to 30 feet and can spread to as much as 25 feet wide. When young, redbuds tend to be somewhat irregular in form, but develop into a vase-shaped or rounded tree as they mature. The branches of the tree often grow up and out from a central leader trunk, although the tree may also form with multiple trunks. The crown density is moderate with a coarse texture. The silhouette can be irregular.
The leaves are rounded or slightly heart-shaped with distinctive veining. They are around 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide. Leaves start in the spring as reddish purple, eventually becoming green in the summer, then turning to bright yellow in the fall. The tree is deciduous and drops its leaves in the fall. The bark of the tree is grayish brown and relatively smooth. The flowers resemble tiny orchids and can range in color from pink to lavender or purple and appear in the spring. They are very showy, developing in clusters along the branches. The fruit of the tree forms as a flat lance-shaped pod approximately 1 to 3 inches long. It is brown in color, dry and hard with several seeds inside.
Eastern redbud grows well in full sun, but appreciates partial shade in more southern areas, where the heat of the sun may adversely affect the plant. Redbud trees appreciate light, rich soils that are relatively moist and slightly acidic, however, they can adapt to a variety of soil conditions including sandy and alkaline soils. Most nurseries or garden centers sell containerized redbud trees throughout the year. The best time to transplant young trees is within the spring or fall seasons. Redbuds look better when they receive irrigation, especially during dry periods.
Redbud is frequently used as an ornamental plant because of its attractive spring flower presentation. It's relatively small size makes it an excellent plant for landscaping in areas with little room. The seeds are attractive to northern bobwhite quail and certain songbirds and the tree itself often acts as a shelter for birds.