Eastern Redbud (Canadensis)

The Eastern Redbud (Canadensis) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Eastern Redbud (Canadensis) has green foliage and inconspicuous purple flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Eastern Redbud (Canadensis) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Eastern Redbud (Canadensis) will reach up to 25 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 16 feet.

The Eastern Redbud (Canadensis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -29°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The Alabama, Cherokee, Delaware, Kiowa, and Oklahoma were among the Native American tribes that used eastern redbud for various purposes. The bark was made into a tea to treat whooping cough. Taking cold infusions of the roots and inner bark treated fevers and congestion. An infusion of the bark was used to treat vomiting and fever. During winters, the plants were used for firewood. Because it is one of the first plants to flower in the spring, the blossoming branches were brought into the homes to “drive winter out.” Children were “fond of eating the blossoms” of eastern redbud.

Wildlife/Livestock: Many birds, including bobwhite quails, eat the seeds. White-tailed deer are among the animals that browse the foliage. Honeybees visit the blossoms. Livestock will browse on Eastern redbud.

General Characteristics

General: Legume Family (Fabaceae). Eastern redbud is a native, perennial, deciduous tree or shrub. The plants may vary in form from dense and round (to 6 m tall) when grown in sun, to an open, taller form (to 12 m tall) when grown in the shade. The trees produce hundreds of small pink pea flowers in the very early spring, even before other trees have leafed out. The bright magenta-pink to lilac flowers, appear in small clusters, primarily on older stems. The flowers are irregular, 9 to 12 cm long, with ten stamens. The unique, broadly heart-shaped leaves are nearly circular (5 to 10 cm), with a long, slender petiole. The leaves are alternate and have 5 to 9 prominent veins that radiate palmately from the base. New leaves are a light green that darken with age and finally turn yellow in the fall. The seeds are contained in a flat, thin pod (4 to 10 cm long), which turns from green to brown.

Required Growing Conditions

Eastern redbud is native to the eastern and south-central United States, southward to Texas. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Eastern redbud occurs in the forest understory in moist rich woods, along the banks of streams, in ravines, on bluffs, in open rocky woods, and abandoned farmlands.

Cultivation and Care

Eastern redbud is widely cultivated as an ornamental because of the plants showy springtime flowers and beautiful heart-shaped leaves. The plants are graceful with arching branches that look lovely as a specimen tree, in groupings, and in shrub borders. The plants do well in soils of moderate to low fertility and are very drought resistant. The seeds have very hard seed coats that require both chilling and scarification for germination, unless planted in the fall. Cuttings are difficult to root. Mature plants do not transplant well so buy young plants that are balled-and-burlapped or container grown. Transplant the plants in the spring or fall, in well-drained soils in sun to part shade. Water the plants regularly until established.

General Upkeep and Control

These plants require very little maintenance. The brown seedpods which can cling to the branches until late in the year, can be somewhat unattractive.

Pests and Potential Problems Eastern redbud has relatively few pests. Stem canker, leaf spots, and verticillium wilt may be a problem. The plants may experience some insect damage from leaf rollers, treehoppers, scales, leafhoppers, aphids, and spider mites, but damage is rarely severe.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 25
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Purple
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -29
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 20–20 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 130 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA