The colorful blossoms of the redbud tree are one of the first signs of spring. The redbud tree produces an abundance of small flowers that form along its branches and tree trunk before the leaves of the tree appear. Redbud trees are members of the bean and pea family, and their seeds form in a pod that ripens in the fall. Several varieties of redbuds grow throughout the United States.
The Mediterranean redbud (Cercis siliquastrum) is commonly known as the Judas tree. Legend has it that Judas Icarus hanged himself from a Mediterranean redbud, and his shame is the cause for the tree's blush-red colored blossoms. The Mediterranean redbud is single stemmed, slim and reaches a height of 15 to 20 feet and thrives in moist, well-drained soil. It requires full sun to partial shade and grows in USDA zones 6 through 9.
Originally found growing wild in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma redbud( Cercis reniformis) is known for its bright, wine-colored flower and its rich, glossy green leaves. The Oklahoma thrives in moist, clay loam or sandy, well-drained soils and in areas of full to partial shade. It reaches heights between 20 and 25 feet. Oklahoma redbuds are grown in USDA zones 6B through 9A and are often used as deck or patio trees or along paths and walkways.
The easy-to-grow Covey (Cercis canadensis) is a small weeping redbud tree. It reaches a height of 4 to 10 feet and produces a pinkish-lavender flower in April. Plant the Covey in average, moist, well-drained soil and in areas of full sun or partial shade. According to Missouri Botanical Garden, staking Covey redbuds allows the tree to grow taller; trees that aren't staked will not grow over 5 feet tall. Covey redbuds thrive in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.
Recognized for its attractive, green foliage and abundance of bright, white flowers, the Royal White (Cercis canadensis f. alba) is most often used as a landscape tree. It grows to heights ranging from 15 to 25 feet and is found in USDA zones 4 through 9. Plant Royal White redbud trees in soil that is moist, loamy and well-drained. It tolerates full sun, but in areas with hot summer climates, dappled sun or light shade is better.
The Forest Pansy Cercis canadensis redbud tree has a distinct purple-colored leaf and a pink-purple flower and is a popular choice for landscape designs. The Forest Pansy reaches heights of 20 to 25 feet and grows in USDA zones 4 through 9. Plant Forest Pansy redbud trees in moist, well-drained soil. The Forest Pansy thrives in full sun to partial shade, although dappled shade is recommended for hotter climate zones.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Redbud Tree Flowers are the One of the FIrst Signs of Spring
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Cercis siliquastrum
- University of Florida IFAS: Cercis reniformis ‘Oklahoma’ Figure 1. Mature Oklahoma Redbud. Oklahoma Redbud
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Cercis canadensis Covey
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Cercis canadensis f. alba Royal White