Sowing the seeds of redbud envy

Sowing the seeds of redbud envy

Each and every year, I pass by a yard on the way home from the grocery store and pause my car to have a long look at their redbud tree with its gorgeous, flaming pink color. And each and every year, I think I’m going to plant one of those in my own little slice of the universe. Well, 2017 is the year!

Like fruit trees, it is best to plant redbuds in the late winter. Redbuds are very hardy, but our super hot summers are hard on any baby trees. Go ahead and get your blooming beauty into in ground in late February or March.

Redbud trees announce spring. There are different varieties of redbuds — you can find them in shades of deep rose, pink, lavender, purple and, rarely, white — so an early trip to your local nursery may even reveal the exact color of the redbuds that they offer.

Their beautiful blooms last for weeks. Cercis is the scientific name from the Greek word “kerkis,” which means “a weaver’s shuttle” and refers to the shape of the bud. One of redbud’s common names is “Judas tree.” According to legend, an ancient redbud was the tree on which Judas hung himself.

George Washington is said to have transplanted Eastern redbuds from the woods nearby to his gardens at Mount Vernon in Virginia. Redbud branches and stems were used for basketry. Also, extracts from the inner bark and roots were used to treat colds, flu and fever in his day.

Redbuds, in general, are an understory plant that counts on taller trees near them to provide partial shade. There are three types of native redbuds that we can choose from in Texas: Eastern redbud, Texas redbud and Mexican redbud. All three are deciduous (loose their leaves) and all three are classified as small trees, which means 15 to 20 feet of height when full grown. The Texas Redbud works the best in Central Texas and West Texas where soil is more alkaline. Our best option is varieties of the Eastern redbud and some varieties of the Mexican redbud.

Eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis) is found in native habitats from New Jersey to northern Florida, west to Missouri and Texas and northern Mexico. Some good varieties of Eastern redbud are “Forest Pansy,” “Lavender twist,” “Flame,” “Pinkbud” and “Royal White.” None of the varieties like soggy soil but do need supplemental water if we have weeks of dry weather.

Think about using your redbud tree in small groupings, as specimens and for patios. These trees are perfect for small or large yards. Unless sprayed with insecticide, redbud flowers are edible.


How do you know when winter is just about over? You see purple martins flying around and you see area redbuds covered in buds. If you want a showstopper in early spring, this plant will do it.