Plant Profile: Redbud Tree

It won't be long before the redbuds bloom.

It won't be long before the redbuds bloom.

Don't let today's cold and rain bother you. It won't be long before we'll be seeing the soft pink clouds of bloom that surround the Minnesota-hardy redbuds that are so popular here in the North. Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a smallish ornamental tree (or large shrub) that can be shaped either on a single stem or on multiple stems.

Sometimes called the eastern redbud, the most useful type of redbud in northern gardeners is the 'Minnesota Strain', which was developed at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to survive through our tough winters. Depending on the type of spring we have, redbuds can bloom as early as mid-April and as late as late May. They are usually one of the first trees to flower in the landscape, usually a bit before flowering crabapples and other fruit trees. The blooms linger for several weeks and a row of redbuds can be a sight to behold in the spring.

Redbuds grow 20 to 30 feet tall and can be shaped into vase-like shrubs or trees with an umbrella canopy. They are not particularly fussy. Redbud grows well in full to partial sun (in the wild, it is an understory tree), and can tolerate a variety of soil types. It does not tolerate salt well, so you may want to plant your redbud closer to the house and not near the street where salt spray occurs. It likes well-drained soil of average moisture.

Minnesota Strain?

The Minnesota Strain of redbud was developed when species redbud trees where planted at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. These trees are normally hardy to USDA Zone 5 (think Chicago or Des Moines), but the arboretum staff selected out the trees that survived best and used seed from that "strain" to plant more redbuds. Descendants of these trees are sold as the Minnesota strain.

In the past, when winters were a bit more rigorous than they are now, bloom from redbuds was not guaranteed. But more recently, that cloud of fuchsia has been more reliable, and it is always welcome. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has several informative articles about redbuds.

What is your favorite spring-flowering tree?

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  1. Connie Noll on April 5, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Where can we purchase the Minnesota R3d buds at ?

  2. Cyndee Findlay on August 24, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Are Redbud susceptible to scale? I just lost a 30′ Merrill Magnolia to scale and would like to replace it with a Mn Northern Redbud. It will be planted approx. 10′-15′ from where the Magnolia grew.
    Thank you for your knowledge!

  3. Linda Franson on July 12, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    What is the typical height and width of a mature Minnesota strain Cercis canadensis?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on July 12, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      Maybe 20 feet tall by 20-30 feet across. It can be grown as a multi-stem large shrub or a single trunk small tree.

  4. Kelly on July 24, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Can it be pruned so it doesn’t get quite as large?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on July 25, 2019 at 2:46 am

      You probably don’t want to prune them too severely, but yes, they can be pruned. They are not a huge tree naturally. Here’s a video on pruning redbud you may find helpful.

  5. Dennis Bobek on August 27, 2019 at 12:47 am

    I would like information on your redbud tree

    • Mary Lahr Schier on August 27, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      Below is a link to information on the tree from a nursery where I have bought trees in the past. However, most nurseries in Minnesota that carry trees will have the Northern Strain or Minnesota Strain redbud. Fall is a good time for planting, too.

  6. Rosemary Graham on September 9, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    How susceptible to disease is the MN Redbud tree? Are Japanese beetles attracted to it? Is it susceptible to scale. What preventive care does it need?
    Thanks so much for your help

    • Mary Lahr Schier on September 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      There are a couple of diseases that can hit redbuds, but most are pretty healthy. No signs of Japanese beetles on the ones I’m familiar with. Here’s a profile from the Morton Arboretum that might answer your questions. It doesn’t do well in blazing hot sun or drought, but is overall a great tree for Mn.

  7. Barb W on April 8, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Do the deer like redbuds?

    • Tom S. on May 31, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      Do I have to put a fence around a young redbud to keep the deer from eating it?

      • Mary Lahr Schier on June 1, 2020 at 1:36 am

        If deer are a problem in your area, it would be a good idea to fence the tree for at least the first year or two.

  8. Maggie on June 4, 2020 at 3:18 am

    Would this tree grow and do well in the northeastern part of South Dakota?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 9, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      Maggie — Are you zone 4a or warmer? In that case, it should do well. I would be concerned about wind in your area, however, so you may want to site the tree with a bit of protection. Good luck!

  9. jackie on June 25, 2020 at 1:00 am

    Does this Redbud have the seed pods? And when do the pods fall in the fall? I am guessing pods make a real mess then…

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 25, 2020 at 2:20 am

      Redbuds are pretty clean trees. Crabapples can be messy.

  10. David O on May 29, 2021 at 12:06 am

    Any recommendations on planting hole diameter and depth? Seen 1.5x -> 3x the pot diameter, but nothing about depth… thanks!!

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 1, 2021 at 2:38 am

      The hole should be to the depth of the tree in the pot. You want the tree even with surrounding soil. Here’s a good video on tree planting:

  11. Rhonda Condon on June 14, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    What color/s is the foliage? I planted mine this spring and some of the leaves are a reddish burgundy color. I want to be sure this isn’t a stress issue.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 15, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      They do have a burgundy tinge to the edges in spring. By midsummer, they are a forest green color.

  12. Graham Van Dixhorn on August 25, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    How late in the fall can this tree be planted?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on August 31, 2021 at 2:22 am

      September would be fine. Otherwise, spring is a good time to plant.

  13. Marilyn A Hurt on September 14, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    We planted 4 Minnesota redbuds in June. The leaves are already beginning to turn yellow (September 14). Is this early? We live along the Mississippi River in Southeast Minnesota.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on September 14, 2021 at 4:59 pm

      It’s a bit early, but the heat and drought have been tough on all trees this year. Continue to water regularly until the ground freezes and it should be fine.

  14. Samantha Wark on January 5, 2022 at 8:18 am

    How long does it take to grow a redbud tree?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on January 5, 2022 at 7:15 pm

      They grow fairly fast. I planted a 5 foot tall nursery tree five years ago and it’s now nearly full size.

  15. Becky on April 10, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    Are any of the red leaf redbud varieties mn winter tolerant?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 11, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      Sadly, no. Most of those are only hardy to zone 6. Your best bet here is the Minnesota strain redbud.

  16. Ella on May 10, 2022 at 6:59 am

    what is the best area for redbud to grow?

  17. Jesse on July 25, 2022 at 3:35 am

    Can these be planted above or near water and/or sewer lines? My lines are about 6 feet underground I estimate.

    • MSHS on July 25, 2022 at 4:16 pm

      To be sure you don’t damage any of those lines, we recommend checking with the University of Minnesota’s Ask a Master Gardener hotline — (612-301-7590).

  18. Lisa Libaire on October 21, 2022 at 10:56 pm

    The greenhouse told me to be sure that I planted my MN Stain deep enough to cover the burr or knot that is a couple inches higher than the level of the dirt in the pot.
    A different greenhouse said not to bury it that deep but to go with the dirt level in the pot as is.
    I’m confused and haven’t found a website that addresses it.
    Can you help?

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