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?

 

11 Comments

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

    Where can we purchase the Minnesota R3d buds at ?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      Most nurseries that carry trees or shrubs should have them.

  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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pb84sYOBnw

  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.

      https://knechts.net/minnesota-strain-redbud-3/

  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. https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/redbud It doesn’t do well in blazing hot sun or drought, but is overall a great tree for Mn.

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