How to Grow and Care for Forest Pansy Redbud Trees

Forest pansy redbud tree branches with pink heart-shaped leaves hanging

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

One of the earliest trees to give you that burst of color you want is Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' or the forest pansy redbud. Like all eastern redbuds, this tree blooms in March or early April before its foliage emerges but has an added burst of color in that it has a showy purple color on the top of its leaves. The appeal of this cultivar is the show it puts on from the moment its delicate electric pink flowers bloom to the second it drops its last brightly colored fall leaf. If you are looking for a medium-size tree that provides three-season interest and is deer resistant, the forest pansy redbud is one to consider adding to your landscape.

Common Name Forest pansy redbud
Botanical Name Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Family Name Fabaceae
 Plant Type Deciduous tree
 Mature Size 20-30 ft. tall, 25-35 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
 Soil Type Average, medium moisture, well-drained
 Soil pH Adaptable
 Bloom Time April
 Flower Color Rosy Pink
 Hardiness Zones  USDA 5-9
 Native Area Eastern and central North America

Forest Pansy Redbud Care

Redbud trees are beautiful additions to a landscape that can be a burst of color, add some much-needed shape in the form of a medium-size specimen tree, or, depending on your locale, serve as a valuable native tree to feed to local pollinators. They do particularly well on hillsides and are often used for erosion control.

All this comes at the expense of regular maintenance to keep this relatively short-lived tree healthy and extend its life. Pruning, keeping it well watered, and checking for pests and diseases should all be added to your list of chores. Keeping tabs on these routines will allow you to enjoy your tree for years to come.

Forest pansy redbud tree branch with cluster of small pink flower buds and yellow-green leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Forest pansy redbud tree branch with tiny pink flower buds

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Forest pansy redbud tree with small pink flowers on twisted branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Forest pansy redbud tree with long twisted branches and tiny pink flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

Jean-Pol GRANDMONT / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0


You might be inclined to think that since this is a flowering tree it would thrive in the brightest sun you can throw at it, but that is not exactly true. While the forest pansy redbud appreciates some sun it is best to think about its place in nature. In the forest it hangs out underneath the huge trees and receives a lot of filtered sunlight that the oaks and maples, which tower above soak up. This being the case your redbud can deal with a wide array of sun conditions from full to part shade. In hot summer days it appreciates shaded afternoons when the sun can become a bit much for its foliage.


Forest pansy redbud trees are not incredibly finicky when it comes to the soil they are planted in. The soil should be somewhat rich in organics, medium moisture, well-drained with a medium amount of moisture. Once you find a suitable spot for your tree let it be. The species and its cultivars do not transplant well. They develop a very deep taproot which makes transplanting nearly impossible without killing the tree.


While redbuds are generally drought-resistant the forest pansy is less resistant than the straight species. Because of this fact, your tree will require regular watering for it to remain healthy and provide the most abundant foliage. Biweekly soakings during dry weather where you ensure that you are drenching the soil under the tree's canopy should suffice once the tree establishes itself. Prior to that, you will want to water your newly planted redbud weekly for the first year or two until it establishes a good root system. Giving your tree a gallon of water per inch of trunk diameter measured at chest height is going to be enough to keep your tree happy.

Temperature and Humidity

The forest pansy redbud has a wide habitable range and does well in a variety of climates as long as it is not too hot and dry. The straight species prefer the temperate eastern woodlands of the Mid- Atlantic and northeast United States and the forest pansy is not very different. You should not have any issue if you stay in the recommended USDA range of 5 through 9 giving special consideration to placing your tree in areas that have some coverage from high winds and ice build-up due to the species' reputation for weak limbs.


It is important to know that the forest pansy redbud is a nitrogen fixing plant. This means its roots host bacteria that uses nitrogen and then makes it available as a nutrient in the soil. Because of this any fertilizer that is applied should have a low N value in its NPK formula. Giving your tree too much nitrogen will produce an overabundance of foliage and too few blossoms, which is something you definitely do not want on this beautiful bloomer. Your best bet would be to skip the fertilizer until you first test your soil and only then if you are showing some serious stunted growth and lack of flowers.

Types of Forest Pansy Redbud

Cercis canadensis’ Forest Pansy’ is a cultivar of a Cercis canadensis eastern redbud with numerous other cultivars. If you are looking for trees with other elements than the famous purple leaves of the forest pansy, there are quite a few offerings to pick from that are variegated, hardier, show different color blooms. Here are a few that might be of interest:

  • Cercis canadensis ‘Royal White’ has large white flowers that bloom earlier than most cultivars.
  • Cercis canadensis’ Silver Cloud’ is a cultivar with variegated white and green spotted foliage that tends to revert to green. This cultivar blooms less than the species and other cultivars, so the attraction is the unique foliage.
  • Cercis canadensis’ Heart of Gold’ is a cultivar with bright yellow leaves throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
  • Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ is a weeping dwarf cultivar that grows to only five to six feet after 30 years with dark purple flowers.


Your biggest chore will be pruning your redbud the first few years after it has been established until it is too large for you to safely do it yourself, at which point you will need to hire a certified arborist. Until then, it is an easy job if you know what to do.

The redbud tends to do a few things that make it susceptible to breaking. It will want to grow multiple leaders that create deep junctures where branches intersect. The best thing to do is prune those away at the trunk so that only intersections create soft gradual junctions. You are looking to create or establish branch intersections with U shapes and eliminate Y or V's. Redbud wood is naturally weak, so you are doing your best to create a structure that does not allow wind, snow, wetness, or gravity to speed up the possibility that some limb damage happens. If limb damage happens be sure to clean the broken limb and remove the dead branches so that further damage to the tree and your property does not occur.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Healthy forest pansy redbuds are not particularly disease and insect-prone but can be susceptible to some issues here and there, especially if you have some limb damage. In undamaged trees, most disease issues will be seen in trees in sites that are wet or have poor drainage.

In damaged trees, the biggest issue that redbuds face is canker. The fungus enters through wounds or dead and dying branches, making timely pruning so important. There is no chemical control for canker, so you should prune and burn dead branches.

  • How long do forest pansy redbuds live?

    This tree lives on average about 25 years or so, which is not particularly long compared to most trees.

  • Does the forest pansy redbud have nice fall color?

    If you are looking for a redbud and want fall color the forest pansy is the cultivar to get! Most redbud foliage turns a rather boring yellow in the fall but the forest pansy keeps its purple color and its seed pods cling to it until winter leaf drop.

  • How fast does the forest pansy redbud grow?

    In the right place you can expect your tree to grow a whopping two feet per year. (This is what makes the wood weak.) Many forest pansy redbuds don't reach their full size potential because they are often grown in suboptimal conditions. Be sure to place your forest pansy redbud well for maximum growth.