The redbud tree is a glorious and welcome sight in early spring, with its lavender-pink blossoms that cover its curving branches. It is sometimes also referred to as a Judas tree, as it is believed to be related to the tree Judas Iscariot hung himself from based on stories in the Bible.
The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a familiar sight throughout the eastern United States, from New England down to Georgia. It's an early source of food for many pollinators including bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, who enjoy the nectar in its pink flowers.
In recent years some new varieties of this reliable landscape tree have been introduced, including a lovely weeping form. The most common cultivars are "Lavender Twist" and "Ruby Falls," both names emphasizing the tree's colorful spring blossoms.
The Eastern redbud is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9, while the weeping form is better suited to zones 5 to 9. But apart from this small difference in winter hardiness, the trees are very similar.
Redbud trees can be susceptible to disease and are not very long-lived, but are so beloved for their spring color that they remain a popular landscape specimen tree.
The weeping redbud known as "Lavender Twist" was discovered in 1991 in western New York state. The gardener's last name is Covey and so the tree is sometimes also known as the "Covey Eastern Redbud". It was patented in 1998 and is now more widely available. There is a dwarf variety that can grow up to 15 feet tall and up to 20 wide with an asymmetrical yet graceful canopy.
The weeping branches and twisted shape make it an attractive tree for cottage gardens or for adding spring color. Despite the blossoms being small and forming along the length of the branches, the tree's leaves are large, dramatic and heart-shaped, forming in mid-summer, and turning yellow in October.
|Scientific Name||Cercis canadensis|
|Common Name||Weeping Redbud|
|Plant Type||Deciduous tree|
|Mature Size||20 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly acidic|
|Flower Color||Pink, lavender|
|Bloom Time||Early spring|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA 5 to 9|
|Native Areas||Eastern US|
Weeping Redbud Tree Care
The weeping redbud grows naturally in a contorted shape that many people find appealing. But it can be trained to grow straight like an Eastern redbud, using stakes and ties, if this is done while the tree is dormant in late fall and winter. Doing this also means the tree may grow slightly taller (up to 20 feet).
The weeping redbud tree does fine in partial shade, and being a shorter tree can grow in the shade of larger landscape trees. One sees them in woodlands sometimes where they have reseeded, blooming happily beneath the forest canopy.
Like most deciduous trees that bloom in early spring, the redbud needs well-drained soil. When planting, add plenty of compost and some peat moss. Choose a good location as these trees don't like to be transplanted once established.
The redbud benefits from regular watering at its base, especially during a dry spell. Being somewhat short-lived, these trees are not quite as resilient in extremes of weather or drought as their sturdier cousins like maples or oaks.
Temperature and Humidity
The weeping form, in particular the "Lavender Twist" cultivar, goes dormant a bit earlier than the standard Eastern redbud, however, both are quite cold hardy.
In Zone 4, your weeping redbud might need some extra protection from the winter winds and some mulch. Be sure to leave a couple of inches of space between the mulch line and the trunk of the tree.
This tree responds well to some general-purpose fertilizer in the spring before its blossoms open.
Careful pruning is important to maintain an elegant shape, avoid breakage, and keep the tree flowering vigorously. It is best done in the fall to shape the tree or remove dead branches.
The branches tend to split fairly low on the trunk and the abundant spring flowers can form on the trunk itself, so pruning will be needed to help shape these branches. The large leaves may also begin to overpower the tree, so removing the excess branches helps maintain a more balanced look.
It's best to avoid having V-shaped branch crotches in this tree, which can lead to breakages as the tree ages and its limbs get heavier.
Your redbud may be susceptible to cankers and is also somewhat susceptible to tree-boring insects. You should consult a tree specialist to diagnose and treat any major health problems.