(Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 10, 2008. The author of this article has since passed away; your comments are welcome, but please refer any questions to one of our forums.)
The redbud tree is simply lovely. It is aesthetically pleasing in all seasons and adds appeal to general landscaping. For example; the picture above, in part thanks to the Redbud Trees, looks like a painting. Redbud trees flourish in many Southern and South Central States, including Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, the redbud trees suffer through yearly springtime flooding rains and Summertime punishing 103 degree heat with drought. However, in 34 years, I have never seen an Oklahoma spring without the blooms of at least some redbuds, although late frosts have destroyed the buds a few years. Redbud trees grow wild in Oklahoma and can be spotted both in natural forest areas as well as in the cities. Since redbud trees abound in Oklahoma, it is no wonder that the redbud became Oklahoma's state tree in 1937.
Redbuds bloom in various shades of pink and purple. There is even a lovely white flowering redbud. Although once considered to be rare, the white redbud is now easy to find. The two pictures directly below are of an Oklahoma white redbud tree (spring 2008).
Looking through a whitebud to see a redbud. Glorious whitebud tree in spring.
In early spring, just after the Forsythia shrubs begin blooming, the redbud trees awaken. The branches and sometimes even the trunks are covered with a glorious haze of masses of flowers. Interesting enough, I found a tree with blooms on the trunk in the shape of the first letter of my last name. (It is located in a public place; I promise I did not do anything to the tree...either in person or in a photo software program. LOL). Even on dull or stormy spring days, the redbud tree sings out the promise of spring.
Redbud proudly sporting the letter "C". A fully budding redbud tree in spring. The redbud glows over spring greens.
Stormy springs don't depress the Redbud.
(Notice the damaged limbs on the large trees.
This damage is the result of Dec 2007 ice storms.)
Redbud trees sprout leaves directly after the colorful buds themselves are leaving. Both Redbud and Whitebud leaves are heart shaped, once again adding a pleasing artistic feel to the landscaping. The leaves are usually medium size, but can grow fairly large.
Early leaves.Redbud leaves spring/summer.
Redbud trees usually have nice, dark tree trunks and well defined artistically pleasing trunk and limb shapes. In autumn and early winter or beyond, the branches are covered with elongated seed packets that rustle like lightly rattling wind chimes. Although some gardeners do not like the brown seed pods that hang heavy on the tree, I find them pleasing. The fall leaf colors do not, however, stand out. With the redbud's pleasing displays and sometimes gnarled trucks, the redbud is certain to add an artistic touch to your landscaping.
Here are some other interesting tidbits about Redbuds:
Redbuds date back to Biblical times and an early ancestor is called the Judas Tree, which is why the redbud is nicknamed a Judas Tree. An old legend mentions that Judas hung himself from the Redbud tree and it became so sad that it now always grow only week limbs. Frankly (or Judasly), I do not believe this story. Perhaps I should look the Redbud up in my Josephus Biblical Times history book (which I cannot locate at the moment).
Some people consider the Redbud Tree to be a bit invasive. I have always welcomed the stray Redbud that grows to maturity. In fact, I dug up a hundred or more Redbud Trees that were just barely more than sprouts. Only 4 or 5 survived. I gave them to my mother and a friend. I saw an overpopulation of Redbud Trees at a home in Bixby a few years ago. The home was vacant, waiting for some new owners to fall in love; the gardens must not have been tended for months. Redbud Trees were sprouting everywhere. (Bixby has a wonderful sandy loam soil, which probably could grow anything.) It seems that Redbuds have a long tap root that is easily offended by transplanting. (Be sure to dig deep to transplant. However, if the subsoil is hard, the taproot may grow horizontally.) I consider trees like the Honey Locust, not the Redbud, to be invasive and hard to control.
Redbud trees look fab blooming in front of an Evergreen Tree. The combination of purple or pink and dark green is glorious in Spring. You can see this combination along Highways and Turnpikes in the Tulsa area.
Check out other varieties of Redbuds: Eastern Redbuds (multiple trunks like a lilac bush), Weeping redbuds and variety with small, reddish/purple leaves named 'Forest Pansy'. See Dave's Garden Plant Files for information on Forest Pansy.
Young redbuds seem to like a slightly shaded lifestyle. As the plants age, they tend to become less tolerant of shade.
Ready for this shocker? I have found multiple sites that claim that Redbuds are part of the pea family!!! (Leguminosae-Legume). Some of these sites actually say that the green seed pods can be eaten1. I have never tried this! For liability reasons and for GP (good practice): NEVER eat anything unless YOU KNOW it is safe for YOU and others to eat.
Redbud seeds may stay dormant for years. Artificial scarification or soaking seeds in boiling water may be needed for germination. Cuttings are often also successfully rooted.
Strangely enough, I have never seen (either in person or on the internet) a Redbud Tree that was a true red, although some call the dark pinks "red". Have you?
I hope you've enjoyed this article on Redbuds. I was not familiar with them until we moved to Oklahoma. Although I did not like them at first, they have become a favorite. I anticipate the blooming of the Redbud and I love their sweet heart shaped leaves. All of the above pictures were taken by me, April Campbell, in Oklahoma 2008. They are all copyrighted.