Plant Profile: Eastern Redbud Tree

Native, deer-resistant, shade-tolerant, and the perfect-size for even the smallest garden, Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) are in bloom right now all over the Mid-Atlantic region. The flowers cover the tree’s bare branches and, on older specimens, even along its trunk.

Not only are the tiny flowers pretty, but did you know they are edible? They taste like peas because this tree is, in fact, a member of the large legume and pea plant family! Sprinkle a few on your salad or on the edge of a dessert plate for added color.

When they will leaf out this tree is just as pretty. The heart-shaped foliage also is spectacular in autumn turning a bright, clear yellow.

The seed pods are an attractive display also – they rustle lightly in the wind and look like a brown fringe hanging off the branches.

These trees do fine in our heavy clay soils and do well in light shade. They appreciate some protection from the hot afternoon summer sun.

In my own garden, the only problem I’ve ever had with this tree is that the leaf cutter bee likes to come and snip out very precise little circles from the foliage. It is not a big issue and is actually quite decorative.

Note that the popular Redbud 'Don Egolf' introduced by the U.S. National Arbroretum is a Chinese redbud. It is popular due to its floriferous habit and that it stays small and shrub-like.

The newer introductions of Eastern Redbud cultivars include trees with burgundy, chartreuse, or variegated leaves. They also are bred for shorter stature and a more umbrella-like tree canopy. These include: ‘Forest Pansy’, ‘Covey’, ‘Appalachia’, and ‘Hearts of Gold’.

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine and edited by intern Allison O'Reilly.

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