This Canadian native tree is a must in the early spring garden. Native plants are generally a very good option for any garden and for any manner of gardener. Think about the fact that Canadian native plants have been surviving on their own for eons, adapting to varying climate conditions, natural abuse and all without human intervention. These realities should at the very least, encourage the gardener to consider a fair stockpile of natives in the garden. Eastern Redbud is one of my personal all-time favourites for the simple reason that it bursts into bloom very early in the spring. Right along with the Forsythia and early bulbs that herald the stronger sun and the promise of another year in the garden. Cercis makes an excellent specimen tree as it has a beautiful overall shape as well as the early spring floral excellence. I am surprised that this native tree is not used more as a street tree in cityscapes as it tolerates unusually harsh conditions, can be pruned and shaped with little effort and doesn’t pose a problem with fruit drop. Ideally, the tree is best situated in the final location that you want it to be as it doesn’t transplant very well. This may be the reason that Redbuds are not that popular as street trees.
Eastern Redbud is a perfect choice for the woodland garden and naturalized spaces. The early spring flowers are pinkish to purple-pink as well as being beautiful, they provide much needed sustenance for early season insects such as butterflies. One unique characteristic is that the pea-shaped flowers bloom on the bare stems of the tree enhancing the structure as if decorated with festive, pink lights. From time to time, Cercis is used in floral arrangements offering an unusual degree of design and form.
Culturally Eastern Redbud will tolerate some shade and is therefore often seen as an understory tree. Grown in full sun, the tree is often multi-stemmed and to my mind is reminiscent of a clump white birch. Soil conditions that are poorly drained pose a threat although Cercis will tolerate clay just not be very happy. Ideally the soil should receive consistent moisture and adequate nutrients either from fertilizer or organically enhanced soil.
Wherever you chose to plant your Cercis canadensis consider the foregoing as well plant it in an spot where you can enjoy the first flowers of spring.