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Eastern redbud the harbinger of spring

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The eastern redbud with its gorgeous rose purple blossoms signals spring has arrived.

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The harbinger of spring in much of the country is the native eastern redbud known botanically as Cercis canadensis. That being said — hallelujah — they are blooming now in the South, which means spring is coming to your area.

The eastern redbud is native to 31 states, the District of Columbia and Ontario, Canada. That is a wide range for one of the showiest trees in the forest. Though we call it the eastern redbud, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is native as far west as New Mexico.

You may be among those who always think about planting one or two when you see them blooming. Then when you get around to it, the garden centers are sold out. Make this the spring you get the job done because it is harder to find a more beautiful blooming tree for your home.

With today’s urban landscape shrinking in size, you would be hard pressed to find a more suitable tree. The redbud works well in sun or dappled shade as an understory tree. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah they have shown to not only provide thousands of those rich rose purple blooms but they also display some great fall yellow color.

But did you know there were selections with glossy leaves? Cercis canadensis var. texensis is the new botanical name for the plant known in the market place as the Oklahoma redbud. This selection is one of the finest you will find at the local garden center.

Keep your eyes open also for the hottest redbud around, called The Rising Sun. It reaches about 12 feet in height with a rounded structure. It too is blooming now with the gorgeous purple flowers but during the growing season it keeps putting on a terrific show, but with its flaming foliage.

Last August I was seeing typical dark green heart-shaped leaves but with all new growth revealing yellow-gold, orange and apricot-red arching downward like they were the Roman candles of the plant world.

No matter which variety you want, be ready to shop for redbuds early this year. Once you have yours, select a site with a lot of sun. This will give you the best blooming in the spring and leaf coloration. Don’t — panic if you have a little afternoon shade, after all you see them looking ever so picturesque at the forest’s edge.

It is ideal to plant when trees are dormant but I assure you if I find mine leafed out I am still buying and planting. This has really become the norm with today’s excellent container-grown stock.

These great trees deserve to be planted in a fertile organic rich bed versus stuck in compacted clay in the middle of grass or lawn. Dig your hole two to three times as wide as the rootball but no deeper planting at the same depth it is growing in the container. This allows for the quickest root-expansion and acclimatization to your landscape.

Typically you think of a redbud in companionship with other spring bloomers like azaleas, dogwoods and spring flowering bulbs. This certainly works but the vibrant summer colors of new selections like The Rising Sun means that you could use them in a tropical like setting where coarse textured foliage from elephant ears, cannas and bananas would create a stunning partnership. In fact, our showiest fall bed had the regular redbud with elephant ears and purple fountain grass.

Winter is losing its grip. Your day of redbud joy is coming. The joy will be even greater if you have your own to admire.

1 image

MCT photo

The eastern redbud with its gorgeous rose purple blossoms signals spring has arrived.

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