An enduring favorite for brightening up the landscape in early spring, the native redbud (Cercis canadensis) has been transformed into dozens of unique cultivars during the last forty years. Redbuds grow in acidic to neutral well drained soil and prefer morning sun and part shade in the afternoon. In addition to being drought tolerant, disease resistant and unappetizing to deer, horticulturalists have developed cultivars with striking attributes. Like the native redbud, these cultivars are the perfect small tree for the urban patio, lawn, and forest’s edge. Redbud cultivars come in a variety of forms, colors, and habits.
For a sculptural statement, the Cercis canadensis ‘Cascading Hearts’ is the perfect pick. A strong focal point in Tom Rieman’s front yard, it became quite a conversation piece during the MAMG 2012 Through Our Garden Gates Tour. Reaching a maximum height of 15 ft., ‘Cascading Hearts’ is a weeping redbud variety with pendulous draping branches. Its flexible branches and tight growth habit make it less brittle and fuller than other weeping forms. Its graceful habit, offers strong architectural form in the winter. Deep mauve blooms adorn its branches in early spring. In the fall, the dark green small heart shaped leaves turn orange and red. The Cercis canadensis ‘Cascading Hearts’ was developed by Steve Bennett of Riverbend Nurseries in Thompsons Station, TN.
Growing from 6 to 15 ft., Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ is another weeping form, but with striking deep reddish purple leaves that turn yellow in the fall. It has a strong branching form like ‘Cascading Hearts’ but offers a more open winter silhouette. Rose purple flowers bloom in abundance on bare branches in late March to early April. Dr. Dennis Werner of the University of North Carolina hybridized Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ and C c ‘Forest Pansy’ to develop ‘Ruby Falls.’ Along with ‘Ruby Falls’, UNC’s Dr. Werner introduced the variegated weeping redbud ‘Whitewater’ and the upright ‘Merlot’, with deep purple foliage, in 2010.
Preferring more protection from afternoon sun than ‘Cascading Hearts’ and ‘Ruby Falls’, the compact Cercis canadensis Rising Sun ™ , will add dazzle to any area. Its lime-green, deep tangerine, and apricot leaves are bound to elicit a “wow.” In the spring, small orchid blooms attract insects and bees. Fall foliage is a vivid golden orange. Unlike the rich brown bark of the above cultivars, the smooth yellowish- tan bark of Rising Sun a™ provides a lighter accent in winter. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society designated Rising Sun ™ as a 2012 Gold Medal Plant Award Winner for its “superb eye appeal, performance and, hardiness.” This showy 8-12 ft. high and 8 ft. wide tree was developed by Ray Jackson of Jackson Nursery in Belvidere, TN.
Do you have a favorite redbud?
-- Jan Castillo, MG '05