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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Grow and Propagate Redbud Trees


Redbuds are deciduous trees or shrubs that flower early in the spring.  They can be found growing wild along the edges of woods and in landscaping.  When allowed to grow wild, this plant will create a beautiful tree that is rounded on the top with horizontally, tiered branches.

The attractiveness of this tree is not limited to spring when the rosy-pink to lavender blooms appear along the twigs.  Once the blooms fade away, heart-shaped leaves appear the turn yellow during the fall.  In the winter, the dark bark creates a stunning profile especially if plant in front of a light-colored backdrop.

Regardless of which variety of redbud you choose, the tree itself can feel right at home in any type of soil that is well-draining.  It also likes to be in full sun or light shade, which makes this tree a perfect choice as a specimen plant or as an understory tree. 

But do not stop there.  This tree is a timeless pick for any area that you would like to naturalize.  Just keep in mind that while this tree is very showy year round, the true impact comes when it is planted in a grouping.

Planting a Redbud

As stated before, the redbuds are pretty flexible when it comes to their location.  The key point is to make sure that the soil is well-draining.  Once you have your location selected, the next step is to dig the hole.  When preparing to do this, keep in mind that the hole will need to be about 4 times the width of the root ball and the same depth as the root ball or container. 

Once the hole has been dug, test it out.  To do this, simply place the container in the hole.  If the redbud you purchased is balled and burlapped, simply lift the tree up and place in the hole.  Adjust the hole as needed.

Next, you will need to deglaze the hole.  This is especially important if you have a lot of clay in your soil.  To do this, just take a rake and scrap the sides of the hole.  Doing this easy step will prevent the hole from glazing over or getting hard, which could prevent the roots from moving outward and stunting the growth of the tree.


After the hole has been prepared, the next step in the process is to plant the tree.  Prior to placing the tree in its permanent location, one will need to remove it from its container.  If the tree has come in a pot, simply cut the container down the sides.  If your tree has been balled and burlapped, you will need to remove any twine or wire from the ball and cut away about one-half of the burlap.  When doing this later step, make sure that none of the burlap will be sticking out of the hole.  This can wick away moisture from the tree.

Now that you have your tree ready to plant, place it the hole and adjust according to the look you want.  Next, place a small amount of soil in the hole and water in.  Adding water at this stage will moisten the roots of the tree while forcing out air bubbles.  If you would rather add all the soil at one time, you can do that but make sure to water in until the bubbles stop coming up and then fill in as needed.

Once the bubbles from the first approach have stopped appearing and the water has drained away, continue to fill in.  After the hole has been filled in, water in to push out any additional air bubbles and top off if needed.

To control weeds and protect the roots of the tree, place a 3 to 5 inch layer of mulch around the tree.

Redbud Propagation

Redbuds can be started by either softwood cuttings or seeds.  Both techniques will be described but the softwood cutting is the least successful.  If you choose this propagation method, make sure that you plant more than what you think you will need.  This will increase the chances of success.

Softwood Cutting Technique

Take the cutting when the tree has finished blooming and the leaves have opened.  When taking the cutting, only pick branches that are about ¼ in diameter and 4 to 6 inches long.  Take the cutting slightly below a leaf node. 

Place the cutting(s) in a glass of water while you are completing the next step, which is the soil preparation.

To prepare the soil, one will make a planting medium that is one-half peat moss and one-half sand.  Stir to completely mix and then place in several 6-inch pots.  Add water to the pots.  To keep the peat moss from floating away, push down on the soil surface.

Once the planting medium has been prepared, remove the cuttings from the water and remove any leaves along the stem making sure that you have at least 2 sets of leaves on top of the stem.  Next, dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone.  Push the treated cutting into one of the prepared 6 inch pots.  Repeat the process with each cutting. 

Place each cutting in a clear, plastic bag and mist with water.   Tie the bag off and place the cutting(s) in a location that is kept around 70 degree Fahrenheit.

Monitor the soil moisture and add accordingly.  In about 4 weeks, check to see if your cutting has rooted.  To do this, simply open up the plastic bag and take a little tug on the cutting.  If you feel a little resistance, the cutting is rooted.  If not, close the bag up and wait a few more weeks.   

Once rooted, plant your redbud cutting in a 10 inch pot that is filled with garden soil.  Place in light shade and monitor the soil moisture.  Redbud trees need about 1-inch of rain a week.

Continue to grow in the pots until the cutting is 1 year old.  After that time period, introduce your tree to its new location slowly.  This is done by gradually exposing the tree to its new environment.  This introduction should take about 2 weeks.   Once the introduction is complete, the tree is ready to plant. 

Seed Technique

To begin this process, one will need to collect the seeds as soon as they have formed.  Doing this will prevent one from loosing seeds when the pods open and will also prevent insects from invading the seeds. 

After you have collected what you want, remove them from the pods, and allow them to dry.  Next, place them in a small cardboard box and place in the refrigerator.  Do not be tempted to place them in a plastic bag or container.  Placing them in a container that is not made of breathable material will cause the seeds to rot.

Keep your seeds in the fridge until you are ready to plant.  Do not worry about keeping your seeds too long.  Redbud seeds will keep for years as long as they are kept at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you decide to plant your seeds, you will first need to scarify the seeds.  What this means is that you are mimicking a process that happens in nature.  In the case of the redbud, you are mimicking the gnawing action of rodents.  To do this, take a file and sand the edges of the seed.  This will weaken the seed coat so that the redbud embryo can break through when the time is right.

Next, place your scarified seed in a pot of moist soil and place back into the refrigerator.  Keep the planted seed in the fridge for 2 months. 

After that time period has passed and the weather has warmed, move your planted pot outside or place in a greenhouse.  Keep the soil moist.  Once you see your seedling break ground, plan on planting the redbud seedling in its new location as described in the softwood cutting technique.



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Gardening-tip:



Use Edgings

Nothing finishes off a flower bed like low, long flowering edging plants.

Alyssum, lobelia, and dianthus are great for just this purpose.

For good continual flowering, also fertilize every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer like a 15-15-15.


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