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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Grow and Care for a Redbud


When many people think of spring, they can list an assortment of flowers that welcome in the warmer weather but there are several different trees that are blooming this time year and one is the redbud.  The common redbud welcomes spring with a spray of buds in a vivid magenta hue.  Once the buds open, the magenta changes over to lavender pink blooms.  But if lavender pink blooms are not your thing, do not discard this tree.  There are other redbud varieties that come in white, rosy pink, and even a magenta pink.

While the blooms are what this tree is really known for, the plant does provide other seasonal characteristics, which includes heart shaped leaves that open up red and then turn yellow in the fall.

Another feature of this tree in the fall is the seedpods.  These seedpods will remain on the tree throughout the fall and well into the winter.  There is a divided feeling on the landscape value of the seedpods.  Some individuals enjoy the texture that they provide while others find them unsightly.

This tree is very flexible in its growth requirements.  It can be planted in any soil but it prefers a moist soil that is well drained.  As far as the sun goes, it again can grow in sunny and shady locations.  If grown in full sun, the tree will grow into a rounded shape with a trunk divided close to the ground and/or multi trunked into the shape of a shrub.  It will also produce more blooms.

On the other hand, if the redbud is planted in the shade it will grow taller and be less compact.

In general, when planning on using a redbud in your landscape you will need to plan for enough space for a tree that can reach 20 to 30 feet in height and 15 to 35 feet in width.

While the redbud tree has many different types of uses in the landscape, one of the most common uses is as a naturalizing element.  But if you have no need to naturalize an area, do not overlook this tree.  It can also be used as a specimen tree or planted in groups alongside a shrub edging.

Now that you know the basics on the redbud, it is time to plant.  As we discussed previously, redbuds are not that picky when it comes to a location but…..they cannot tolerate soils that remain wet.  If you have an area that is extremely dry during part of the growing season, do not discount this area.  Redbuds do better on the side of dryness verses wetness.

Ok, now you are ready to plant.  Redbuds do not do well if planted when they are large.  In doing so, select a redbud that is very small.  The next step after site selection is digging the hole.  The hole itself will need to be two to three times the width of the container that the tree is planted in.  The depth needs to be the same as the container.  Once you have the hole dug, the next step is to test the hole.  How do you do this?  It is simple.  You just place the container in the hole.  The key at this point is making sure that the hole is not too deep or too shallow.  What you really want is a hole that is level with the surrounding soil level. 


Once you have tested the hole, the next step is an optional one and depends on your soil type.  If you have a clayey soil, you will want to “deglaze” the hole.  What does this mean?  Well, soils that have a lot of clay tend to glaze up along the sides.  This process creates a barrier by which roots have a hard time breaking through.  To prevent this is easy and only requires a small rake.   Once the hole is dug, put the rake in the hole and move up and down.  This “raking” motion will rough up the surface and prevent glazing.

After the hole has been dug, tested, and treated, the next step in the process is to plant the tree.  If you do not want to keep the pot, simply cut the pot away from the root mass.  If, on the other hand, you want to keep the pot, just turn it upside down and squeeze the sides.  This should loosen the roots from the container and the tree should come straight out.  Do not pull the tree out by its trunk. 

Next, run your fingers through the root ball and loosen up the soil around the roots.  Doing this will encourage the roots to grow outward verses in the ball shape of the container.  After that is done, place the redbud in the hole and fill in with a good amount of well seasoned compost.  Water in the tree and add additional compost as needed.

To help control weeds and conserve soil moisture, add a two to three inch layer of mulch.

While the redbud normally does not suffer from a lot of pest or plant diseases, one it is very susceptible is Botryosphaeria canker.  This plant disease causes the branches and twigs to dieback but how does this happen.  Redbuds do not do well if there branches, twigs and/or bark are damaged.  This damage is a doorway by which this fungus can enter the tree.  Once inside the tree, it begins to feed on the living tissue of that branch.  It will continue to feed until it has completely encircled the branch.  After that has happened, the branch up from the canker will die because water and nutrition has been cut off.  This will occur every time the fungus encircles the branch.

There is no chemical treatment for this fungus but you can manually remove the diseased area but before you jump into this garden chore, let’s talk about how to do that properly.  The first step of this process is to clean and sterilize the pruners.  This will need to be done before every new cut.  Once the pruners have been sterilized, the next step is to prune the fungus infested branch.  Do not just cut it off where the dieback has occurred.  The best approach is to cut it six to eight inches below the dieback and at an angle.  Why so much?  Cutting the branch back this much is a preventative measure to keep the fungus from spreading. 

After all the diseased branches have been removed, do not compost them.  This will simply spread the disease.  The best approach is to just throw the branches away.



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Gardening-tip:



Keep Your Trees Weed Free

When a tree, or any plant for that matter, has to compete for water, food and nutrients, it can place extra stress on it.

Try and keep the area under trees and plants weed free. They will grow faster, and healthier.


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