Texas Redbuds

Here in Central Texas, signs of spring start early.  Daffodils and narcissus begin blooming in early January.  By February, these bulbs have begun to fade and are replaced by the graceful Leucojum.  By March, big green mounds of dark green foliage in yards and pastures remind us that Bluebonnet season will soon be upon us.  Yet, in spite of all of these signs, I never really feel sure that spring has arrived until I see two things in my yard: purple martins and buds developing on my redbud trees.

The Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis “texensis”) is probably the most loved ornamental native tree in Texas.  The bright magenta flowers burst forth when most of the earth is still grey from winter.  The flowers seem to appear over night.  You can drive past the bare branches of a dormant redbud tree everyday and never notice it.  Then, sometime around the first of March, the flowers arrive in all of their magenta glory.  They are so bright and showy that I am always pleasantly shocked when I see the first redbud of spring. 

Redbuds are small deciduous trees with light grey bark covered in white spots.  They are commonly multi-trunked and rarely exceed 25 feet in height.  They flower in a variety of colors.  In addition to the most common magenta, you can find varieties that bloom deep rose, pink, purple and even white. Redbud leaves have a very distinctive “heart” shape that is dark green and waxy on the top and lighter on the bottom.  The tree produces a flat seed pod in late summer that is attractive to many birds and varmints.  Technically an understory tree, they do well in full sun but do appreciate some afternoon shade.  Their drought tolerance and adaptability to the alkaline soils of Central and South Texas make them an excellent choice for our yards and gardens. 

Like fruit trees, it is best to plant redbuds in late winter.  If you are going to buy your tree from a nursery you might wait until early spring when they have bud development so you can be sure of the color you are getting.  Once purchased, the redbud should be planted like all other balled or potted trees.  Dig a hole about twice as wide and the same depth of the root ball.  Back fill and tamp.  Make sure and leave the plant high enough in the hole to keep the root collar exposed.  Water in well and mulch with a 4” to 6” layer of compost. 

Last weekend, several purple martins began to set up house in my back yard.  Seeing this, I immediately went and inspected my redbuds.  Sure enough, they were covered in buds.  Because of this, I am now pleased to announce that winter is officially over.  Why not get in the car this weekend and enjoy the show provided by the redbuds?  I promise, you will be glad you did!

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16 Responses to Texas Redbuds

  1. Christi says:

    I just learned about your blog from Doug Welsh’s radio program. I was THRILLED to hear that you live in Brenham, since this is where I live as well! I am a garden enthusiast, and have been enjoying a vegetable garden for the past few years.

    I look forward to sitting down and perusing your blog!

  2. Martha W. Suter says:

    My redbud sprout, about 24″ high has two top leaves turning yellow with green veins. Do I need fertilizer, iron or what??

    • Jay White says:

      If you are not overwatering, you could try some supplemental nitrogen. Summer is hard on young plants. Keep it moist and it should be fine. Redbuds are very tough trees.

  3. Janis says:

    Would a Redbud do OK in a large pot for a year? We have an eastern exposure at our rental I would like to give some shade to for summer. We only plan on being here for another year and I’d like to take the trees with me. The backyard here is small and the owners don’t want me to plant trees.

    • Jay White says:

      The trick to containerized redbuds really is size (of the tree and the container). As long as yours looks happy in the pot it is in (blooms, full green leaves in summer) then you should be fine leaving it for another year. When you are able to transplant it, make sure and spread out the roots that tend to wrap around the inside of the pot when it is container grown.

  4. windinthetrees says:

    my red bud is growing into the electric wires. can i prune the top of it to kind of dwarf it? that’ what a local landscaper recommended i do, but if i do so, does it matter when?

    • Jay White says:

      You can most definately prune your redbud. I prune mine every fall. If the tree is interfering with the wires then by all means carefully prune it. However, it is always best to prune your trees in late fall or early winter when they are dormant. So, if you can wait, it will be better for the tree and easier to do in the fall.

  5. Ashley says:

    Good article. Would you think the TX redbud would be a nice tree to line a gravel drive? Do the flowers only bloom in the spring? Live in Louisiana. Was looking for something besides azalaes or crepe myrtle.

    • Jay White says:

      Yes I do! Redbuds are tough, adaptable and beautiful. Much like crepe myrtles, many redbuds are multi-trunked. They have lovely heart-shaped leaves that “sparkle” in a breeze because the are darker on top and almost gray on bottom. They do only bloom in the early spring, but it is such a beautiful bloom!

  6. Deborah says:

    Our daughter was born in late April. We would like to plant a redbud over her placenta. It is now late May and temps are getting into the 90′s. can we plant one now or should we wait till next winter/spring? The spot we want to put it in is full sun with minimal afternoon shade. Thanks.

    • Jay White says:

      Redbuds are Texas Natives and because of that, there is a very good chance the tree will make it whether you plant it now or in the fall. If you buy now, ensure that you water tree almost daily between now and September. Don’t over water but try to never let it dry completely out before September or October. If you can wait, I would recommend planting your tree in the fall. The cooler fall and winter weather allows the tree to become established before our hellish summers kick in. Good luck with whatever you choose.

  7. Christian says:

    How would a redbud fare in coastal regions? Only about 75 yards from the ocean

    • Jay White says:

      I have to admit, I am stumped! I just do not really know. I would suggest looking around your neighbors yards and seeing if they have any. Also, redbuds are technically understory trees in our deciduous forests. If you see native oaks living that close to the water then i would bet the redbud would make it as well. I am sorry i don’t have a better answer for you.

  8. Demetrio Rosales says:

    I live in corpus christi, tx would this tree do well here? And do I have to worry about silk worms or other insects invading this tree?

    • Jay White says:

      I really don’t know. The only thing I am slightly concerned with is the salt. However, since it grows as an understory of oaks I would assume it would be fine if oaks grow in your area. There really are no pest to worry about. If you are going to buy on I would suggest buying from a local business (as oppossed to Lowes or Wal Mart). the local nurseries usually have experts that can advise you on your purchase.

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