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.

This lovely redbud was captured by Bruce Leander at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This lovely redbud was captured by Bruce Leander at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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.


Redbud in bloom by Bruce Leander

Redbud in bloom by Bruce Leander

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.

Raindrops on redbud blooms by Bruce Leander

Raindrops on redbud blooms by Bruce Leander

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.

The blooms of the redbud are a sure indicator that Spring is just around the corner!  Photo by Bruce Leander

The blooms of the redbud are a sure indicator that Spring is just around the corner! Photo by Bruce Leander

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!

33 thoughts on “Texas Redbuds

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

    • 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. 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.

    • 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. 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?

    • 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. 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.

    • 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  7. 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?

    • 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.

  8. I’ve been ill for a while (a couple years) and have just noticed my redbud tree has grown over onto my roof, and up under the eaves of the house. The house is built into a hill, so that the back roof line, in some areas is very low to the ground of backyard. Unfortunately, this tree grows at an angle, toward the house and it appears I need to cut a good portion of the tree off. Should I wait until Fall? or should I do it now, to prevent roof damage?

    • That is unfortunate. If the tree is causing damage to the roof I say cut it back now. Not too severely, but get it off the roof. If it can wait it is always best to do all pruning in late fall after the tree is dormant. I have one that does the same thing. Not only is it on the roof, there are limbs that get in my face as I go into my garage. I trim the “troublesome limbs” whenever they get in the way. I do a full trim in the fall.

  9. My redbud 5 years old receives full San Antonio sun all day this time of year- August. Some of the leaves are burning. Husband put a large umbrella over it to protect from the sun. What else do you recommend?

    • Unfortunately there is not a lot you can do. Redbuds are technically understory trees. Because of that they do like some protection from the hot afternoon sun. While there are some varieties that tolerate the heat better, most of them will burn a little at this time of year. The best thing you can do for your tree is keep it hydrated. I would do a good, deep watering every four or five days.

  10. Hi. We planted a Texas Redbud in our yard some 5-6 years ago here in Bastrop. Every year there are fewer and fewer buds or leaves. This year we have one branch with buds. The rest of the tree does not appear stiff or dead – branches don’t snap anyways. Anything we can do or should we find a new tree to replace it with? Thanks ever so much.

    • Since redbuds are native they are pretty tough when it comes to local bugs. However, what you are describing sounds like some kind of scale infestation. There is a new scale insect that has been brought in accidentally. It is doing exactly what you describe to crepe myrtles across the state. They have now confirmed that this scale has migrated to native beauty berry bushes. While I have not heard of it spreading to any other plant, that does not mean that it can’t. If you want to save the tree I would spray it about once a month with horticultural oil. It would have been better to spray it before the buds opened but since you are about to lose the tree I would give this a try. If it makes it through this season then I would cut away the dead limbs and just grow a single trunk redbud tree.

      • Many thanks!
        We just cut down some 14 year old bushes dues to a scale battle we lost. They were every where inside the bushes.
        I did not realize/think about the trees. I didn’t see any on this little tree of ours.
        We did a heavy search and found some in our HUGE Bradford Pear trees 🙁
        I will look for oil to see if we can save any of our plants. Thank you for the oil idea.
        Again thank you,

  11. Pingback: First blog post – Stormy Day – A Tale of a Texamese Family

  12. Pingback: First blog post – Stormy Day | A Tale of a Texamese Family

    • The “proper answer” is prune deciduous trees when they are dormant. However, sometimes that is just not practical. I have a large redbud tree by my garage. Its limbs often hang low and obstruct our walk way. When this happens I trim it. All trees can handle I light pruning at anytime. Just wait to do the major stuff until the leaves fall off.

  13. I purchased a home with a redbud tree that appears to be about 3 years old however this year there were hardly any leaves and the majority of the branches are snapping off. Any suggestions?

    • Very hard to say. If you are in Texas water was probably not the problem. We actually got ample water this year. In fact, we got so much water that if your plant is in a low area or a boggy area it could cause the type of symptoms you are seeing. Redbuds are naturalized for average rainfall. If they get too much water they can suffer and exhibit the same symptoms they show with too little water.

  14. My wife bought a Redbud in a 5 gallon container and put the container in the front yard prior to planting. The deer have eaten ALL the leaves off. She still wants to plant it without leaves. What should she do at this point?

    • First, redbuds are incredibly resilient trees, especially when they are smal and actively growing. I have mowed them down before and had them come right back. I would suggest planting it and seeing what happens. I would try and keep the deer away from it though. Also, where I am it is beginning to get hot. That means any trees I put out now will need be watered twice a week until things cool down again in the fall. Not sure of your location, but if you want to wait until fall to put the tree out you can leave it in the container and put it in a shady spot and care for it over the summer. I do this a lot because it is a lot easier to keep my nursery watered than it is for me to water trees in my yard.

Leave a Reply