The North American native Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is an ornamental tree whose clusters of purple blooms are a favorite harbinger of spring. At a mature height of 30 feet with an equally wide spread, this little tree is perfect for small spaces, mixed borders or planted in groupings in naturalized gardens. Eastern redbud is native to the eastern half of the United States and is cold hardy from zone 5 to 9. So it is widely adaptable and should be well suited to your Pennsylvania garden.
Plant your trees in an area that receives full sun to partial shade. The blooms are more prolific in sunny areas, but it does appreciate some protection from intense afternoon heat.
Redbuds will tolerate most soil types, but prefer moist, well-drained locations. Poor drainage is the kiss of death. On the flip side they will survive short dry periods, although you should water regularly during extended droughts.
Whether your soil is acidic, alkaline or neutral doesn't seem to affect redbuds. They should thrive in any soil pH. To encourage lots of blooms feed the tree with a high phosphorous fertilizer in early spring. Something like super-phosphate with a nutrient ratio of 0-20-0 would work well.
There are several varieties of redbud with exceptional characteristics. Here are a few to consider planting in your garden:
- 'Red Forest Pansy' - In addition to the purple blooms this tree produces dark burgundy leaves.
- Cercis canadensis var. alba - This is the red bud's white flowering cousin.
- Cercis Canadensis var. texensis 'Oklahoma' - This variety produces deep wine colored blooms. The leaves open pink and mature to a nice glossy green.
- 'Royal White' - Another white blooming variety.
- Lavender Twist' - This tree has a weeping form.
- 'Silver Cloud' - Green and white mottled foliage make this variety unique. Best for partial shade locations.