Eastern redbud trees (Cercis Canadensis) not only enrich Roanoke-area garden landscapes with spring color but this spring-blooming North American species appears between mid-March to mid-April in the understory of native woodlands.
Tiny magenta pea-like flowers emerge like wisps of purple-red smoke on zigzag stems before the heart-shaped leaves. These small flowering trees belong to the pea family (Fabaceae / Leguminosae). In autumn, their yellow-to-golden colored leaves appear from a distance like small yellow flags.
An Interesting Roanoke-area Planting
Redbud trees abound in residential, commercial and private landscapes in the Roanoke area. Flowers are especially magnificent this year, most probably because of the 2011-2012 mild winter temperatures. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Crystal Creek Drive between Bent Mountain Road (U. S. Route 221) and Merriman Road. This is one of the best places to view redbud trees in a stunning natural display.
The location of the Crystal Creek Drive native redbuds demonstrate the preferred habitat of these trees. They thrive in moist, well-drained and deep soils of many kinds. Their natural locations as understory trees show that they prefer light shade rather than full scorching sun.
Stresses such as lack of water, too much water, shallow infertile soil and mechanical injuries lead to weak trees. Vulnerability caused by stress leads to infection by canker, which produces stem dieback, and Verticillium wilt, which leads to chronic symptoms like leaf discoloration and stem dieback.
Eastern Redbud Tree Landscape Uses
Redbud trees not only enrich garden landscapes with spring color but different varieties offer distinctions in form, silhouettes and seasonal color. Well-researched choices lead to establishing good and healthy specimen redbuds. Retired Professor Michael A. Dirr (U. of GA), lists about 30 varieties and cultivars (cultivated varieties) in his book “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses.” Sixth Edition, 2009. Stipes, Publishing, L.L.C., Champaign, IL, 61820
Eastern redbud trees:
- Look best when backed by evergreen trees like pines;
- Make excellent focal points when planted in groups of three, five or seven, or grouped with other spring-blooming plants in island beds;
- Provide picture perfect backdrops for spring and early summer-blooming bulbs and shrubs; and
- Are valuable in shrub borders for their early spring color.