May 2005
'Forest Pansy' Redbud
Three trees on the grounds of St. Francis Cathedral, Metuchen


Detailed Facts
Julie's Tree Calendar
Eastern Redbud
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Cercis canadensis-
'Forest Pansy'

Planted Fall 2003
Planting height: 5'
Planting trunk: 1" (multi)

2006 Update
3-yr height: 13'
3-yr trunk: 3"

Mature Height: 20 to 30'
Spread: 15 to 25'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Irregular, graceful
Flowers: Purple
Fall color: Yellow
Hardiness zone: 6 - 8
Culture: Partial shade

Best feature:
purple flowers

Worst problem:
needs regular pruning

Do over? Yes

Redbud Reprise and No Mulch Volcanoes

'Judas Tree' May Still Be Weak

Thinking Ahead to Fall?


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Forest Pansy Redbud


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

April 2005


Key identifying features.. Purple flowers pop right out of the bark; zigzag branches and red heart-shaped leaves in early summer. (By summer, leaves change to mostly green, with some red in the veins.)

Common name.. Eastern Redbud

Scientific name.. Cercis canadensis - 'Forest Pansy'

Mature height.. 20 to 30 feet

Mature spread.. 15 to 25 feet

Form.. Irregular when young, forming a graceful, flat-topped or rounded crown as it matures. These trees often have more than one trunk, unless trained when young.

Fruit.. 1- to 3-inch brown pods form in fall, but present no significant litter problem. Some birds are attracted by the beans.

Flowers.. Purple flowers appear all over the tree in April or May before the leaves emerge, often persisting for several weeks. Flowers of the Eastern Redbud parent are pink, not purple.

April 24, 2006


Foliage.. Deciduous; Forest Pansy redbud leaves emerge red in spring, changing to dark green in summer with a hint of red in the veins, yellow in fall, though fall color can be variable. Leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, distinctly heart-shaped.


May, shade



Growth rate.. Fast; one to two feet a year.

Hardiness zones.. 6 through 8

Culture.. A native understory tree, a redbud will thrive in most soil types including alkaline and clay; tolerates both drought and wet soil, though well-drained soil is preferred. Grows best in light shade, though a Forest Pansy cultivar will hold its spring red leaves longer the more sun it gets. The ideal spot will have full sun in late winter, which will help the blossoms along, but the tree will benefit from shade during the heat of summer. A member of the bean and pea family, the redbud can use nitrogen from the air as a nutrient. Thus, nitrogen is rarely needed as a fertilizer.

Best time to prune.. In fall, when the tree is dormant, but some of the spring blooms may be lost. The second best time to prune is in spring, just after the blooms have fallen.

Of special note.. Redbud trees, though graceful and showy, are short-lived trees and should be pruned to avoid weak forks, especially in trees with multiple trunks. To increase the chances for a long and happy life, plant in a moist, but well-drained spot and keep lateral branches less than half the diameter of the main trunk, spacing branches 6 to 10 inches apart. Also note that these trees have thin bark. Special care should be taken to avoid damage.

Legend.. Redbud is also known as "The Judas Tree" because, according to legend, Judas Iscariot used an old world relative of redbud to hang himself. This is why the tree is now so weak-wooded; it refuses to grow branches that would be strong enough to hang another.

July 2004

Julie's Comments.. (June 2005) These three Forst Pansy Redbud trees are planted on the grounds of St. Francis Cathedral in Metuchen, New Jersey, in an adorable courtyard in front of the youth building. I often see people sitting on the little bench, resting, perhaps along the walk to the train station or the ice cream shop.

April 12, 2006: They were on their way to What's the Scoop

Planting date.. Uncertain, but to the best of my memory, the group was planted in fall of 2003. Estimated height at planting time: 5 feet. Multi-trunk, the main one estimated to be about 1-inch in width at planting time, but these trees clearly have a mapped out pruning plan, as fully one-third of the trees are taken out every year. The trees now have a strong central leader. I find it interesting to study where the pruning is taking place, and which direction a branch takes after it has been pruned near a bud. What a grand lesson for me! Plus, the landscapers here don't bury their trees in mulch volcanoes. This leads me to the conclusion that they know what they're doing. Learning from their pruning experiment will help me with my own trees.

DO OVER?.. Yes.


See the Forest Pansy Redbud Growth Chart
See the Forest Pansy Redbud Journal
See also the Eastern Redbud in Heidi's yard
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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