May 9, 2005
This is 'Heidi's Tree,'
an Eastern Redbud
planted on Mother's Day
in her honor.


Detailed Facts
Julie's Tree Calendar
Forest Pansy Redbud
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Cercis canadensis

Planted May 2004
Planting height: 8'
Planting trunk: 2" (multi)

2006 Update
2-yr height: ?'
2-yr trunk: ?"

Mature Height: 20 to 30'
Spread: 15 to 25'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Irregular, graceful
Flowers: Pink
Fall color: Yellow Hardiness zone: 4 - 9
Culture: Partial shade

Best feature:
pink flowers

Worst problem:
needs regular pruning

Do over? Yes

'Judas Tree' May Still Be Weak

Thinking Ahead to Fall?


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Eastern Redbud


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver



Key identifying features.. Flowers pop right out of the bark; zigzag branches and heart-shaped leaves.

Common name.. Eastern Redbud

Scientific name.. Cercis canadensis

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-pink flowers appear all over the tree in April or May before the leaves emerge, often persisting for several weeks. Flowers of the 'Forest Pansy’ cultivar tend to appear more on the purple side of pink.


Foliage.. Deciduous; Eastern redbud leaves emerge light green in spring, deepening to darker green in summer, yellow in fall, though fall color can be variable. Leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, distinctly heart-shaped.

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

Hardiness zones.. 4 through 9

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. 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.

Julie's Comments.. (June 2005) This Eastern Redbud tree was given to Heidi, my friend and neighbor, as a Mother's Day gift after she had admired redbud trees from afar and hinted for many moons.

(Update: April 2006) Heidi planted this tree at her house in Metuchen, but has since moved away, leaving her prize tree. I have not yet had the guts to go introduce myself to the new homeowners, asking thier permission to continue photographing and recording this redbud's progress. As I understand it, the Tree Grower's Diary Redbud page was not part of the purchase contract. Still, it would be the neighborly thing to do to let the new homeowners know that their tree is famous throughout the world! I'll get over there soon, and I'll post the story. They might just send me packing and insist that I take the page off the Web. If that happens, we'll just have to convince Heidi's family to plant a redbud tree at her new house. Mother's Day is just around the corner.

Like Heidi, I, too, find redbuds to be fascinating with their heart-shaped leaves, zigzag twigs, delicate form and pretty purplish pink flowers that pop out from any place along the trunk. I need a bigger yard!

Planting date.. May 2004. Multi-trunk, the main one estimated to be about 2-inches in width at planting time. Height: 8 feet.


Mike, a family friend and member of the staff at Barton's Nursery in Edison, helps Gabriel on planting day.

DO OVER?.. Yes, but I prefer the Forest Pansy cultivar for its purple flowers and red leaves in spring.


See Heidi's Redbud Growth Chart
See the Eastern Redbud Journal
See also the 'Forest Pansy' redbuds at St. Francis Cathedral
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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