Dazzling Redbuds

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and peas grow best in the spring and don’t mind a little frost. Set out plants now and grow your own!
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Asparagus will provide you with delicious, low-priced spears for years to come if you plant them now from dormant crowns.
    • Sweet peas, with their memorable fragrance, can be planted now from seed or from nursery starts for wonderful bouquets later this spring.
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.

Dazzling Redbuds

Redbuds are among the most striking sights of spring. As you drive along Highway 20 in Lake County or the Covelo Road, you will be greeted at each turn by their stunning display of flowers. These California natives are tough shrubs that offer year-round interest.

In the spring, the pea-shaped, magenta flowers bloom in profusion on bare branches, suddenly lighting up the area. The beautiful flowers are replaced by heart-shaped leaves 2 to 3 inches across. The new foliage is bright copper, changing by summer to an attractive blue-green. Flowers are followed by clusters of flat, pointed reddish-brown seed pods. Toward late fall the leaves turn yellow or red, then gradually drop in preparation for spring’s striking show. Older trees, with their reddish brown bark and multi-trunked form make a picturesque silhouette.

Resistant to oak root fungus, western redbuds, Cercis occidentalis, grow very well on dry slopes, where they thrive in the wild. They also perform well in drier, rockier soils along with ceanothus, toyon and manzanita.

Plant western redbuds in any well-drained soil. Give them enough space to reach their mature size of 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. They can grow in full sun or partial or filtered shade. Good drainage is essential and dry, seldom watered banks offer the best location.

Though redbuds are very drought-tolerant when established, they will need several deep waterings during the first summer. Avoid fertilizing and pruning and mulch them with bark or pea gravel to conserve moisture.

As is the case with most classy, fine-performing shrubs, redbud takes its own sweet time to flower. The wait may be three years, but patience will be rewarded with a dazzling early spring show.

The eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is often much easier to grow here, because it is accustomed to summer watering. They are more treelike, usually growing to 20 feet with a graceful horizontal branching pattern. They are faster growing than our native redbuds, with rich green, heart-shaped leaves up to 6 inches wide. Small rosy pink flowers clothe the bare branches in spring.

‘Forest Pansy’ is a variety of eastern redbud that has beautiful maroon foliage. As the rosy pink flowers of ‘Forest Pansy’ fade in the spring, the young leaves emerge a vibrant red. If the tree is planted in full sun, the color becomes a rich claret for the summer. In shade, the color is more subdued.

Redbuds have far fewer pests and diseases than flowering fruit trees and require very little pruning or shaping. They look especially good against a background of dark green conifers which accent the color of the flowers.