One of the earliest and most brilliant trees to flower in the landscape is the redbud. Even if you don’t know the name redbud, you probably still know the tree and it flowers in early spring before its leaves emerge. The small flowers are an iridescent pink, purple, red, or white color, depending on the variety, that makes the dreary early spring landscape light up. With cool weather, redbuds can flower for weeks in early spring, offering bright spots in an otherwise drab scene. In addition, their heart shaped leaves make these trees attractive even when not in bloom. The leaves also turn a beautiful golden color in fall. There are selections of redbuds with variegated leaves and golden leaves as well.
Native redbuds grow across the country along with many introduced varieties. Select varieties and species adapted to your area. They are hardy to USDA Zones 5 to 9. In colder climates, plant in a protected location to ensure the flower buds survive the winter. Redbuds flower best in full to part sun on well drained soil. The trees don’t tolerate wet soils and can slowly decline if planted where the soil will seasonally flood. Redbuds are medium-sized trees, growing 20 to 30 feet tall and wide, so they are perfect for small yards or for shading a patio. Since they tolerate part sun, they can also be planted along the edge of a forest or in an open woodland.
Because redbuds have an open canopy, you can plant other flowers around their base. Consider planting part shade loving hellebores, impatiens, lamiums, and violas under the tree as a groundcover. If you don’t underplant the tree with flowers, create a mulch ring: add a 2 to 4 inch thick layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and weed-free. Redbuds can also be planted in a perennial flowers as a structural tree. Consider planting early flowering iris, peonies, and bleeding hearts near redbuds to offer some color contrast.