Redbud revelry

Each year, just when we fear winter will never end, redbuds swell and eventually pop open creating a purple fantasy. I think God gave us redbuds as a kind of “Here’s to you, Kid,” for surviving another brown and gray Oklahoma winter.

Yes, it's that red around here. Can you see the redbuds lining either side of the road?

If February is the cruelest month, then March is Little Miss Tricksy. One day, it’s 80F, then back down into the 30s. What’s a plant to do?

Go native, that’s what, and gardeners should follow their lead. Enjoy what nature has to offer and wait until late April to plant those tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant at the local box store.

Check out that contrast against the blue sky. It's no wonder people fall in love.

About this time each spring, my email inbox also swells with questions about Cercis canadensis. People see that lavender against the Oklahoma blue sky, and they find they must have one or two for their yards. I mean, it’s Oklahoma’s state tree, right? Everyone should own this piece of Oklahoma.

On a neighbor's property, these redbuds were thinned out of the Oklahoma scrub, and they are thriving.

Wait, just a moment and read on about redbud culture before plunking one down in your Bermuda grass yard. I don’t want your hearts broken by this small and lovely tree.

These are on the road to my house. The sand plums make a nice understory to the redbuds.

To get a real sense of what redbuds like, you should travel out to their native habitat where they bloom with Prunus gracilis, the Oklahoma sand plum. Both tend to grow along creek banks and roadways where the forest has been cleared, but they still retain some trees for wind protection. Redbuds like sandy soil, so placing one in clay is often a death sentence. They also need water during drought so long as they have good drainage.

I like to think they like people too because they often grow along our roads and near our rural homes.

I decided to drive out to the countryside to see them this morning, and I brought pictures back for you as a bit of Oklahoma springtime.

Hybridizers and plant selection specialists have heard your cry about having a redbud, and they’ve come up with some special cultivars in the last few years. One I see all over town is the wonderful ‘Forest Pansy’ with its bright purple blooms. In the countryside you’ll see native redbuds in lavender and darker shades of purple sometimes planted next to one another. Against he dark bark of the oak trees, they are quite a sight.

The Rising Sun™ redbud

All of the redbuds on my property are natives, that is . . . until now. I sprung for a new introduction The Rising Sun™, and although it isn’t a large tree, I think it will settle in nicely. I did add a bit of organic matter to the soil when Helen Weis and I planted it, but I also placed it on a slope for additional drainage. I noticed when searching for this tree today that my friend Susan Cohan from Miss Rumphius Rules also fell for its charm.She has a better photo of the summer foliage colors.

A closeup view of the foliage from The Rising Sun™ redbud. It deserves two photos I think.

This post about my favorite early spring tree and its plummy companions comes courtesy of Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday. Check out Mr. Linky at the bottom of her post and see who else has wildflowers growing this March.


  1. Petra says:

    Redbuds looks great. I like yellow one especially. I hope i will see one in real life soon.

  2. Anne Bethell says:

    Are you saying that bermuda grass will kill the tree? I’ve cleared an area around them, but 5 of them!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Anne, when trees are young, Bermuda can be a problem if it girdles their roots. I would just keep the trees mulched with wood chips in an area as wide as the drip line for the first few years. However, don’t pile mulch against the tree trunk. This encourages all kinds of diseases, and small animals to eat away at the bark beneath the mulch. HTH.

  3. Debbie says:

    This spring I’m really missing the redbud tree at my last house. I waited five years for it to bloom. It finally did, and the year after that the ice storm split it down the middle. Still, it sprouted out and hung on. I feel like I’ve abandoned it. No hope of growing one in my new yard, which is pure red clay suitable for making bricks.

  4. mary says:

    Gotta love red buds and dogwoods. 🙂

  5. Les says:

    We sell Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) at work which is native for us, but we also sell one by the name of Oklahoma Redbud (C. canadensis ssp. Texensis ‘Oklahoma’) which is a brighter color than Eastern, is more drought tolerant and does not get as big. The number of new Redbud cultivars has certainly multiplied in the past few years. It is getting hard to keep up with.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Les, some of mine are probably ‘Oklahoma’ while others just var. texensis. I’m not sure if I’d know if one came up and slapped me. Interesting thing though, people buy ‘Oklahoma’ here sometimes and tell me they kill it. I’m not sure why they have so much trouble, but these trees don’t ask for very rich soil. Perhaps, theirs doesn’t drain well or is too rich.

  6. Sweetbay says:

    Redbuds are lining the roads here too, and a wonderful sight it is! They seem to do well in clay in NC.

  7. gardenercaleb says:

    Hmm…that’s funny. Our redbuds grow anywhere and everywhere here. Perhaps with more moisture they aren’t as picky about soil? All we have is sticky, thick clay and the redbuds thrive. I didn’t have success with ‘Forest Pansy’, though – it has been sickly and never thrived. We’ve got one of the gold-leaved ones at work, in part shade by a drippy faucet – it’s spectacular throughout the summer. Such a friendly group of plants.

  8. Dee, I love the colors in your first photo! That red, clay soil! Beautiful! I am a New England transplant from Georgia. The Redbuds are so gorgeous all along the roadsides. I can see how one might want to go out and just drive around . . . if not for gas prices being so high. Very beautiful post.

    1. gardenercaleb says:

      Maybe bike, instead?

  9. Rose says:

    Every year when the rebuds first put out their beautiful lavender blooms, my heart is filled with joy, because I know that spring is truly here. I didn’t realize, though, that it was Oklahoma’s state tree. We have lots of redbuds growing wild along our Illinois roads, too–such a lovely spring sight.

  10. Donna says:

    what a great tree….it has everything…and the colors are spectacular….wow

  11. Racquel says:

    I’ve always wanted one of these trees, but glad you mentioned the sandy soil bit. They wouldn’t be too thrilled with my native clay soil. Oh well I’ll just have to be happy with something else I guess. 😉

  12. Cynthia says:

    The redbuds are finishing up down here in central Texas. They are lovely – and I really like your picture of them with sand plums!

  13. gail says:

    Oh my, Dee, that is one charming ‘red’bud! Will see if they have ‘Rising Sun’ locally. I love species cercis, love the way it pinks up spring and looks against the blue sky. It’s a great tree to celebrate Wildflower Wednesday. gail

  14. Leslie says:

    We have Western Redbuds here and they are lovely right now too. Such a nice color after winter!

  15. I love redbuds, they are just the prettiest trees. (I’m still waiting for mine to bloom for the first time.) Your new one is fab – I wish it was hardy here.

  16. Phillip says:

    Oh, I want one of those “Rising Sun” so bad!

  17. I just love red buds. Fell for them hard in college as the campus and surrounding hills had tons of them. I still have all the photos I took of them blooming then. Now, I have two in my garden and I’ve noticed the buds swelling too.

  18. Your newest specimen looks very nice on that slope and I understand your desire to add it. Not everything need be ‘native’, in my opinion. So many great cultivars to experiment with and learn about! Cercis canadensis thrive in this area and we are very much clay. It seems to be native to much of the country where there is clay, so I’m wondering if the clay-issue could be limited to particular circumstances? Probably just depends on multiple environmental factors that accompany the clay.

  19. Redbuds don’t seem to bloom here natively, but I am tempted to try one. Our winters have been milder lately.

  20. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Wow, that new yellow redbud is a beauty. I can see why you were seduced into purchasing one. The redbuds here aren’t quite ready to bloom. It won’t be long though.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Lisa, I know, isn’t is lovely? I’ve wanted it since it was introduced. Now, I need to keep it alive. I hope your redbuds bloom sooner than you expect.~~Dee

Comments are closed.