Ask a Question forum: Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 13, 2015 7:38 PM CST
I have one of these trees that is going into it's 3rd year here -- it is just now beginning to get some leaves on it, and I'm wondering if it is typically very late to break dormancy after the winter or if my tree is on it's last legs (or maybe it's last roots?) ?? I believe these normally bloom before the leaves come out, right? And there have been no blooms, so maybe that's why the leaves are so late to emerge? I love these trees, but right now I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and dig it out and replace it with something else, or continue to hope it will actually work for me. Thanks for any insight!
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Name: Jolana
Mountain City, Tx (Zone 8b)
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froggardener
Jun 13, 2015 8:37 PM CST
Hi Sandy, I have many redbuds and one reseeds a lot. Some flower the first year and I've had some not bloom for up to 5 yrs
What are the growing conditions
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jun 13, 2015 8:56 PM CST
Hi Jolana -- I live in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, so pretty much cold, colder, coldest would describe the growing conditions here... Smiling

Two winters ago we had an unusually horrendous winter, with extended periods of sub-zero temps, but the little tree came back pretty well last summer (although again it was quite late to break dormancy). This past winter wasn't nearly as cold, pretty moderate for us really... but I'm kind of wondering now if the redbud was so stressed from the last winter that it's about to give up.
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Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Jun 13, 2015 9:36 PM CST
I'll be really interested in the responses here. I was given a small redbud that was obtained from some kind of Arbor Day promotion. Redbuds are abundant here in Texas. The one I've been growing now for about four years doesn't leaf out very early at all. Other redbuds have bloomed and are covered with foliage before mine breaks dormancy. It looks like a redbud in every way as far as the leaves and plant habit. It has never bloomed and is still relatively small. In the beginning I thought it might have died, but the growth is healthy - just very late. So I've been guessing it's not the same redbud that I'm accustomed to seeing primarily because of its habit of breaking dormancy late. I think those in Texas are called western redbuds. The question would be for someone knowledgeable with both plants, if that is correct, who might know if there's a significant difference when they break dormancy.
Donald
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jun 14, 2015 7:50 AM CST
Donald, that is very interesting to hear... I believe my tree came from Musser Forests. I hope someone here will have some info about this for both of us!
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 14, 2015 8:01 AM CST
I have two redbuds - one nursery-grown and the other one of those little sticks from Arbor Day. Both growing in mostly shade. They do tend to leaf out later than other trees with the flowers showing up first. My little stick has grown into about 20 ft and lives in the most sheltered area of my yard and lost half of the top during the winter of '13/'14. The nursery-grown one was over 20' tall and is probably in too much shade, resulting in thin growth. It got severely pruned by a tree company on behalf of local utility. The pruning, however, encouraged new branching growth which turned out great. It had only a few blooms this spring but maybe because the new branches are young? They can probably take more sun than where I have them growing - maybe morning sun? (which I don't have)
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jun 14, 2015 8:07 AM CST
Thanks, Cindy! My tree is only about 5 feet tall right now, I hope it survives to be an actual tree someday... Encouraging to know that mine is not the only one that is leafing out so late, at any rate. Thumbs up
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Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Jun 14, 2015 8:16 AM CST
I hope so too. In the database Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) has the synonym of 'California Redbud'. There is an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis). Those commonly grown in Texas may be a variety of Eastern Redbuds. I know from observation that there is some variation in the appearance of those seen here, especially in those populations that seem to be growing as natives. I've never noticed any difference in breaking dormancy. They all seem to bloom and leaf out at the same time. Mine just isn't on the same schedule, that's for sure Smiling . It was a tiny plant when it was mailed out. I think there was something like ten trees in the original package, two of each variety and all of them would have fit inside a paper towel tube. Then when it was given to me, it was dug out of hard ground in the middle of the summer and lost lots of roots. Moving it in the middle of a drought under excessive heat and then planting in full sun -I was skeptical it would live, but it did. Mine is planted in red clay/gravel backfill by a retaining wall. Extremely poor growing medium, but the Cercis seem to thrive in areas with poor soil. I think it's still not mature enough to bloom, but it's getting there.
Donald
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jun 14, 2015 8:17 AM CST
Hi,
I've got one that was 'gifted' to me by a critter of some kind...Bird, or squirrel, I don't know. Just found it coming up one year in a bed, I put it in a pot, and babied it along for about 3 or 4 years. Finally I found a spot in the yard for it. For the first couple of years that it was in the ground, it was very late to lose all it's leaves. In fact we had a couple of freezes before it dropped it's leaves, and I thought it was a goner. It also broke dormancy late, and did not bloom at all. Until this year! It had maybe a dozen little flowers, and is maybe more than 12 feet tall. Currently looking very lush, and I'm hoping that next year it will be full of blooms.
I'm not sure about the differences, if any, between the 'eastern', or 'western', but I am beginning to believe that the age of the tree is what is really at play here.
This is mine as 1st planted in 2011...
And this is from my front porch today...
Thumb of 2015-06-14/terrafirma/8c4553

Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jun 14, 2015 8:20 AM CST
Hi Donald,
Cross posted! I agree, I think the maturity is key.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 14, 2015 10:13 AM CST
Terra - what a score - a free redbud!
I'm always curious how those redbuds do that are planted out in full sun. Waaay back when I was learning what to grow in all of my shade, redbud was recommended as an understory tree. I've seen tons of self-sown redbuds in bloom on the rock bluffs along I65 in KY and am amazed. Obviously, they can make do with some adverse conditions. I will say that my Arbor Day stick (which has to be at least 15 years old) has never bloomed. Maybe too much shade. My other tree gets a little more dappled sun (hardly any) but none get fertilized even via commercial pelletized chicken manure that we feed to our lawn.
Sandy - the UP stays colder much longer. That might have something to do with a tree that is originally late to leaf out.
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Jun 14, 2015 1:03 PM CST
Cindy,
Yes, indeed! I felt very fortunate when I found this little one growing in a Caladium bed.
I was very concerned about the placement of it, because I too had heard that they are 'understory' trees, and this one is in full sun. But it does though seem to be doing quite well.(She says as she's knocking on wood!) Hilarious!
I planted this one in 2011, and it has pretty much been ignored, as far as the fertilizer goes. I do have it mulched, but it's growing in our good old Florida sand. Very adverse conditions, indeed! Again, I'm still knocking on that wood! And keeping my fingers crossed!
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 14, 2015 2:46 PM CST
That's one very full tree. Bet it will be gorgeous when it's old enough to bloom.
Name: Jolana
Mountain City, Tx (Zone 8b)
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Bee Lover The WITWIT Badge Region: Texas Garden Art Irises
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froggardener
Jun 14, 2015 4:40 PM CST
The trees here that bloom as tiny trees are all under the edge of big oaks and pecans. The majority of them in the wild are understory trees but after saying that, The trees in full sun bloom just a little time after
We got 10 redbuds from arbor day a 7 years ago to give to a co-worker that was getting her first house and they still haven't bloomed. Gardening does try to teach us patience, lol
Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That's the fun of them.
You're always learning !
Helen Mirren
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 14, 2015 5:14 PM CST
Those Arbor Day trees require extra patience. I think mine was finally old enough to start blooming but the winter got the top half. Maybe I should cut off the dead part and see what it does.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jun 14, 2015 6:19 PM CST
So happy to see all the responses here! Hurray!
My tree (I originally had two of them, but one died the first winter that it was in its permanent location (I had overwintered them, with protection, in the garden the first year) is planted in full sun -- but "full sun" in the UP is probably like saying "total shade" in Florida and Texas...

Does anyone have any suggestions for what I might do to help protect the tree over the winter for a few years, at least, to kind of get it going? Maybe a heavy mulch around the base? Wrap it with burlap (which would still be relatively practical, since it's only 4-5 feet tall) ? Something else? I am feeling a bit better, knowing that they leaf out later than other trees for other people as well... and I realize this poor thing is probably rather marginal where I am, but I really do love these trees so I hope it survives! Smiling
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Name: Jolana
Mountain City, Tx (Zone 8b)
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Bee Lover The WITWIT Badge Region: Texas Garden Art Irises
Daylilies Butterflies Dragonflies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers Hibiscus
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froggardener
Jun 14, 2015 8:13 PM CST
I have a 5'.5" lightweight aluminum ladder that I used to put over *special* plants and wrap it with a blanket or sheet
When it gets really cold, (okay, I know that is probably giving you a chuckle) I wrap the ladder with Christmas lights before the sheet or blanket. With leaves piled high around roots
I think they are hardy to 4 or 5 tho
Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That's the fun of them.
You're always learning !
Helen Mirren
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Jun 14, 2015 8:18 PM CST
How have you been handling it in the winter? If it's in its 3rd year, you must be doing something right though protecting a small plant has to be easier than trying to protect a big one. I have no concept of the kind of winters you folks endure and hopefully will never be in a position to have to learn Smiling . Was it on its own last winter?
Donald
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Organic Gardener Garden Sages Birds Frogs and Toads Plant Identifier
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terrafirma
Jun 15, 2015 5:56 AM CST
Sandy, I'm thinking that your tree should be just fine. According to the general info in the database these can withstand -25F to -30F. Very cold hardy, I'd say. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
I've not given mine any protection, and yes, I know, I'm in North Florida, where our lows only get into the upper 20's, to lower 30's. But having said that, it's in an area of my yard that is susceptible to extreme frost, nearly as thick as snow! (Yes, I hear y'all chuckling! Hilarious! )
I do keep a fairly thick amount of mulch around mine, both for the drought and extreme heat of summer, and our 'chill' of winter, not to mention the basic weed control.(Like there is such a thing!)
Big Grin
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jun 15, 2015 6:41 AM CST
Since the first year, when it was overwintered in my veg garden and covered, I haven't given it any protection... and it managed to survive the winter of 2013-2014, when we had really extended (month-long) periods of -10F and colder temps, with frost down at least 6 feet in the ground; last winter wasn't nearly that bad, fortunately. We do generally get a good bit of snow cover, at least 2-3 feet deep out in the yard, so I'm sure that helps protect the roots, and we also usually get plenty of rain in the fall so things don't normally go into the winter dehydrated. So, yes, I guess it's a pretty tough specimen! I guess it will either live -- or not Hilarious! . Wouldn't be the first plant I ever lost... (I do hope it survives long enough to bloom at least once, though Big Grin )
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