Fertilizing Redbud Trees - Knowledgebase Question

Lake Bluff, IL
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Question by bearboya
April 18, 2000
I have gotten many different responses to this question and need some help! Last year I planted 3 Redbud trees in my yard. I have a professional arborist organization fertilize all my trees annually. They informed me that Redbuds need sulphur to maintain good health. They told me to go to a nearby nursery/garden shop and purchase some there. When I went to the nursery/garden shop they weren't sure what to give me. I've made two trips so far, back and forth with things they thought I needed. On the last trip they gave me "garden sulphur". When I read the bag, I got scared. There were lots of precautions and only instructions to use the product as an insecticide. I called The Chicago Botanic gardens hotline - two different people told me two opposite things. One said Yes they need sulphur, another said leave the trees alone. I don't know what to do and I don't know what to purchase, if I need to fertilize them. Help!

Name: Margie Perse

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A comment from margieperse
April 29, 2018
Why do you fertilize established or newly planted trees annually? Who told you to do this?

Answer from NGA
April 18, 2000
Uploaded by greenthumb99
According to Michael Dirr's well respected "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" Redbuds are well adapted to many soil types except to permanently wet ones; he also specifically indicates that they tolerate a wide range of pH, so it is unlikely that you would need to do anything drastic to your soil in order to get these trees to grow. (They are in fact native over a wide range of climates and conditions.) He does point out that they should be kept vigorous by regular watering and fertilization. The amount and type of fertilizer would be determined by the results of some basic soil tests; your county extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. However, in early spring you could apply some compost and/or a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-5 in granular form broadcast around the root zone of the plant according to the label instructions.

This, combined with maintaining several inches of organic mulch year round, should be sufficient to feed the soil and keep the tree healthy. Watering is probably more critical than anything else in establishing new trees. Water as needed to keep the soil moist yet not soggy, taking care to water deeply less often, rather than applying a daily light sprinkling. Good luck with your trees!

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A comment from BonniePega
April 28, 2018
I have six redbuds on my property. I do absolutely NOTHING to them--except set up a soaker house once or twice a summer when we are in a drought. I work with an arborist. He said that redbuds are highly adaptable trees and need little in the way of maintenance. I asked him about feeding them annually and he asked me. "For what?" he said they don't need an annual feeding--unless (and he said this would be VERY VERY RARE if there was an apparent nutrient deficiency. My trees are three years old, huge and full and loaded with flowers every spring.

Name: Deborah Grigsby

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A comment from dgrigsby25
April 29, 2018
I have two redbuds about two years of since I planted them, they are between 4 and 6ft tall. Neither has bloomed, they produce leaves but no blooms. Is there something I need to give them to get blooms?

Name: Anita
West Fulton, NY (Zone 5a)
"Let food be thy medicine...."
A comment from Lioba
April 30, 2018
I got 2 from Arbor.org a few years ago. One survived. Its only 4 ft. tall. Its in good mulch, planted next to the creek. It has finally gotten some leaves. I'm in the same boat as you Deborah.

Avatar for maryann
A comment from maryann
May 6, 2018
years ago I planted a saucer magnolia, it didn't bloom for 2-3 years. I asked several nurseries about this. One said try Jobes Plant spikes for flowering trees. I did this and my tree has bloomed beautifully for 30 years now.Occasionally I've used this on other plants and trees and am happy with the result.

Avatar for cftutt
Answer from cftutt
April 28, 2018
I live in rural Missouri on 42 acres. Redbuds have thrived unattended here for centuries. All you need to do in a manicured invironment is prune low hanging branches so you can mow under them.

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Answer from Johnnydogmat
April 28, 2018
Certainly I've found these trees easy to grow, and the bonus is that they self seed. Given how rapidly they grow, you can end up with more of these gorgeous native trees before you know it.

Avatar for Lizmo
A comment from Lizmo
May 3, 2018
We live on 40 acres in Mo and I save the seed and plant them here and there, most along fence rows. I find that They are easy to grow from seed.

Avatar for PinkLady
Answer from PinkLady
May 20, 2018
I have a Redbud tree in my yard that has been growing for about fifteen or so years. My mother in law gave it to me as a start from an established Redbud in her yard. About eight years after the tree was planted beavers chewed it down to an eighteen inch nub. I promptly erected a chicken wire fence around the tree. It came back from the nub with great gusto and is now ten feet tall and blooms regularly. I do absolutely nothing to this tree with the exception of watering if we are in a severe drought.

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