Spring is a wonderful season, filled with beautiful flowering shrubs and trees. Many have white or pink flowers, but few if any rival the power and beauty of the Appalachian Redbud when it is smothered with its brilliant fuchsia-red blooms. The stand-out small tree really catches attention, and it is a garden show-stopper. It is also attractive all summer, with its interesting form, and its unusual heart-shaped leaves, which turn clear yellow in fall.
We are perhaps used to brightly-colored plants being from somewhere exotic, but no, this tree is a selected form of a native plant, and it fits well into the most natural garden, as well as into a more structured and designed one too. Despite its great beauty, the Appalachian Redbud is not hard to grow – not at all. It is fast-growing, has no serious pests, it is not normally eaten by deer, and it will even grow beneath black walnut, a tree that is known for its ability to kill many other types of trees planted anywhere near it.
Growing Appalachian Redbud Trees
The Appalachian Redbud grows rapidly into a multi-trunk small tree or large shrub, reaching as much as 25 feet tall and wide in time, although most plants are closer to 10 or 15 feet tall. The bark is dark-gray to black, and it becomes ridged and furrowed on older stems. The tree has an attractive twisted habit, and makes a beautiful specimen on a lawn, or in a bed with smaller shrubs. The leaves are 3 to 5 inches across, rounded, with a heart-shaped base. They are an interesting gray-green color with a matt surface, and the tree in leaf is almost as beautiful as it is in flower. In fall the leaves turn shades of clear yellow, adding to the colors of that season.
The Appalachian Redbud flowers very early in spring, before most other plants have begun to stir back to life, and before its own leaves emerge. It lightens up a cold garden with a beacon of color, heralding the spring that has barely arrived. The flowers grow in clusters of 4 to 8 which sprout directly from the branches and even the trunk. The flowers are small, perhaps ½ inch across, and look like sweet peas, giving away that this tree is in the pea family. Although small, their vibrant fuchsia-red color, and their profusion on the bare branches, creates a powerful effect, even in a young tree. The flowers are followed by seed pods up to 4 inches long. These are bean-like and turn brown in summer. They often persist on the tree into winter, slowly opening to release the large seeds.
Planting and Initial Care
Grow the Appalachian Redbud in full sun or partial shade. Some afternoon shade is best in hotter states. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with plenty of organic material. Mulch your tree each spring with compost or manure and keep it well-watered in dry periods. Trees have some drought resistance, but growth will be weaker and more prone to disease if it is regularly dry for long periods. It is usually not bothered by deer, and generally free of pests. No pruning is required, except to remove any small branches that may die. You can also remove branches from the lower parts of the trunk to create a more tree-like form, if you wish. Prune your tree at any time you notice the need to.
History and Origins of the Appalachian Redbud
The Appalachian Redbud is a unique color-form of the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). This tree only grows wild in the most southern parts of Canada, just north of Niagara and most of its spread is in the US. Here it grows from the Great Lakes to Florida and inland as far as Nebraska and eastern Texas. It thrives in areas with good rainfall and as we move west into drier states it is replaced by the very similar-looking Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). That tree is is a good choice if you live in drier places in the west. Wild trees of the Eastern Redbud have flowers of a lilac-pink color, but a unique tree with fuchsia-red flowers was found growing along a road in the state of Maryland. Branches of that tree was collected, grown, and this very special tree was named ‘Appalachian Red’.
Our trees are grown by taking selected pieces from trees of this variety and attaching them to roots of seedling redbud trees. These form sturdy plants ready to quickly establish themselves in your garden. If your tree should begin to have branches growing from ground-level with lilac flowers, remove them completely, to preserve the identity of your unique tree. These selected forms of Redbud are always in high demand with discerning gardeners, and our stock will soon be gone. Order now to enjoy very special springs in your garden.