Redbud trees are native to eastern United States and add a lot of beauty through their bright pink blossoms. Knowing how to plant a redbud tree can help you get a good start on growing these beautiful plants. You can plant them as shrub borders, in woodland areas, or as specimen trees. Although their beautiful pink blossoms will last for 2-3 weeks during the spring, their shape and leaf color will still add beauty throughout the year.
- Height and Width: 20-30 feet height with a width of 15-35 feet
- Growing/Hardiness Zone: 4-8
- Disease Resistance: Redbuds are susceptible to canker and tree borers.
- Soil preference: Prefer well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5-8.
- Sun preference: Can grow in with full – partial sun. However they have a more elongated shape in partial shade as they reach more for the sun.
Moreover, the redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, goes by many names. Other common names include American Judas Tree, American Redbud, Judas Tree, Mexican Redbud, Redbud, Texas Redbud, Eastern Redbud and North American Redbud. Cercis comes from the Greek word kerkis, which means weaver’s shuttle. In fact, redbuds received this name because their seed pod looks like a weaver’s shuttle.
How to Plant a Redbud Tree in 7 Steps
When to Plant Redbud Trees
For bare root trees in hardiness zones 7 and below, plant when the tree is dormant and when the ground is thawed, hence early spring. If you plant in the fall, you risk having a very harsh winter damage and kill the trees before their roots establish themselves in the soil. In the summer the low moisture and high heat may cause stress and damage. Therefore you can plant once the ground thaws and there is no rain or snow. Depending on your region, this can be anytime between February to May. If you are planting in a container and not bare root, you are more flexible since you’ll be planting with the soil that the roots have established themselves in. However even with a container, be careful during the winters since the ground can’t be frozen and it shouldn’t be too wet.
However for planting in zones 8 and above which don’t have cold winters, you can plant bare root trees in the winter and fall since the tree is dormant and doesn’t risk damage from the harsh winters. Additionally, it is easier to plant containerised trees in the winter for these zones.
How to Plant a Redbud Tree: Materials Needed
- Another helper to hold the tree vertically when you plant (will need two sets of hands)
- A bucket/bin to soak the tree roots in water if the tree is bare root.
- A shovel or spade for digging
- Tree guards for protecting against animal damage
- 1-2 Gallons of Water
1. Prepare Tree
- When the redbud tree arrives, it will come either in a container or bare root (without the soil it was in). Take it out of the box and place your tree in a cool (not freezing) place out of the sun, e.g. your garage.
- If the tree is bare root and has been in transport for more than 4 days, be sure to soak immediately in water for 6-24 hours and plant immediately after.
- If the tree is bare root and you need to wait for more that a week to plant, be sure to keep the roots wet by spraying with water. Keep the roots in the plastic wrap so that they stay moist and healthy. You can keep the trees in a cool shaded basement or garage. Then soak in water for 6-24 hours and plant afterwards.
2. Prepare Soil
You should prepare the planting area before planting the tree.
- Redbuds do well in a wide range of soils (even poor soils) and with a wide range of pH levels, (about 5.5 to 8). They do prefer moist, well-drained soil therefore soil that is soggy and doesn’t drain well will cause damage.
- Before planting, you can test the soil for acidity and drainage (you can use inexpensive DIY methods).
- Although optional, feel free to add organic matter such as compost to your soil to increase nutrients. Or add lime to balance the acidity if needed. However do not add fertilizer directly to the soil the tree’s roots will touch.
- Till the soil so that the nutrients become integrated into the soil and the soil becomes less compact so that the roots grow well.
- For a containerised tree, dig a hole that is about two times the width of the container it came in. The depth of the hole should be about the same as the depth of the container.
- In the case of bare root trees, dig a hole that is two times the width of the root ball or the circumference of the roots. The depth should be the same depth it was planted in before which you can tell by the soil line on the trunk.
- If it is in a container, gently take out the tree from the container and place in the middle of the hole.
- If bare root, first put some soil in a mound in the hole so that when you place the tree down, the roots slope down and fan out. Trim the roots as needed so that they do not twist. This will enable the tree to spread its roots further.
- If you are planting from a container, simply backfill the soil to ground level.
- If bare root, holding the tree vertically, place the nutrient rich topsoil you dug out back near the roots. Once half the soil is placed around the tree, carefully press the soil down with your feet to destroy air pockets. DO NOT put fertilizer or compost into the hole where the roots are as this will damage the tree. Put the rest of the soil on top and press down repeatedly with your foot.
- If the redbud tree is on a slope or in a location with a water shortage, then make a berm around the tree. Create a 2’ rim of soil around the tree above ground level to keep the water close.
- Cover the top of the soil near the tree with mulch so that the moisture stays in the soil. Moreover weeds are less likely to grow. However, the mulch should not touch the bark of the tree but should be about 2′ away from it.
6. Water the Redbud Tree
- Immediately after planting, water the tree with about 1-2 gallons of water. If the soil goes down, add more soil.
- For the first year, water about one to two times a week with 1-2 gallons of water. After the tree is established, you can water yourself only when the tree becomes stressed and experiences drought.
- In the winter, make sure that the tree is also watered enough to prevent any damage from desiccation. This is damage when the amount of moisture lost by the leaves) exceeds the amount of water taken in by the roots.
- Immediately after planting the tree, place a tree guard around the trunk. This protects the redbud tree from rabbits and rodents who will eat the bark and kill your tree. The tree guards should let air flow in. Mouse guards which rap around the bark are the best protectors. However we don’t recommended using them in the summer since insects can create habitats between the mouse guard and the bark.
- Redbuds can be susceptible to damage by strong winds. If you plant in a location with a wind tunnel, especially in the winter, be sure to have wind barriers around it like hedges or evergreen trees.
How to Grow a Redbud Tree After Planting
After you have mastered how to plant a redbud tree, you will need to take care of it. Fortunately, the redbud tree is pretty easy to grow. Here are some basic information on watering and pruning a redbud tree.
How to Water a Redbud Tree
- When you just plant the redbud, be sure that it has sufficient water. Therefore, if there isn’t rain, do soak the tree roots with water.
- During the winter be careful not to overwater but also make sure the tree isn’t damaged by lack of water.
- After the redbud tree is established, you only have to water when there is a severe drought. Although redbud trees are drought tolerant, they still appreciate water in the summer heat.
How to Prune a Redbud Tree
When to Prune
- The best time to prune a redbud tree is immediately after flowering.
How to Prune
- The redbud tree doesn’t need to be pruned consistently since it will naturally grow into a beautiful shape.
- However if you see damaged or diseased wood, prune these anytime of the year by cutting the branch back to a healthy branch.
- You can also prune the suckers which grow off the lower trunk.
- Pruning the tree in a certain shape may also make it more attractive. Consequently, you can prune the lower branches to expose more of the trunk, cut back all stems, and prune into a desired shape.
Knowing how to plant a redbud tree is an important step in growing this beautiful trees.
You can read more in our growing guide about not only how to plant, but also how to take care of your tree. If you would like to discover other trees, explore our tree catalog or shop page.
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