I noticed this past week that the redbud tree at the Master Gardener nursery is in full bloom. It’s a little early for that to happen (by about a month), but it has been a warm winter.
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is native to the Eastern U.S. from Canada to North Florida, but can grow and thrive as far west as California. It is a moderate to rapid grower when it is young and can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet tall. It does well in full sun locations, but can tolerate partial shade because it is naturally an understory tree. The best feature of this tree is that it blooms in early spring (very early spring this year) and is covered with pink blooms before it leafs out. The main drawback of having a redbud tree is that, here in Hernando County, we are at the very southern edge of where they will grow well. What this means is that redbud trees can be relatively short lived here and prone to several different diseases. Our office frequently receives calls about declining redbud trees. This is the main reason why you don’t see them more frequently used commercially or in new housing developments here.
The best way to avoid some of these problems is to keep the tree growing vigorously. They do best in slightly moist soils, and irrigation during dry periods is helpful. Stressed trees are much more susceptible to a variety of borers and bark beetles, for which there is no control. Trunk and branch cankers are the most common problems in redbuds. A canker is a small, sunken bad spot on the branch, which grows and girdles the branch. This allows a fungus to enter the branch, eventually killing it. Pruning out diseased branches will help to slow its spread, but be sure to clean your pruning tools frequently with a spray bottle filled with alcohol.
It may not be the ideal choice for our Hernando County landscapes, but it is definitely worth adding an eastern redbud tree. Placing the tree in the correct location, watering frequently until it is rooted and knowing what problems it may have and how to best avoid them will go a long way towards one day having a beautiful flowering tree in your yard.
For more information about how to care for ornamental plants in your landscape, stop by or call Hernando County UF/IFAS Extension weekdays from 8 to 5. Our office is in the airport industrial park at 16110 Aviation Loop Drive, Brooksville, 34604; (352) 754-4433. In addition, master gardeners are available to assist you at the master gardener nursery from 9AM to noon every Wednesday and the first Saturday of every month. Our nursery is located behind the Hernando County fairgrounds at 19490 Oliver Street, Brooksville.