This Gorgeous Tree Is The Perfect Pop Of Color For Small Spaces In Your Backyard

Most of us don't have the luxury of acres of grounds for our outdoor spaces and need to design gardens for small yards. That means not only choosing plants, trees, and shrubs in the right scale for our space but also giving ourselves the longest possible season of interest. One tree that tends to suit these goals is the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Redbud trees put on a beautiful show in the spring with pink or red blossoms covering the tree before the leaves appear. The blooms cover every branch and sometimes even the trunk for two or three weeks, creating a stunning focal point for the space.

Native to the Eastern U.S., redbud trees are grown all over the world. In Oklahoma, it's the official state tree and grows wild in fields and valleys. Hardy in all but the coldest winters, redbud trees are easy to grow and easy to love. They are also resistant to foraging by deer, which is especially important for young trees.

A colorful tree for a small backyard

Cercis canadensis, sometimes called the "flame thrower," is the perfect variety if you are looking for a colorful tree with a long season of interest. Growing to just 15-20 feet high and 10 feet wide, it tucks into the most challenging of small spaces. It begins flowering in April and continues for weeks. Unlike most pink-blooming redbud trees, this tree has light purple flowers. The blossoms attract many pollinator insects, including bees and butterflies. It has bean-like pods that emerge from the blooms that offer winter interest. These pods start green, then change to brown with the colder weather.

"Flame Thrower" is different from older varieties in that it always has leaves transitioning through several different colors. Starting in the spring with purple leaves, they gradually change to red, then yellow-green. In the fall, the leaves turn to a bright golden yellow for an autumn display that brightens the landscape. Once it becomes mature, the tree will develop interesting multi-stemmed trunks with arching branches. This gives it an architectural feeling in the garden.

How to care for redbud trees

Redbud trees are easy to care for, and the "flame thrower" is no different. They prefer afternoon or filtered shade but will tolerate full sun if they are well watered. These trees are not picky about soil and tolerate sandy, loam, or clay soil well. They do need the soil to drain properly, however. Redbuds prefer to stay moist, but once they're established, they will do fine with occasional days of drought. You can mulch the soil out to the drip line of the tree to protect it from moisture loss.

Only prune a redbud tree to lightly shape, or to remove damaged or diseased wood. Since the flowers bloom on last year's branches, make sure you trim right after it flowers in spring.

Common pests include webworms, caterpillars, and Japanese beetles. Control these with insecticidal soaps. These trees can also be affected by various diseases including canker, blights, and mildew. You can help prevent these issues by keeping up on proper watering, appropriate pruning of dead wood, and frequent inspection of the plant to catch problems early. Applying garden fungicides can help stop the spread and maintain the health of the tree.