Pros and Cons of Redbud Trees


Pros and Cons of Redbud Trees


The redbud tree, otherwise known as Judas tree, love tree, Mediterranean redbud, or, if you want the Latin name, Cercis siliquastrum, is a small, bushy deciduous tree. Quite heart-shaped, redbud trees have rosy-pink, pea-shaped flowers in springtime. The flowers are then followed by attractive, heart-shaped leaves that change to a butter-yellow color prior to falling in fall.

The tree is slow-growing, with an ultimate height of approximately 30 to 40 feet. Because of its slow growth, the Judas tree is among the very best trees for the smaller-sized garden. 

There are a few theories surrounding the tree’s English name – well, the Judas tree name, anyway. One suggests it was the tree that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from after betraying Jesus. However as the tree grows widely in Israel and Palestine, it could be a corruption of the word ‘Judea’.

So, what exactly are the pros and cons of redbud trees? Let’s find out now.



Pros and Cons of Redbud Trees


Redbud Trees – Pros

Year-Round Beauty

A favorite among gardeners, redbud trees offer year-round beauty in your yard. The tree really is particularly attractive with its heart-shaped leaves arriving after the spring-time flowers. The leaves change color in fall to all shades of yellow as well as red.


Very Low Maintenance

Redbud or Judas trees are low-maintenance trees. They can survive and often thrive in all kinds of soil and climatic conditions, even when the temperatures drop down to -5° F (-15° C). 

While the tree does have a strong preference – even a need – for chalky or limestone soils (meaning soils that are alkaline and not acidic), it will do fairly well in full sunshine or in partial shade, though for a really good show of flowers, the tree does prefer full sun. 


Tolerance to Drought 

Hailing from the Mediterranean, redbud trees are very resistant to drought. This is obviously of particular benefit for those of us that reside in drier climates or when water shortages are a frequent problem. 


Different Varieties

There is a rather wide variety of redbud trees to choose from so you are bound to find the perfect tree that will fit in perfectly with your wants and needs.

Among the varieties are:


CERCIS siliquastrum
Judas tree, Love tree

Cerise-purple flowers.

CERCIS canadensis
American Judas tree, Eastern redbud

Pale rose flowers and thinner green leaves than the more common C. siliquastrum.

CERCIS canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
American Judas tree, Eastern redbud

Deep purple foliage on new growth paling to bronze. Magenta rose flowers on bare branches in spring.

CERCIS canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’
American Judas Tree, Eastern redbud

A breathtaking dwarf Cercis with a compact weeping habit and heart-shaped maroon-red leaves turning burgundy in the summer.

CERCIS canadensis ‘Texas White’

American Judas tree, Eastern redbud

White flowers.

CERCIS chinensis ‘Avondale’

Chinese redbud

Compact habit with abundant dark purple-pink flowers.


CERCIS reniformis ‘Oklahoma Redbud’

Oklahoma redbud

Thick glossy leaves and dark purple flowers. The heaviest flowerer of any Cercis and the most popular of all Cercis in the United States.


Smaller-Sized Trees

Redbud trees are relatively small in comparison to other types of trees. Arguably, this gives them a few advantages over larger trees. For example, for those of us that are tree lovers but have little choice due to our smaller-sized gardens, a Redbud tree is a perfect choice.

Nevertheless, even in larger gardens whereby trees of substantial size can easily be grown, redbuds still can do exceptionally well due to their lovely shape and uniquely gorgeous coloring in the fall. 




Redbud Trees – Cons

While redbud trees offer the homeowner plenty of important benefits, there are, as is the case with any kind of tree or shrub, potentially a few downsides. Let’s go through those downsides, so you can make a more informed choice if you would like to invest in a redbud tree or otherwise.



Pest Susceptibility

Unfortunately, these gorgeous trees are somewhat susceptible to certain types of pests. Among the most common pests that are a problem for redbud trees are: 


Red-humped caterpillar

Measuring approximately 1.5 inches, the red-humped caterpillar (Schizura concinna) eats redbud leaves and lays egg clusters on the underside of the leaves. However, the overall health of the tree is not usually at risk since the pests show up just before the leaves fall off.

There are several methods to control red-humped caterpillars without chemical pesticides. For small trees, prune off the leaves with caterpillar eggs and pick off the caterpillars by hand. On larger trees, spray Bacillus thurengensis, a natural microbial, or release parasitic wasps, including Cotesia, Apanteles, and Hyposoter fugivitvus.


Tent Caterpillar

The tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is easy to recognize with its furry, reddish-brown body, blue spots, and tufts of white to orange hairs. You typically see tent caterpillars in large numbers munching on redbud foliage during the day and slithering around inside silken webbed nests from dusk until dawn.

Uncontrolled tent caterpillar infestation can defoliate an entire tree. To control these pests, prune infested limbs from the tree or tear open the nest with a stick and spray Bacillus thurengensis inside. As an additional measure, wrap sticky tape used for catching caterpillars around the trunk of the tree.


Scale Insects

Redbud trees attract oleander scale (Aspidiotus nerii) and greedy scale (Hemiberlesia rapax), but these pests won’t cause irreparable damage. In fact, even high populations of these specific scale species don’t typically harm redbud trees.

As scales suck the juices out of the leaves, they exude honeydew that attracts ants. Control scale insects by releasing lacewings or ladybugs and spraying horticultural oils.


Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter bees (Megachile) cut away small semi-circular portions of leaves on redbud trees. This might look like the work of a pest, but leafcutter bees aren’t pests at all. In fact, they are an important part of the ecosystem — some people place wooden bee blocks out in the garden to attract them.

Leafcutter bees pollinate flowers, so don’t try to get rid of them or spray them with pesticides. While these bees might aesthetically damage some of the redbud tree’s leaves, they won’t cause harm to the tree and do benefit the flowers in your garden.


Redbud Trees – Diseases

Redbud trees are not without their disease problems.

Botryosphaeria Canker

A tree fungus, there’s no argument that canker is the most damaging disease of redbud trees. Cankers are sunken, diseased areas of bark that start out small and grow slowly. Damaged bark becomes darker and rougher, and can eventually peel away.

Cankers continue growing until they surround, or girdle, the branch, cutting off water and nutrients and eventually killing that part of the tree. The entire tree can die if cankers move from the branches into the trunk.

Botryosphaeria canker does not respond to fungicides. Prune away infected branches at least 6 to 8 inches below the damaged part of the branch. Dip pruning tools into isopropyl alcohol before making each cut to prevent the fungus from spreading between cuts.

The ​Botryosphaeria dothidia​ fungus that is responsible for these cankers enters environmentally stressed trees through openings caused by mechanical injury or insect damage. To help prevent this disease, water your tree regularly during periods of drought, and avoid unnecessarily wounding the tree.


Verticillium Wilt

The ​Verticillium dahliae​ and ​Verticillium albo-atrum​ fungi cause verticillium wilt, a serious infection that can cause rapid death in redbud trees. The fungus enters the tree through its roots and attacks the water transport system, or xylem, making it difficult for water and nutrients to travel throughout the tree. As the fungus grows, the tree biochemically attempts to stop the fungus from spreading by plugging up the water-conducting system, which further inhibits the xylem’s ability to transport water.

In the early stages of the disease, only a few branches or one portion of the canopy will show symptoms. The leaves may be small, discolored, or grow poorly, or the entire branch may suddenly die. The sapwood beneath the bark is usually discolored or streaked. The plant may die rapidly or more slowly depending on its health and the severity of the infection.

Fungicides are ineffective against verticillium wilt. Keep plants healthy by fertilizing according to the needs of the soil, based on a soil test. Water your redbud tree regularly during dry seasons, and prune out diseased branches with disinfected tools. There is no cure for verticillium wilt, but caring for the tree can postpone the inevitable by as long as several years.


Leaf Anthracnose

Leaf anthracnose is characterized by irregularly-shaped or circular areas of dying tissue that form along the leaf margins or veins. The spots on redbud tree leaves expand into unsightly brown patches, and diseased leaves may fall prematurely from the tree. These leaves harbor spores that can reinfect plants the following spring, so remove and destroy them as they fall. Leaf anthracnose does not significantly affect the health of redbud trees, and fungicides are not usually necessary.


Redbud Leaf Spot Diseases

Fungi such as ​Phyllosticta​, ​Cercospora​, and ​Gloeosporium​ species can create unattractive redbud leaf spots. Symptoms normally appear during periods of hot, humid weather. Irregular discolored spots appear on the foliage. The spots may drop out and leave holes in the foliage. Severely infected leaves may fall from the tree. Leaf spot diseases are rarely harmful to redbuds, and fungicides are not usually recommended.

Keeping your redbud tree healthy and strong can prevent it from falling victim to diseases and fungus. If you notice signs of these diseases, act quickly to minimize the spread of the issue and prevent major damage or death to the tree.



Relatively Short Life Span

Redbud trees have a relatively short life span and generally only live to be between 50 and 70 years.

If you’d like to invest in a tree that can be passed from one generation to the next, then the redbud tree is hardly ideal. 


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