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The western redbud remains true to its name, filling the garden with all-season interest. It is a small ornamental tree with rose-purple blossoms seen in early spring.
The rounded heart-shaped leaves have an apple 🍏 green and age to blue-green. In summer, you see the seed pods ripening to purple-brown.
Then in the fall, the foliage provides a fall color standing out on the silver-gray branches to create a winter landscape.
Plant Name: Cercis occidentalis
Other Name: Western Redbud or California Redbud
Plant Type: Deciduous shrub
Native Areas: Arizona and Southern California
Light Requirement: Full sun to partial sun or partial shade
Temperature: Can handle below 28°F
Propagation: Seed and cuttings
Growth: 15-25 feet tall and wide
Soil Type: Sand to clay soils
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-9
More About Cercis Occidentalis Western Redbud
The Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud belongs to the Fabaceae family. The small tree or shrub is related to the members of peas, beans, and other legumes.
You find the plants native to mostly southern California and Nevada in North America. These trees grow on dry slopes and can reach up to 25 ft tall and wide. It has showy flowers in spring with an attractive pink color.
The leaves are also attractive, changing from golden to red when a winter chill moves in. It also needs a winter chill before the flowers are set properly with regular watering. So, if your area does not receive frost, the likeliness is that it will not bloom.
The flowers of the young pods are edible 😋 and enjoyed by wildlife.
Cercis Occidentalis Western Redbud Care
Western redbud is prevalent in California and grows into a small tree or a deciduous shrub reaching reasonable heights.
The heart-shaped leaves can reach three inches long, while the pea-shaped flowers make for a beautiful display.
The seedpods are flat and long in summer and persist into winter. It can grow as a multi-branched shrub to mature with a small canopy grown as a tree.
It can grow in different soil types from full sunlight to partial shade and does best in summer, protected from the afternoon sun.
Western Redbud Light Needs
Grow your western redbud in full to partial sun as this tree is quite a drought tolerant.
Recommended Soil Cercis Occidentalis
The Cercis occidentalis western redbud thrives in most soil types, but providing them with well-drained soil is important.
So whether you grow them in sand or clay soils, we recommend amending them with some organic matter for the water to drain freely. Still, they prefer alkaline to acid soils ranging from 6.5 to 8.0.
Watering Cercis Occidentalis Western Redbud
The young plants will need more watering to help them become established with summer water 💦 when rainfall is not present. When mature, they can handle drought to thrive with rain. But when they receive more water in winter, the spring flowering and foliage are at their best.
Temperature and Humidity Western Redbud
A small young tree is not cold hardy below 20°F and will need protection using burlap protection. In contrast, older trees can handle temperatures below 20°F. You can add a layer of mulch during the winter for these plants to provide root protection and help retain water, but most importantly, the soil needs to be well drained.
Fertilizing Cercis Occidentalis
To help promote growth for your Cercis occidentalis, you can add compost to the soil to provide them with the needed nutrients. Too-high nitrogen fertilizer will promote green leafy growth but can prevent flower development, and best to avoid fertilizing during the growing season.
Pruning Cercis Occidentalis
The fabulous thing with the western redbud is that you can grow them as a shrub or small tree. But to form a tree 🎄 you will need to start pruning young saplings to form a single trunk. You will also need to remove lower branches, weak branches, and dead limbs to forks.
The best time to trim western redbud is when new leaves appear in the fall.
Propagating Cercis Occidentalis Western Redbud
You can grow the western redbud from seeds or cuttings, but seed growing is more successful. We have the cutting method here if you want to try it.
Wait until spring or early summer when the trees are actively growing, and flowers have faded to take a cutting. Ensure to take several cuttings for successful rooting.
Fill containers with half peat and half coarse sand or perlite, wet them well, and remove the excess water.
Take several softwood cuttings six inches long and avoid using ones with flower 🌸 buds attached.
Sever the cutting beneath a pair of leaf nodes using a sharp knife.
Remove the bottom leaves to expose the nodes and use a rooting hormone to dip the cut end into it.
Use a pencil to poke holes in the soil to accommodate half of the cutting and insert it into the hole.
Place the cuttings in a ventilated cold frame or on a shaded porch and cover them with a clear plastic bag.
You can keep them on a heating coil if the daytime temperatures remain below 65°F and turn them off at night. But mist it twice daily as the heat can dry the leaves and stems out.
Keep checking the moisture daily and add water as needed.
Then check to see if the roots have developed in four weeks and transplant them into a larger container with garden soil.
Place the plant in light shade and acclimate it to grow in direct sunlight in late summer to harden it off to grow in the garden. Then place a layer of mulch around them for the first year to retain moisture.
Common Pests and Problems
Insects that can bother your tree are mostly leaf-feeding bugs like leafhoppers, tent caterpillars 🐛, leafrollers, and weevils. Sometimes scale can attract the branches. The major concern is verticillium wilt which can kill the trees. You find the fungus mostly in the soil.
Frequently Asked Questions
The plants can grow more than one foot yearly and are not fast growers.
The tree prefers growing in full sun than shade but can tolerate light shade.
It needs at least four to six hours of direct sun daily.
The Mexican Redbud is the most heat-tolerant and has wavy-edged leaves to grow as small trees or shrubs.
The tree is susceptible to most diseases, like verticillium wilt, that develop in the soil and can kill the tree.
The eastern redbud is more prominent, while the Cercis occidentalis western redbud has purple flowers instead of reddish ones and bears larger seed pods.