Posted by Beth Steele on 4/7/2021 to Fertilizing & Watering Tips
Planting & Caring For A Redbud Tree
When planted right and in the right spot, Redbuds are beautiful North American native trees that are exceptionally easy-to-grow and low-maintenance.
Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...
Redbuds are very adaptable trees that will grow in most any soil, even poor soils. They prefer a moist but well-drained soil of average fertility. Standing water or constantly soggy or wet soil can be problematic. Established trees will tolerate periods of dry soil
Test Soil Drainage Before Planting
If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Redbud tree, it's well worth taking the time to test it before planting.
To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions and the need to add top soil or other organic matter to help retain some moisture. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.
Redbud trees thrive in a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging from around 6.5 to 8.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Testing Soil pH
Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Redbud trees, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area.
You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe or soil pH test kit. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.
Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It?
Redbud trees will grow in sun or shade. That said, flowering will be heavier with more sun. We suggest at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
How To Plant A Redbud Tree
Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and as deep or not much deeper than the root ball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.
Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area, you might consider amending the native soil. When planting in very heavy clay soil mix in a good soil conditioner, planting mix, or composted organic matter at a 25 to 50 percent ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in a sandy, quick-draining soil adding some top soil, organic compost, or peat moss will help to retain moisture and supply vital plant nutrients. When planting in a moist but well-drained soil of average fertility there is no need to amend soil.
To remove your Redbud tree from the container it was growing in first squeeze or pound on the sides of the nursery pot to loosen the root ball. Then, firmly grasp the base of the tree and gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the root ball is stuck in the container use snipping tools or a utility knife to cut the container away. Then carefully loosen some feeder roots only around the surface of the root ball.
To plant, set your Redbud tree in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at ground level. It may be necessary to place some of your backfill soil mixture in the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.
After setting your Redbud tree in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the tree straight while using your other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue backfilling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your tree, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball. You can cover with mulch after planting.
Step 6 (Optional)
If you are planting your Redbud tree in a location that is far from a water source, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 3- to 4-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a year or so or when the plant has established itself.
Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Redbud tree with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
Apply a 1-2" layer of shredded wood mulch or bark or 3-4" layer of pine straw around your newly planted Redbud tree. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base (trunk) of the tree as this could cause problems with the bark.
How To Care For A Redbud Tree
Feeding - Watering - Pruning
How To Fertilize A Redbud Tree
Redbud trees are light feeders. That said, they will benefit from fertilization. Feed your Redbud tree in early spring as directed on the product label with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer or a natural, organic plant food.
Redbud trees thrive in a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil ranging from around 6.5 to 8.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Testing Soil pH
Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing a Redbud tree, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area.
You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.
Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It?
How To Water A Redbud Tree
Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to or more than the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Redbud tree with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
During The First Growing Season
In average garden soil, and with sufficient rainfall, you should not have to water your newly planted Redbud tree every day. More often than not, this causes constantly soggy and wet soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil damp to moist.
Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on your tree every day. Trees planted during the winter dormant season, when they are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be careful not to overwater during winter!
When established, Redbud trees are very drought tolerant. Only during a prolonged period of summer drought might they appreciate supplemental irrigation. If you see the leaves wilting during a summer drought this could be a sign your tree could use a deep soaking.
How To Prune A Redbud Tree
Redbud trees do not require pruning, however, respond very well to it.
When to Prune
If needed or desired for shaping purposes, the best time to prune a Redbud tree is immediately after flowering. A wide range of pruning options include simply removing old stems, shaping, or rejuvenation pruning.
How To Prune
Damaged or dead branches should be removed any time of year as they occur. Use a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners, loppers or a pruning saw to make your cut to a point beyond the breakage and just above a healthy branch or stem. When removing an entire branch make your cut at the base of the branch a half-inch or so from the interesting branch or trunk.
Lower branches can be removed to a desired height in late winter to show more trunk.
Plant Long & Prosper!
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