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Cercis chinensis

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
SER-sis chi-NEN-sis
Description

The Chinese redbud is native to the woodlands of central and southern China. The genus name Cercis comes from the Greek word kerkis which means weaver's shuttle, referring to the fact that the seed pod resembles the size and shape of a weaver's shuttle used to move thread back and forth on a loom. 

In its native habitat, this plant acts as a woody tree that will grow up to 50 feet, however, due to differing conditions in the United States it generally grows as an open shrub that will reach 8 to 15 feet in height. It is similar in appearance to the Cercis canadensis which is native to North America however with several distinctions. It generally produces slightly larger purplish flowers, will end up growing to a shorter height than its North American counterpart and have longer seed pods.

The flowers on both species of redbud bloom in very early Spring for around 2 to 3 weeks, producing a brilliant display of clustering purple-pink flowers. After the flowering season, desirable medium-sized, heart-shaped leaves are produced. These leaves are bright green but do not have exemplary color in the fall and will at best turn yellow. Also of interest, this tree produces flat, bean-like seed pods which mature in late summer.

Developing a deep tap root, this tree is difficult to relocate.  Choose the correct location when planting.  Most forms are multi-stemmed shrubs, however single trunk cultivars like 'Don Egolf' do exist. Don Egolf is also noted for being shorter than many other C. chinensis varieties and for being sterile, as such it will not produce seed pods.

Plant in well-drained soil with medium moisture and not too much clay.  This attractive shrub or small tree works well in shrub borders, planted in small groups or as a specimen, in a woodland garden or naturalized area.  It can also be grown in a larger container and withstands the demands of being planted in a lawn or used as a street tree in urban areas.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  It is not winter hardy and can die back after a hard frost.  Prefers protection from afternoon sun in hot climates.  

Family name Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Quick ID Hints:

  • Multi-stemmed shrub with heart-shaped leaves
  • Pea-like flowers borne in bunches on twigs/ old wood
  • Fruit is flat 'bean' pod
  • leaves 5-palmate veins, entire, reticulate

Deciduous shrub to 10', flat-topped to rounded.

Blooms in early spring; shrub-like with several trunks, (compare to C. canadensis :tree-like with 1 or 2 main trunks); flowers are usually larger and darker purple than C. canadensis. 

PH adaptable; tolerant of full sun or part shade; tolerant of clay or sandy soil; intolerant of heat/drought stress; intolerant of wet soils; pest/disease problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    White flower
  • 'Avondale'
    Upright form. Rose to magenta flowers.
  • 'Don Egolf'
    Seedless redbud, single trunk.
  • 'Nana'
    Magenta flowers.
  • 'Shirobana'
    White flowers.
'Alba', 'Avondale', 'Don Egolf', 'Nana', 'Shirobana'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#shrub#wildlife plants#pink flowers#nectar plant#woody#cottage garden#flowering tree#specialized bees#asian#woody shrub#deer resistant#children's garden#heart-shaped#seed pods#leathery#exotic looking#pollinator plant#fantz#bird friendly#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#woodland garden#lawn planting#wet soils intolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    White flower
  • 'Avondale'
    Upright form. Rose to magenta flowers.
  • 'Don Egolf'
    Seedless redbud, single trunk.
  • 'Nana'
    Magenta flowers.
  • 'Shirobana'
    White flowers.
'Alba', 'Avondale', 'Don Egolf', 'Nana', 'Shirobana'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#shrub#wildlife plants#pink flowers#nectar plant#woody#cottage garden#flowering tree#specialized bees#asian#woody shrub#deer resistant#children's garden#heart-shaped#seed pods#leathery#exotic looking#pollinator plant#fantz#bird friendly#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#woodland garden#lawn planting#wet soils intolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cercis
    Species:
    chinensis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central China
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers provide nectar for bees and once pollinated form leguminous pods, the seed can be consumed by birds. Members of the genus Cercis support the following specialized bee: Habropoda laboriosa.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Shade
    Sound
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    5" long bean pod in the fall
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Rosy, purple flowers for 2-3 weeks in early spring. (5-8) rosy purple (or white), pea-like, 0.5-0.75", borne in tight clusters on old wood, fascicled or racemous, often cauliflorous.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, leathery dark green leaves; 3 to 5 in. long; heart-shaped. Broadly cordate, acute, entire, lustrous dark green, 5 palmate veins.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Black
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Description:
    Slender, glabrous, dark reddish brown to black, zigzag, spreading and ascending. Densely branched and multi-stemmed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Lawn
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer