Is my redbud suppose to look like this?

pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)February 6, 2012

We purchased a redbud tree from a big box store (I know...not a good idea) and it seems to have no shape. I know they grow kind of randomly, but mine seems worse than most:

Should it be staked some how?

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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

No offense, but I'd consider that one a dud.

If you really wanted to keep it...

Looking at the first pic left branch. I'd put a 8' stake in the ground and pull that branch in. I'd remove the rest of the canopy over two years.

I wish I had a better pic but as you can see the nicer ones are typically an upright vase shape. I saw tons of these for $30 at Lowes this past spring. All nice shape at about a 3/4" caliper. Perhaps be done with it and check out Lowes in spring. Its an extremely common tree, so easy to find for cheap.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 9:33PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i disagree with whass ...

that is a typical form for a seed grown.. unpruned tree .. horrible crotching... umbrella like canopy ... yada yada ... and the worse part is.. there is no easily seen way to fix it all thru pruning ... i have a couple that are worse than that.. lol ...

i am not happy about how close it is to the house. .. they can get 20 to 25 feet tall ... with the same spread .. over the decades ...

enjoy it .... train it with pruning ... away from the house ... and enjoy it until it falls apart.. like they all do.. eventually.. though maybe not in your lifetime..


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 8:25AM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

What variety is this redbud? If it is 'Forest Pansy' that is a very typical shape. Straight Cercis canadensis is vase-shaped, but C. canadensis 'Forest Pansy' has much more open architecture. Its leaves are purple so easy to tell once it leafs out. All redbuds are known for their crossing branches, which you have to start dealing with when the tree is small, as yours is. While the conventional wisdom is to prune flowering plants after they flower, I always prune mine in late winter when the trees are leafless and I can see the branching structure clearly. These trees take a bit of upkeep in terms of pruning but it is worth it because you get three seasons of interest (Forest Pansy's fall color is particularly lovely). In my area they do better with some summer shade - otherwise the purple fades. They are understory trees in the wild (the species, that is) and if you can duplicate those conditions they do the best, but I have 10-12 different varieties, many in full sun, which do fine as long as they get enough water. If your tree is 'Forest Pansy', don't give up on it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Form and Foliage

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:51AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

there is nothing to give up on ..

it is what it is.. and it will remain what it is.. a redbud ... bit circuitous there .. dont you think ...

dont have whaas envy ... spelt it right that time.. yes.. his is perfect.. and a bargain to boot.. so what ...

presuming you wont move it ... then enjoy it for what it is .. and when it becomes a problem either thru breakage.. or because its too close to the house.. take care of it then ... do not become emotionally attached to it ...

i am presuming you inherited the prior owners mistake.. curse him/her .. and dont worry about it ... [and if you did it.. it was brilliant.. lol] ...

my bottom line.. i dont like to pay for tree removal.. and i would remove it when i could still do it myself for free .. and you have at least 5 years to make that decision ....

and i would be curious if it is one of the leaf variegated ones ... those are prime.. and expensive.. no matter the form ... [and in that case .. the prior owner was a genius.. lol] ....

good luck


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:53AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Ken, I think the key point is typical for a nice landscape specimen that is trained versus a native Redbud.

For one growing in the wild sure that might be a typical form.

PM, I'll pick out a nice one from Lowe's for ya. Mine came from Minor's in Milwaukee and they literally had about 100 of them that looked like mine. Well maybe I picked the best one!lol!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:57PM
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They (contributors above) are all right. I have two "naturally" growing forms that I planted in the tree line and they will perform like typical species redbuds if all goes well. In fact, we have MANY native redbuds around the house and I have not noticed a single one that looks as nice as Whaas' fine example. Having said that, I would not want one with that form by the front of my house.

If the tree was there when you bought the house it is free so why not enjoy it? If you recently planted it there, feel free to relocate it to the back :)

And FaF is right, my Forest Pansy is the funkiest of the 3 redbuds I have at the house.



    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I have a friend who could stand to lose about fifty or seventy pounds. He has a tee shirt that says, I'm in shape...round is a shape.

This is part of the reason why the callery pears became so common and why I shall never be married: People like things that have a shape they deem pleasing. Nature is not so picky.

You have a small tree. Emphasis on small. Odds are, by the time this things gets to maturity, every branch currently on is will have been pruned off.

You see no shape, I see potential of tree-mendous character.
Since it's your tree, do what you want.

There is one branch low I'd consider removing, perhaps not all at once, but other than that, given time, I see great potential.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 3:01PM
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I agree it is ultimately to close to the house. I disagree it is beyond hope, and can be pruned into a pretty tree.

I had one that was bird planted, and it started off as a bush. With work it was a nice tree by the time we sold the house.

If it were mine, I would select what I want for the main tree an trim until it was the tree. My first cut would be the lowest large branch that appears to be sticking out.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 5:57PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

At the end of the day you are better off planting a columnar tree or something better suited for that location.

Potential or no potential, character or no character its the wrong tree for that spot.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

Agree with Ken and whaas that the rb is a bit close to the house, not really a focal point tree and, as an understory tree, not really happy all by itself without some neighbors. The good news is that if you want to save it, despite the fact that the literature seems to say that redbuds don't transplant well, I have moved many of them (some much older than yours) and they did fine, some even going from the ground into pots for a time and then back into the ground. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Form and Foliage

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:27PM
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I don't have any issue with the form, or any issue with where it is planted. Redbuds grow in odd ways, and that is just the way it is. If it got too big in many years, you can replace it. They do fine in full sun. The biggest issue is that you got it at a big box store, which almost guarantees it was grown in some warmer climate. If the tag didn't specify some cold-hardy form, it is destined to have severe dieback when we get an actual winter. It could grow for years, then get whacked by cold and you are left with a pile of rubble. While you can get great deals on many things at the box stores, redbud is not one you can buy there. The cultivars like Forest Pansy are just not going to make it. There is a Minnesota strain out there, as well as just getting seedlings from old survivor trees in the area. Redbuds seed out like crazy. Same goes for Tuliptree, for example. Hardiness is all over the map. I got a seedling from a 70 year old tree in Batavia--I have had zero issues.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 7:21PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'm afraid we didn't plan our landscaping very well and you can see the results throughout my posts. We have been getting a lot of great advice on the Landscaping Design section for our backyard, but I'm beginning to realize our front yard is just as bad off as the back! My observations on the front are as follows:

1. The redbud pictured above needs to be moved to the back, staked and pruned. Not sure what we can put in its place in the front, but I am open to ideas.

2. The balsam to the right of the driveway (see belwo) needs to be moved. I posted about it in the Conifers section and it sounds like it will get way too big for where it's planted (7' from driveway).

3. Our frontyard in general is too open and lacks much character.

Here are some pictures:

Picture from street:

Another picture from the street:

Close-up of front beds (two knock-out rose bushes planted in bed on left, three yews and the redbud planted on right)

Side of house. Knock roses planted along foundation on side and a gate will be installed in fence this Spring:

Other side of house. House to left is corner so their backyard faces our side:


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:40PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Here is where I left off on my current home. Some of the plants are small but perhaps I can tell you the cultivar and reason for placement if you are interested. I only had a couple months with this so I have a bit of work to do. Nothing special but might give you some ideas.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:04PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks whaas! Those pictures are great. I see a couple main areas of need on our front yard:

1. Something to replace the redbud. The tree would be approximately 8' away from the house so I would imagine it would have to be either small or a vertical grower. Something with either spring flowers and/or fall color would be great. What is the tree planted at the far left corner of your house?

2. Some landscaping in the right front corner of our lot.

3. Something to add to/around the weepin cherry centered in our yard. My wife loves this tree but I wish it was bigger and would provide shade some day.

4. Something to the left of the driveway to replace the douglas fir that needs to be moved. Our next door neighbors live on a corner so their backyard faces this side of our house. They have no trees planted so basically it's a wide open area.

Below is a picture of our front yard (our house has the pool in the backyard on the far right center):

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Vase shape typical for eastern redbud.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 2:33PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yeah, so wherever you put it, train that big branch that is meant to be a leader upright. It will eventually be vase-shaped, but you can make sure it starts up higher than it is now.

Can be done with stakes, or just tying the branches to each other. Do what you have to do to dominate :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:44PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

We are thinking we might transplant the redbud to our backyard. Any suggestions on a tree to replace it in this spot? Ideally it would provide spring and fall interest.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:27PM
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I would start a new topic and give some guidelines as to what you like ie flowering (color), fall color, height, spread, habit, etc as well your soil type and drainage. The people on this forum LOVE to throw out suggestions and play landscaper =)


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 8:55AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

I was able to stake the redbud a couple of days ago:

What is my next step (I know I should prune once the flowers fall off)? What branches should be pruned this year? Should the stakes be moved at all to improve shape? Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:55PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

oh my

and you are thinking about looking at those stakes for the next 3 to 5 years???

i believe i said.. way above.. it is.. what it is.. and live with it or get rid of it.. or something like that ..

please advise where you developed this preconceived notion that every tree must be straight and true ...??? the Japanese have spent centuries twisting and bending trees into interesting shapes.. for the aesthetic.. so i dont understand your goal ...

you have my permission to do whatever makes you happy .. that is the baseline in YOUR garden ... all i am saying.. is that those stakes and ropes would not make me happy ...


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:56AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks Ken! I had no idea it would need to be staked for that long. I'm not trying to create a perfect shape....just trying to improve it a bit. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:09AM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

It wants to be a vase-shaped tree - that's its natural form. You can manipulate branches when they are very young - i.e. that year's growth. Once the branch is older, it will go back to its natural shape once you remove the staking. I agree with Ken - that is quite a bit of bondage!

Perhaps it would be better to move it (if you like it enough to have it somewhere else) or just pitch it and start again. It's your house and you will see it every time you drive up to it, so you should have something there that you like to look at!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:23AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

This is an update to a post I started last year concerning a redbud we have planted in our front yard. The tree is approximately 9' from the corner of our house and we do not plan on moving it. I staked it last spring to improve it's shape and below are some updated pictures of my progress:

I know I need to start pruning but have the following questions:

1. Can I prune this tree now? I've read that flowering trees that bloom in spring should be pruned after they bloom, but is this for appearance sake or for the healthy of the tree?I don't mind loosing some of it's flowering to improve it's shape.

2. I know the lower branches need to be trimmed, but which branches should be trimmed now/after bloom?

3. I'm assuming I should stake it again this summer? Any specific advice?

Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:44AM
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Well I would prune now since your spring is likely to come sometime in mid march. It wouldn't hurt it, staking isn't really a nessecity only if the redbud is in a windy area. And I would shape up the tree to be ornamental, sometimes lower branches are actually ornamental rather than leggy ones. Below is a picture of my redbud tree before i moved

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:01PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I've found you need 2+ years of caliper to get a plant to "bend" a certain direction. Since this tree approaches 25' in width and you have the most vigorous branch growing back towards the house at 9' away are there any concerns?

Eitherway, I sure do like a redbud in the collection!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:24PM
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Please keep in mind when you ask our opinion you will surely get suggestions reflecting our tree nerdiness when it comes to choices of what to plant. We think nothing of searching out a specimen tree about as hard to find as the lost ark. It is close to the house for its potential size, but this just means that you may have to contain the growth in that direction and if you are willing, it's not an issue. I have an ornamental cherry with the same issues, and I know better but it's worth it to me to have it placed exactly where I placed it, even if it means hanging out a second story window to do it. The shape? Typical of seed grown redbud and I find the vase shape pleasing.

I am more concerned with your balsam by the drive and your foundation plantings. I'm dealing right now with a property I inherited where the evergreens used for the foundation planting have finally reached their mature size and after years of serious pruning, I am going to have to have a tree company do the removal. I think there is a major misconception of what the word 'dwarf' implies. True dwarf shrubs and trees are seldom found in box stores and when you do locate them in nurseries they tend to be priced so high, most folks walk past them in favour of the more common selections with the tag dwarf on them. Your windows are relatively low and you may end up having to do some chopping sooner, rather than later and that's where bowling ball shapes were born.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:26AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks for everyone's response. So it sounds like I should stake the tree again pulling the branches into a more upright growth patern and maybe trim a few of the more spindly bottom branches growing downward?

Calliope.....I am a bit confused by your comment about your concern with our foundation plantings. Along the front we have yews planted and along the right side of the house knockout roses. I was under the impression that the yews did not get all that big and can be controlled with pruning. We haven't pruned them so far (they were small up until last year) but I plan on doing so this spring.

I know the balsam by the driveway may be an issue but we only have 10' to the lot line on that side, It's been recommended to me that I transplant it all the way to the lot line, so I may do so this spring.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:49AM
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mmm... am I the only one who thinks the tree looks just fine the way it is? The most beautiful cercis on campus is an old specimen which is coming off the ground nearly parallel to the ground. In spring it is the most magnificent view in the entire campus and probably it is the most photographed plant we have.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Several of us like the shape of the redbud, just as it is, and I'm one of them, icadem. I wouldn't even be staking, but make the necessary accomodations with the limbs as it encroached on the siding.

OP, mature height of yew is rather dependent on what one you planted. Most get whomping big if left to grow to their natural form and that's what I am dealing with now on the property I mentioned. They're practically to the windows already and how long have they been there? Yes, you can prune them and that's what I am addressing. They are located so close to the foundation, that allowing them to assume any sort of natural conformation will not be possible. This is how shrubs with nice shapes end up not even vaguely resembling what you started with and usually they are victims to tip-pruning. The centres go bald from shading, and when you start to clip back severely, it opens up large, gaping holes. It usually fills in when the new growth comes on, but each year you can take off less as the shrub matures and then you are in to pruning out whole limbs. More typically removal. Not an issue if you don't plan on being there long-term, but it'll be an issue to someone down the line. Do you happen to know which one you planted?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:23PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I agree that you will get many opinions on the canopy. There is a reason the "eye of the beholder" is such a popular phrase.

Only the most premium specimens make it in my garden. If I found that plant at a new home I purchased it would be cut down the day after I moved my stuff in. Better yet, after we sign off on the closing documents I'd go cut it down!lol Can you tell I like formal settings?

I just can't imagine heavy wet snow loads on that plant 15 years down the road. Its not like its one branch, its that more than 50% of the canopy is a v crotch then instead of keeping upright it goes horizontal.

Not sure I'd recommend staking anymore at this point.

For the record I can still get into quirky plants...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Suggest starting over with a new tree. It is only 9' away from the house and a typical redbud can stretch out to over 30' wide. That means the tree will start bumping into the house relatively early in its life. The fact that the form is not ideal is just another nail in the coffin. Rather than wrestling with the thing for years, it would be so much easier to buy tree that will actually fit there when full grown, and then you will also be able to prune it from the beginning into a more ideal form. Getting a newer cultivar with a more compact habit from a mail order nursery will cost $75-$100 - well worth the $$ considering the prominence of the location. There are several new redbuds that top out at 20' wide. I recently bought a "Rising Sun", which would fit that spot. Amelanchier x grandiflora would fit in there nicely as well. Just my two cents.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 7:35AM
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Whaas what is the name of the plant you just posted? Really neat looking!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 12:18PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Here is an updated picture of the redbud I started this thread on. Any advice on how to prune/what to do to it this spring?

Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:54AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

IMHO, remove the middle branch of the fork after flowering. Let grow the rest of the summer, and return next year for next round of pruning.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:21AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks Arktrees! You are referring to the branch spreading to the far right, correct?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:28AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Yes. Hate to remove it due to it being the main branch on that side, but IMHO it would be worse in the long run to leave it between the other two.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 3:29PM
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