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Cercis - Growing Guide

Cercis - Growing Guide

Cercis are spectacular flowering trees all with heart shaped leaves which have the great merit, for smaller gardens, of not growing more than 30ft in full maturity. The flowers are brightly coloured and pea shaped usually in stalkless clusters on last year’s new growth stems or on branches/stems that are much more mature. The flowers appear with us in the nursery and in the garden in April or May but are generally not still showing colour by the time of Chelsea Flower Show in late May. After flowering large flattened peapods of seeds gradually ripen on the tree and turn brown before spilling the seeds in autumn.

With a bit of effort Cercis can be grown and trained up walls. They can also be grown in large containers where the plants will also need regular pruning and shaping. In reality, however, these are best grown as freestanding specimen plants perhaps with pride of place in the middle of your lawn.

Full sun or dappled shade is fine in fertile, deep, well-drained soil. These can be greedy trees which relish additional feeding from regular mulching around the base of the tree. Cercis are perfectly hardy but, very occasionally, a late frost may harm the emerging leaves. The plants are normally quite resilient enough to grow through this.

The seed is easy to germinate when sown in the cold frame in the autumn.

Your choice of species should perhaps be determined by your preference for flower colour and growth habit:

C. canadensis, the American Judas tree or Eastern redbud, is a spreading, multi stemmed tree with purple to pink flowers which appear in clusters before the leaves. Good yellow autumn colour. 

‘Forest Pansy’ is perhaps the best known and admired form of C. canadensis. The flowers are almost irrelevant as one admires the purple-red foliage.

‘Ruby Falls’ – this is a dwarf growing Cercis with a compact weeping habit and maroon-red leaves turning burgundy in the summer. The flowers are pink before the leaves appear.

C. chinensis ‘Avondale’, the Chinese redbud, grows to only around 20ft and is a densely branched shrub or small tree. The flowers are deep or lavender pink. Yellow autumn colour.

C. reniformis ‘Oklahoma Redbud’ is an exceptionally heavy flowerer. Its flowers are dark wine-red and the leaves have a waxy, glossy texture. This one too only grows to around 15ft in height.

The ever popular C. siliquastrum or the Judas tree, when it has got established, has masses of clusters of cerise-purple flowers. It too can often be a multi stemmed tree. The leaves are bronze when young and a gorgeous yellow in autumn. We sometimes stock a pure white flowering form as well.

[Pictures from Huw Crawshay’s]
 


Plants


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