Skip to Content

Western Redbud vs Eastern Redbud: What Is The Difference?

Flowering trees remain a timeless and attractive feature for any yard. Among the numerous species and varieties that add a splash of color to daily life, the Redbud stands out. Its vibrant hues can truly transform the mundane into something extraordinary.

The Western Redbud sets itself apart from Eastern Redbud with its smaller stature, slightly larger and more reddish flowers, bigger seed pods, and a denser, more rounded crown. Its allure is year-round, but the real highlight is its stunning spring blooms.

western redbud vs eastern redbud

Western Redbud and Eastern Redbud

Western Redbud Eastern Redbud
Name Cercis occidentalis Cercis canadensis
USDA Hardiness zone 6-9 4-9
Mature height 10-15 (3-4.5 m) 20-30′ (6-9 m)
Mature width 10-15 (3-4.5 m) 20-30′ (6-9 m)
Growth rate medium fast
Light exposure full sun, partial shade full sun, partial shade
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 6.0-7.0 6.0-7.0
Watering One time per week in a drought One time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus, root rot fungus, root rot
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

Size and Shape

The Eastern Redbud is notably larger than its Western counterpart. When fully grown, it stands 20-25 feet tall and equally wide, sometimes even exceeding 30 feet under ideal conditions. It requires ample space to thrive.

In contrast, the Western Redbud is much smaller, typically reaching just 10 to 15 feet in height and width. This compact size makes it suitable for smaller gardens.

While the Western Redbud resembles a large bush, the Eastern Redbud takes the form of a medium-sized tree. Pruning the lower branches of the Western Redbud can create a spacious canopy, perfect for relaxation or cultivating shade-loving plants beneath.

Their growth rates also differ: the Western Redbud grows slowly, often less than a foot per year, whereas the Eastern Redbud can grow more rapidly, at a rate of about 1.5 feet or more annually.

Color

Both the Eastern and Western Redbuds feature small flowers, about half an inch in diameter, grouped in bunches of five to ten. They typically bloom in spring, just before the leaves emerge, with the blossoming period lasting around three weeks.

The key difference lies in the flower colors. The Eastern Redbud’s flowers are a light pink with a subtle rosy touch, giving the tree a softer appearance during bloom.

On the other hand, the Western Redbud boasts brighter pink flowers with a hint of purple, making the plant more striking and noticeable.

If you’re looking for a tree with more vibrant colors, the Western Redbud is the ideal choice. However, if you prefer gentler hues, the Eastern Redbud would be more suitable.

Hardiness

The Eastern Redbud is well-suited for growing in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9, indicating its high tolerance for cold temperatures. This robustness even allows it to thrive in some southern regions of Canada.

Its branches are notably sturdy, capable of bearing heavy snow loads. Damage from frost and snow is quite rare in this species.

In contrast, the Western Redbud prefers warmer climates and is suitable for zones 6-9. This lesser tolerance for frost means it’s not as versatile for colder regions as the Eastern Redbud.

Consequently, a significant number of gardeners in the United States may find the Western Redbud less suitable for their climate.

Leaves

The Eastern Redbud’s leaves are marginally larger than those of the Western Redbud, measuring 3 to 5 inches across. Their heart-shaped appearance, characterized by a sharp tip, makes them slightly longer than they are wide. At the base, there’s a pronounced notch where the leaf connects to the petiole.

On the other hand, the Western Redbud’s leaves are smaller, about 2 to 4 inches wide, and are rounder due to the absence of a pointed tip. Like its Eastern counterpart, it too features a deep notch at the base for petiole attachment. Additionally, the leaves of the Western Redbud are a bit darker than those of the Eastern Redbud.

While the foliage of both trees presents distinct appearances, it’s subjective to determine which is superior. However, the round, darker leaves of the Western Redbud may be seen as slightly more intriguing.

Varieties

The Eastern Redbud enjoys broader cultivation, leading to a greater variety of breeds developed by plant breeders. In contrast, the Western Redbud doesn’t offer the same level of diversity.

One notable variety is the Black Pearl Redbud, an enhanced version of the Eastern Redbud. This variety grows to 20 feet in height and 15 feet in width. Its leaves are a striking dark purple, almost appearing black from a distance due to their shiny texture.

Another interesting breed is the Pink Heartbreaker Weeping Redbud. It stands out with its abundant flower clusters on weeping branches, creating a memorable display. It’s more compact compared to our two primary Redbuds.

Ruby Falls Redbud is also worth mentioning, with its unique bronze foliage, a rare trait among similar trees. It’s highly hardy, making it suitable for cultivation across most of the United States.

Lastly, the Carolina Sweetheart Redbud is a showstopper. This larger tree features dual-colored foliage, starting with purple leaves that, as they mature, partially turn pink while the rest becomes variegated (green-white). It’s indeed a delightful tree to behold.

Brenda S

Wednesday 29th of March 2023

Thank you for a great article distinguishing Eastern and Western redbuds. I bought my home 30 years ago which had a redbud tree in the front yard. I was told it was a Western redbud but was not sure it was.

From your article I was able to determine that I have a Western "Oklahoma" redbud in my front yard.

When I moved in in 1990 the tree was roughly 10 years old and was approximately 10' in height and just as wide. Based on your description of height, growth rate, leaf shape, & bloom color, I definitely have a Western redbud!

In late January early February of 2011, I believe, we had a horrid ice storm with high winds which toppled my redbud. It was roughly 20' & just about as wide. It was likely a 20 year old tree at that time. Once cut back I was left with a emdead/dying tree stump about 3 feet high. In the spring I had many shoots growing from the roots.

Over the next 3-4 years I was able to cut the stump back to the ground & leave 5 or 6 strong shoots which I tied together & staked down every spring & summer for the next 4 years.

With pruning, I was able to get this magnificent tree back to a central stump ~ 3 feet tall with 4 strong branches from growing from that trunk.

Now some 12 years later, my redbud is ~ 8-9 feet tall & just bloomed in brilliant magenta clusters covering every branch!

This tree just survived the coldest weather we have had in 20+ years, 4 degrees F. And it has survived very heavy thunderstorms,flooding rains & winds in excess of 65 mph!

I am so happy that my beautiful redbud that was originally planted roughly 40 years ago is alive & thriving.

This Western "Oklahoma" Redbud is as strong & hardy as the indigenous peoples who lived here and the pioneers who settled here more than 125 years ago!

Thanks once more for your great article that helped me know what a treasured, prized & beautiful tree I have loved & nurtured for 30+ years & counting!

Brenda