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Western Redbud vs Eastern Redbud: What is the difference?

Flowering trees have always been and will always be a desirable attribute of every yard. There are many different species and varieties that can brighten up the gray of everyday life with their colors. Not the least of these is the Redbud.

The first thing that distinguishes Western Redbud from Eastern Redbud is size. The first is half the size of the second. Also, Eastern Redbud has lighter flowers than Western Redbud. Eastern Redbud is much more hardy than Western Redbud. In addition, the leaves of Eastern Redbud are heart-shaped whereas those of Western Redbud is more round.

  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
western redbud vs eastern redbud

Western Redbud and Eastern Redbud

Size and shape are different

Eastern Redbud is larger than its competitor. At maturity, it is 20-25 feet tall and just as wide. Under optimal conditions, it can grow over 30 feet tall. Its size means you have to allow plenty of room for it.

Western Redbud is almost half that size. Its height usually does not exceed 10 to 15 feet. The width is about the same as the height. This means it can grow in a relatively small garden.

Western Redbud is shaped like a large bush while Eastern Redbud is a medium-sized tree. To get a wide canopy of Western Redbud you will need to prune the lower branches. This way you will free up space underneath for resting or growing shade-loving plants.

Also, both plants have different growth rates. Western Redbud grows more slowly, with annual growth usually not exceeding 1 foot. Eastern Redbud, on the other hand, can have an annual growth rate of 1.5 feet or more.

Western Redbud has a richer color of flowers

Both varieties have small flowers, measuring about half an inch across. They are clustered in inflorescences of five to ten. Redbud usually blooms in the spring before the leaves unfurl. Blossom duration is three weeks.

The difference here is the color of the flowers. Eastern Redbud has light pink flowers with a slight rosy tint. During flowering, the tree looks lighter.

At the same time, Western Redbud has slightly brighter pink flowers. They also have a purple hue. Overall, the plant looks more pronounced and noticeable than its competitor.

If your goal is to get maximum color intensity, then Western Redbud is a better fit. But if you like softer colors then choose Eastern Redbud.

Eastern Redbud is more winter-hardy

Eastern Redbud is recommended for cultivation from 4 through 9 USDA hardiness zone. This means that it is a very hardy plant concerning low temperatures. It can even be grown in some southern parts of Canada.

The branches of Eastern Redbud are very strong and can withstand a lot of snow. It is very rare for this tree to crack from frost and snow.

Western Redbud, on the other hand, is a more heat-loving plant. It can be grown in zones 6-9. This means that it is not as frost-hardy as its competitor. As a result, Western Redbud will not be available to a large percentage of gardeners in the United States.

I should also mention here that in zone 9, Eastern Redbud will need extra watering because it has poor tolerance to drought.

Leaves have some differences

The leaves also have several differences that we should talk about.

Eastern Redbud has slightly larger leaves than its competitor. They are 3 to 5 inches across. The sharp tip makes the leaves heart-shaped and slightly longer in length than width. There is a deep notch on the opposite side where the leaf is attached to the leaf petiole.

Western Redbud has leaves that measure 2 to 4 inches across. Their shape is round because there is no pointed tip. The opposite end also has a deep notch and petiole attachment point. Western Redbud also has slightly darker leaves than Eastern Redbud.

The foliage of both trees looks different and it is hard to judge which is the best. But Western Redbud’s round and darker leaves look a little more interesting.

Eastern Redbud has way more varieties

Eastern Redbud is more widely cultivated and, as a result, breeders have created many different varieties. Unfortunately, Western Redbud does not boast such diversity.

First of all, I have to mention Black Pearl Redbud. It is an improved version of Eastern Redbud. This variety is 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. The leaves are dark purple and very shiny. From a distance, the foliage looks black.

The second variety is Pink Heartbreaker Weeping Redbud. It is noted for its large clusters of flowers that fall on weeping branches. When it blooms, it provides an unforgettable spectacle. Much more compact than both of our redbuds.

The next thing you should look at is Ruby Falls Redbud. It has beautiful bronze foliage that you rarely see among similar trees. It also has good hardiness that allows it to be grown almost all over the United States.

And finally the highlight – Carolina Sweetheart Redbud. This is a rather large tree with two colors of foliage. The leaves are purple when unfurled. As it matures, part of the leaves turns pink, while the other part becomes variegated (green-white). In fact, it is a truly delightful tree.


The first thing these trees have in common is messiness. In addition to a large number of leaves in the fall, they produce many flowers in the spring and seed pods in the summer. You will have to clean your garden of plant debris several times a year, no matter which option you choose.

Next is sunlight. Redbuds can grow in both sun and shade. The only thing it is contraindicated full shade. You need to ensure at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day for each of them. The further north you go, the more light they need.

These trees also have a similar tolerance to the soil. They grow well on different soils, including clay and sandy ones. Soil acidity also has little effect on their growth. What is important here is that no water should stagnate in the place where the redbud is planted. If you have something similar, you need to arrange drainage.

As for watering, everything is simple. Both species need watering only if it has not rained for 7 days. This is true for newly planted trees. After 3-4 years, watering can be discontinued, since plants will be able to extract the necessary amount of water on their own until this time. In winter, no watering is necessary at all.

Redbud belongs to the type of plants that can get nutrients not only from the ground but also from the air. Therefore, they do not need fertilizers. But if you want to get a big tree quickly, you can fertilize Redbud with a little slow-decay fertilizer in the 2nd and 3rd years after planting. One feeding per year in early spring will be enough to speed up the growth of your tree.

Like all plants, our two trees can be damaged by disease. This is especially true of fungal diseases. You need to use fungicides to treat them. It is best to spray with an aqueous fungicide solution once a year.

Also, some pests can damage these trees. In fact, there are quite a large number of redbud pests, and there is no point in listing them. At the slightest sign of pests, you should spray the tree with horticultural oil.

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!