A redbud tree is a small, short-lived tree that produces red or reddish-purple flowers in the earliest days of spring. One species is called the Judas tree because of the legend that Judas hanged himself from this tree.
The flowers of the redbud grow directly from old wood and resemble the flowers of the sweet pea. They are not only beautiful to behold, but edible. The flowers are then replaced by pods that hang on into winter. The deciduous leaves are round or heart-shaped and turn attractive colors in the fall, though the color is uncertain.
The redbud is a tree often seen in the south, but the hardiness zones where it grows best depend on the species. The eastern redbud, for example, does well in hardiness zones 4 to 9 and is found from Florida to New Jersey. The smaller California redbud is found in the west and grows best in the warmer zones 7 to 9.
Redbud trees are best planted on cool and rainy days in the spring or the fall. The heat of summer might cause the plant to go into shock, and in winter, the ground is too hard. Though it can grow in some shade, the redbud prefers full sun. It prefers soil that is light but rich.