Care for “rescued” Hearts of Gold Eastern Redbud

(Question)

IMG_3073I got this young tree for free, as it was excessively damaged by pruning and drought: it is about 4 feet tall, with two main stems (a low fork), but all the leafing stems along it are dried and brown. At the base, it has a good show of green leafing stems (suckers?). It was in a pot but lifted right out! There was no fine root network around the large chunky roots. I love redbuds and couldn’t pass the chance to see if it can be saved. I’ve got it in my front garden where it gets morning sun to 11am then shade for the rest of the day. Soil is sandy. I can certainly relocate it. My main questions are: should I cut off the suckers (if I do there will be no live green leaves on the plant)? Are there any soil/site advantages I can provide (beyond Myke, and partial shade) that will enhance it’s chance of recovery? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide! Lise

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

Redbud, Cercis, is a beautiful native tree to southern Ontario. Toronto is approaching the northern limit of the range but there are some beautiful specimens around.

I totally understand your desire to save this tree. From the picture it does look very sad. The suckers you see coming from the bottom will not develop into healthy stems and trunks. They are using up valuable nutrients and water. The deciding factor is whether you can see any buds higher up on the trunk. I can not tell from the picture if they have all been cut off but I suspect they might be. Unfortunately with the pruning that was done it may not be possible to recreate a sturdy branch structure.

That being said there is no harm in trying. It would be best to put the tree in a space without the other plants surrounding it and competing for water and nutrients. You should mulch around the tree with a ring of mulch around the trunk. Please ensure none of the mulch it touching the bark. Give the tree regular deep watering allowing it to dry out between waterings. The first thing the tree needs to do is grow roots. When you transplant be very careful with the roots. I would leave the suckers on for a little bit to help with photosynthesis but ultimately if the tree begins growing I would remove the suckers. pruning now would just be more trauma.

Good luck with this project!