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What is the difference between Forest Pansy Redbud and redbud?

Redbud trees are popular ornamental trees appreciated for their showy spring flowers and heart-shaped leaves. There are many cultivars of redbud available, but two of the most popular are the Forest Pansy redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’) and the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). While quite similar in many respects, there are some key differences between these two varieties that gardeners should be aware of.

In this article, we will compare Forest Pansy and eastern redbud on factors like appearance, size, hardiness, and care requirements. Read on to learn more about selecting, planting, and caring for these beloved landscape trees.


The most noticeable difference between Forest Pansy and eastern redbud is the color of their foliage.

Forest Pansy Redbud

Forest Pansy redbud has attractive, purple-tinged leaves. The leaves emerge a vivid reddish-purple before mellowing to a burgundy-purple as they mature. The leaf undersides are a bit lighter in color.

The purple-leaved effect is strongest in spring and fall. In summer, the leaves may fade to a more subdued green-purple hue. However, the color is still much darker than regular redbuds.

Eastern Redbud

Eastern redbud has green foliage. The heart-shaped leaves are a light, bright green in spring and transition to a deeper emerald green in summer. In fall, the foliage turns golden-yellow.

So in terms of foliage color, Forest Pansy offers richer, more dramatic purple tones compared to the green leaves of the eastern redbud.


Both trees produce clusters of small, pea-like pink flowers along their branches in early spring before the leaves emerge. There is no major difference in blooms between the two trees.

Tree Foliage Color Flowers
Forest Pansy Redbud Purple Pink
Eastern Redbud Green Pink


At maturity, Forest Pansy redbud is often a bit smaller than the eastern redbud.

Forest Pansy Redbud

– Mature height: 20-30 ft
– Mature spread: 25-35 ft
– Growth rate: Medium

Forest Pansy redbud has a rounded form with an umbrella-like habit. It usually reaches about 20-30 ft in height and 25-35 ft in width at maturity. It is considered a small to medium-sized ornamental tree.

Eastern Redbud

– Mature height: 20-35 ft
– Mature spread: 25-35 ft
– Growth rate: Medium

The eastern redbud grows to similar dimensions, reaching about 20-35 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide at maturity. It has a rounded, open-branching form.

So while fairly close in size, eastern redbuds are often reported to reach slightly larger proportions. However, both trees stay relatively small and can work well even in smaller yards.

Tree Mature Height Mature Spread
Forest Pansy Redbud 20-30 ft 25-35 ft
Eastern Redbud 20-35 ft 25-35 ft


Forest Pansy and eastern redbud have very similar hardiness characteristics.

Both trees thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. They can tolerate cold winters and hot summers. However, they perform best in zones 6-8.

Some key facts about their hardiness:

– Can survive temperatures down to -20°F to -10°F when dormant.
– Prefer areas with long growing seasons and moderate summer temperatures.
– Require about 200-500 chill hours.
– Tolerate a wide range of soil pH from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.
– Are not well suited for coastal or high-humidity areas.

So gardeners throughout most of the central and eastern U.S. can grow either type of redbud successfully. Just avoid far northern or southern extremes.

Tree Hardiness Zones Temperature Tolerance
Forest Pansy Redbud 5-9 -20°F to -10°F
Eastern Redbud 5-9 -20°F to -10°F

Care Requirements

When it comes to care, there are few major differences between the two trees. Both have moderate requirements.

Sun Exposure

– Forest Pansy redbud grows best in full sun but also tolerates partial shade. Needs at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.

– Eastern redbud thrives in full sun to partial shade. Grows well with about 4 to 6 hours of sun.


– Forest Pansy redbud requires regular watering when young but can tolerate some drought once established. Water weekly during first few years after planting.

– Eastern redbud also needs sufficient water when young and is somewhat drought-tolerant when mature. Water weekly while establishing.


– Forest Pansy does best in rich, well-draining soil. Prefers loose, moist, acidic soils. Avoid heavy clays.

– Eastern redbud also thrives in moist but well-draining soil. Tolerates a range of soil pH levels.


– Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to Forest Pansy in early spring. Avoid high-nitrogen blends.

– Fertilize eastern redbud in spring with a balanced or phosphorus-heavy blend.


– Prune Forest Pansy in late winter to maintain shape. Remove broken/damaged growth as needed.

– Prune eastern redbud in late winter or early spring. Prune to shape and remove dead branches.

So in general, the care needs of both trees align closely. Providing ample sun, water, fertile soil, and occasional pruning will keep them healthy.

Problems and Pests

The two redbuds share many of the same disease and pest vulnerabilities. Potential issues to watch for include:

– Leaf spots
– Verticillium wilt
– Botryosphaeria canker
– Root rot
– Redbud borer
– Japanese beetles

Pruning out infected areas, watering at soil level, diversifying plants, cleaning up fallen leaves/debris, and treating pests can help prevent outbreaks. Overall, both are relatively trouble-free with few serious problems under ideal conditions.

Availability and Costs

Both Forest Pansy and eastern redbud are widely available at nurseries and garden centers across the country. Purchased as:

– Bare root saplings
– Potted trees
– Balled and burlapped specimens

Typical pricing:

– Bare root saplings ($15-30 per tree)
– 1-2 gallon pots ($15-40 per tree)
– 5-15 gallon pots ($50-150 per tree)
– Large balled/burlapped ($150-250 per mature tree)

So they are very equal in terms of sourcing and costs. Bare root and petite container varieties offer budget-friendly options for mass plantings.

Landscape Uses

Thanks to their petite size, brilliant flowers, and attractive foliage, both types of redbuds are exceptional ornamental landscape trees. Some popular uses include:

– Specimen/focal tree
– Mass planting for borders or privacy screens
– Accent tree near entries or patios
– Underplanting/understory tree below taller trees
– Group planting in lawns or naturalized areas
– Container planting
– Bonsai displays

The purple-leaved Forest Pansy is especially striking for specimen planting. But both add wonderful early season color.


In summary, while quite similar, there are some distinctions between Forest Pansy and eastern redbud that gardeners should keep in mind:

Forest Pansy has vivid purple foliage while eastern redbud has green leaves.

– Forest Pansy may grow slightly smaller than eastern redbud (typically max 20-30 ft height).

– The two share nearly identical growing requirements and landscape uses.

– Both trees flower profusely with bright pink blooms in early spring.

– They have similar availability, costs, pests, and problems.

So choosing between the two comes down largely to whether you want dramatic purple or classic green foliage. Both make exceptional spring-flowering ornamental trees for gardens across the central and eastern U.S.