Western Redbud Tree Size

peachymomo(Ca 8)April 7, 2011

Hello, I want to plant three trees along my front fence and I was thinking that Western Redbud trees would be my first choice. My fence is 10' tall, 9' of solid redwood and 1' of lattice, and I want the trees to be about twice as high as the fence. I've seen lots of redbuds growing around town, many of them planted in front of tall fences or walls, and most looked to me to be about 20' tall or maybe a little more. But when I looked them up in my Sunset garden book it says they grow 10'-18' tall.

So my question is do redbud trees really only grow to 18' tall, and I only thought they were taller because I am bad at judging heights and sizes? Or can they grow taller than 18'? Do you think 18' is tall enough to look good in front of a 10' fence? If redbud trees will not be good for planting in front of my fence, what is a better choice? I want something that won't grow too large, like 25' tall max, and will be happy with no extra water once established.

Thanks in advance!

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Mine are about 18'-20' and don't seem inclined to get much taller.

I'm not thrilled with my Cercis. Grown too dry, the leaves start to yellow and fall in June. Plus they reseed everywhere. I'm constantly pulling up seedlings.

If you want good growth out of them you will have to water them in summer for a few years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cercis comments at Las Pilitas

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 4:41PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

For the size you want, I would suggest that Cercis canadensis or one of its cultivars such as 'Forest Pansy' is better size wise, these are generally in the 25 to 30 foot height by spread range.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:22AM
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moschata(SF Bay Area 9)


Doesn't cercis canadensis require more water than occidentalis? My Forest Pansy gets fried by midsummer in our hot Contra Costa summers. Someone recently told me they need afternoon shade in hot, dry climates.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 7:09PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

The native Cercis occidentalis is better conceived of as a large shrub than a tree. It is naturally multi-trunked but can be trained to a single bole and thus formed into a small tree which may then make 20 ft. or more in height over a good number of years. It sounds, though, like a large shrub is what you need.

The idea of a chorus line of western redbuds in front of a fence doesn't thrill me, and I see a number of problems with it, but sometimes owners are able to see something in their mind's eye that is the right choice for their particular application.

There are some very nice ceanothus and manzanita clones that would stay in that height range. I can think of several others, but not knowing whether your particular "Zone 8" is the USDA's or Sunset's complicates the matter of climate-appropriate recommendations. A picture of the subject site would also be very helpful.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 9:27PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I don't have direct experience with the Forest Pansy Redbud in inland California situations, but know that it can thrive in Dallas Texas with summer irrigation, and here by the bay, it is a perfect tree in many ways, and doesn't seem at all demanding of lots of water. I would suggest that it is going to be better if it gets some protection of larger evergreen trees to give it some wind protection and dappled sun if you see it getting sunburnt in full sun situations where you live. I've seen it do just fine at friend's gardens in Walnut Creek, but not in full sun, and the garden had older pines and Valley Oaks to filter the hot sun and winds.

As to the OP's original request, he might be better off with a Fremontodendron 'California Glory' or Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' for the size wanted and no future watering, but neither one of these is ideal if temps regularly fall below 25F each winter. I'd suggest that a Chitalpa x tashkentensis 'Pink Dawn' might be the better choice, as it is also very drought tolerant, yet takes the cold, and has a long bloom season and no messy looking seed pods.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 1:04AM
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Flannel bush and the chitalpa cross of CA desert willow & Indian bean tree seem like good choices, I think redbud could work too, but it depends on your location. Chilopsis and catalpa have some other interesting cultivars too. All of those plants can be largely ignored, once established.

Flannel bush is like Matilija poppy for me, great & showy with almost no labor or water if I make it happy, prone to suicide if I make one mistake.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 3:05PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I am in Sunset zone 14, in a spot surrounded by mature trees of various species. Right now there are a couple of fairly young oaks in front of the fence and there are things about them that I like and things that I don't. My main concern is that the area inside the fence is the only place on my property that gets enough sun (barely) for a rose garden, and I am worried that the oaks will eventually cast too much shade for me to be able to have any roses at all. But they provide a wonderful habitat for birds and I think they are one of the reasons I get so many birds visiting my fountain and feeders.

So I was thinking when I was ready to change the landscaping in my front yard I would have the oaks removed and plant a few smaller, more evenly spaced trees in their place. I would like some sort of display, and since I've seen redbud trees around town that looked to be the size I wanted I thought they would be good. I assumed they were Western Redbuds because I read an article about redbuds that said Eastern Redbuds tend to do poorly in my climate.

Anyways, I'm open to suggestions but I would prefer something that has a tree form to a shrub, although I love ceanothus and many of the other shrubs mentioned.

Here are some pics of the spot:

My neighbor across the street has some persimmon trees along the front of their property and they look like a good size, but since the trees will be sheltering birds I didn't think persimmons would be ideal for me.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 5:24PM
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Boy, that sure looks nice to me with the oaks and the jacaranda in the background. Maybe thin branches and add redbud or whatever to the landscape along the fence with the oaks? Take out one oak and thin the other (be careful, excessive pruning can kill)?

I can't imagine you'll get anything to grow in the oak root zone for years without some serious work anyway.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 7:45PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I am going to need to have a tree service come and remove another tree and grind down that stump, plus several other stumps from trees that were already removed anyway, so I figured I would just have them do those oaks at the same time. I don't really feel the need to keep those small oaks because we have numerous other larger oaks that are in better spots, as well as being more majestic and beautiful looking. I would prefer some smaller trees that would give some sort of show, whether it's a spring or summer bloom or some fall color I don't really mind. I have lots of oaks but no blooming trees, and my only fall color tree is an unhealthy and badly pruned liquid amber that is going to be removed. I'm not sure there is a jacaranda in the background. The trees to the left of my oaks are persimmons, we enjoy the fall/winter display of fruit a lot. I thought about planting some persimmons of my own, or some other fruiting tree, but since we get so many birds hanging out in those trees I don't think I will. If I have a fruit tree I like to keep the birds out so that I can enjoy the fruit, and I kind of want these trees to be for the birds to enjoy. So some small, blooming, bird-friendly trees are what I was thinking, which is why I was leaning towards Redbuds.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 9:14PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

You know, I rather like the persimmon idea. Great fall foliage, attractive winter fruit, edible landscaping, drought tolerant, cold tolerant...sounds like a winner to me.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 1:32AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I love persimmon trees, I have one in my home orchard (planted at my kindhearted mother's house, because she has more land and a lot more sun than I do.) But they can be messy when it's time for the fruit to drop, and I don't really want to clean persimmon slime off of my fence.

I've not grown a non-astringent type before, they might not be as messy as those that need to get soft-ripe. But I have a feeling that even the non astringent fruits will get soft and slimy after a while. So I would be left with either the job of picking all the fruit off of the trees or cleaning up the mess after they dropped.

I was looking around on the sunset website's plant finder and came up with this list of alternates: Crab Apple or Prunus Mume are the only fruits I was considering, maybe some kind of flowering plum or cherry, I also liked the look of Chitalpa, California Pepper, Goldenrain Tree, or a Japanese Maple if it could handle the sun, perhaps a common seedling. Now I'm thinking of maybe not having three trees that are all the same, but I'm not sure how a mix would look or which would be good to mix.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 10:23AM
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lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

I thought the warblers, jays and squirrels took care of surplus persimmons. We never have any hit the ground in our garden!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 8:50PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

You must have more birds than we do, because every year there is a big slimy mess under the persimmon trees that don't have their fruit picked. I know this well because for a long time one of my (and my cousins) yearly chores was to pick Grandma's tree clean so that she wouldn't have to deal with the fruit drop herself. Funnily enough after she passed away and her house was sold I couldn't help but plant a new persimmon tree of my own because we no longer had access to her old tree. I missed the fruit enough to saddle myself with the chore, but that's over in my home orchard and not right next to my nice fence ; )

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 9:16AM
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lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

I wonder if we have the same variety of persimmon.

I've got firm-fleshed Fuyus. Perhaps you have the soft fleshed type?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:44AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Yes, I have a Hachiya which is a soft type. Also, are there lots of other persimmons where you live? Persimmon trees are very common here so there is an overabundance of fruit in the fall. On the other hand the birds certainly don't have any problems stripping my cherry trees of their fruit earlier in the year...

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:49AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

"California" peppers (they are from South America) will cast even heavier shade than the oaks, get just as large, drop torrents and torrents of litter, reseed everywhere, and send invasive roots to suck up all the water you are giving your roses. They are a nice tree in the right spot, but they have some serious drawbacks.

Crape Myrtle?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:57PM
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I'm not an expert, more of a newbie, but I think California Mountain Dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii) would give a beautiful show and be very happy under the oaks. Crape Myrtles aren't natives, but they do well and look pretty. They'll need some water, though.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 3:57PM
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