The Forest Pansy is a type of redbud that can be grown as a large shrub or a small to medium-sized tree. It has an interesting multi-branching habit, and when mature, takes on an attractive non-symmetrical shape with a flat top.
This tree is primarily grown for its interesting foliage, which changes color through the seasons before dropping in late fall to reveal a beautiful skeleton tree. However, this tree also produces flowers, giving a spectacular show for a few weeks during spring.
Forest Pansy Overview
|Scientific Name||Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'|
|Type||Deciduous shrub or tree|
|Height||Up to 30 feet|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering||Medium moisture needs|
Forest Pansy is a popular redbud tree type and has won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. There are many more types of redbud trees available, including the following.
Western Redbud - Cercis occidentalis
This is a smaller type of redbud, growing to a maximum of 15 feet in height. It produces purple-pink flowers, which develop into interesting purple seed pods as they evolve. The foliage of this tree starts out bright green, then turns to a deeper green-blue shade in the summer.
As fall arrives, the leaves turn to orange-yellow, then finally orange-red before they drop. The foliage of the Western Redbud is a slightly different shape to the Forest Pansy. It is vaguely heart-shaped but comes to a rounded tip instead of a point.
Tennessee Pink - Cercis canadensis
This redbud is a dwarf variety, reaching up to 12 feet tall. The small stature of this tree makes it ideal for smaller gardens or growing in containers on patios or balconies. The branches grow to create an umbrella-like dome shape, which can be seen even more clearly when the leaves drop in the fall.
The flowers of this tree are vivid pink and are joined after a few weeks by glossy dark green leaves. The heart-shaped leaves become yellow with the arrival of fall. This tree is suitable for growing in a wide variety of climates, being hardy from USDA hardiness zone 5 to 9.
Eastern Redbud - Cercis canadensis
This tree is hardier than the Forest Pansy, so it is ideal for growing in colder climates if you’re a fan of redbuds but worry about their ability to survive colder winters. It is hardy from zone 4 to 9 and is drought tolerant once mature.
This tree grows up to 30 feet in height, with a spread of up to 35 feet. Rounded heart-shaped foliage emerges in lime green with red flushes and turns to dark green in the summer. With fall, the leaves fade to yellow and then drop to the ground.
Chinese Redbud - Cercis chinensis
Like the Forest Pansy, this redbud tree has received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. It grows to the petite height of 12 feet and is known for flowering the most abundantly out of any of the redbuds. Its foliage is heart-shaped, large, and glossy. It is hardy from zone 6 to 9 and performs best in well-draining, moist soil.
Judas Tree - Cercis siliquastrum
This tree also goes by the name of Mediterranean Redbud, as it is native to the region around the eastern Mediterranean. It grows to a maximum of 25 feet and has red spring foliage, which transforms to dark green in summer and green-yellow in fall. Like most redbuds, this tree enjoys rich and consistently moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
Caring for Your Redbud Tree
The Forest Pansy likes to grow in soil that is regularly watered, with an even and consistent amount. However, it will not grow in wet or boggy soils, so in order to make sure its moisture requirements aren’t the reason for its downfall, you will need to grow this plant in well-draining soil. A well-draining soil will allow excess water to drain away from the root system of the plant, preventing it from sitting in water and suffering from root rot.
As a young plant, the Forest Pansy will want plenty to drink, but as it ages, you can lower the amount of water you give it. Once mature, it can survive periods of drought, though this particular cultivar is less drought tolerant than most redbuds, so don’t intentionally deprive it of moisture.
This plant can adapt well to a variety of soil types, including clay, sandy, or loamy soil. However, it performs best in rich and fertile soil. As long as the soil drains well, then the Forest Pansy should grow perfectly well.
It does not respond well to being disturbed, so when you initially plant your Forest Pansy make sure you choose a location that will be permanent. Trying to move your plant once it has settled may cause it to decline.
These plants can reach heights of up to 30 feet with a spread of up to 25 feet, so choose a spot which is a suitable size, and gets adequate light (Royal Horticultural Society).
Forest Pansy trees can grow in full sun or partial shade. The ideal lighting for your plant will depend on your climate. If you live in the South where summers tend to be hotter, then a partially shaded position will work best for this tree.
When the Forest Pansy is in partial shade, you should ideally situate it so that it gets morning sun and afternoon shade, therefore giving it some respite from the heat during the hottest part of the day. If your summers are milder, then a position of full sun would work best for this tree. The more light it receives, the more profusely it will bloom.
This plant is hardy through USDA hardiness zones 6-8. It is native to central and eastern North America, so it grows especially well in these regions.
Though the Forest Pansy loves sun, it is sensitive to heat, so if grown in a warmer climate, it should be protected from the heat by ensuring it gets shaded in the afternoon. This is the best way to regulate the temperature of the plant and help it to survive in climates where it may otherwise struggle.
In order for flowers to set properly, the plant needs to undergo a winter chill. Therefore, it is not advisable to grow it in climates where winters are mild.
Forest Pansy plants can be propagated by seed or cuttings. To grow from seed, plant it in moist and well-draining soil in the fall. It should develop roots over winter and start its rapid growth the following spring. Alternatively, you can take cuttings from a mature plant to propagate during spring or summer.
For successful propagation, you will need semi-hardwood cuttings. These are stems from the plant which are not the fresh new growth, but also not the old brittle growth. You can identify semi-hardwood stems from their pliability. New growth will be very bendy under pressure, whereas old growth will simply snap. Semi-hardwood growth will be somewhere between the two, offering some resistance against bending but not snapping easily.
You can use these cuttings to propagate indoors or outdoors, choosing to plant them in potting soil in a container or directly in ground soil. You will need to maintain moist soil while the cuttings take root, while also being careful not to overwater. You will know the cutting has rooted when new leaves develop.
Above soil, growth is always an indication that below soil growth is also happening. You can also test whether roots have developed by gently tugging on the cutting. If it easily slides out of the soil, then it has not rooted, whereas if some resistance is felt, then this is because roots are holding onto the soil.
A few weeks after roots have developed, a cutting kept in a container will need to be potted on into a larger container, or planted outside. Pick a location where the plant will be able to grow to its full size because Forest Pansy’s resent being transplanted and can go into decline. For this reason, you should avoid planting any cuttings in a spot which they may outgrow in the future.
The flowers of this tree are small and pink, with a pea-like appearance. They bloom in spring before the leaves have unfurled, covering the bare branches of the tree with a mass of pretty blossoms. The visual effect is very striking, though it is short-lived. The blooms last just a few weeks before they develop into long flat seed pods.
The leaves of the plant emerge a few weeks after the arrival of the flowers, in a shimmering purple-red. Foliage is broad and heart-shaped, with a glossy finish. The large leaves evolve to shades of yellow, orange, and burgundy in the fall before dropping off the tree in winter (Gardeners' World).