Colour-changing cercis wins Chelsea Plant of the Year

From the world’s leading breeder, this new shrub features foliage in many fiery shades – all on the same stem at the same time

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is well known for its pink spring flowers. However, the latest in a series valuable developments from North Carolina State University brings a new cultivar, Eternal Flame (‘NC2016-2’), which adds unique foliage colouring all through the summer too.

Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame (‘NC2016-2’)Best grown as a multi-stemmed specimen, Eternal Flame is a deciduous shrub or small tree reaching 3-4 metres in height.

Mature plants will carry the pink pea-like flowers directly on the stems – but the chief glory of this unique new introduction is the foliage.
The heart-shaped leaves open in a deep and glossy red then, as they mature during the season, they change colour from deep wine red to scarlet through orange and eventually to yellow. Each stem carries foliage in all the colours at the same time.

The result is a uniquely fiery foliage effect. The plants are moderately vigorous, are happy in any reasonable soil in full sun and develop an attractive, semi-weeping habit.

Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame (‘NC2016-2’) is the latest in a series of new introductions from a breeding programme, begun in the 1990s by Dr. Dennis Werner. He is the JC Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science, and plant breeder, at North Carolina State University. It was developed from a cross between one of his own unnamed seedlings and The Rising Sun (‘JN2’), developed in Tennessee.

His other redbud introductions include ‘Ruby Falls’ and ‘Whitewater’ and ‘Merlot’. He’s also worked extensively on buddleias and is largely responsible for the many dwarf selections now available.

Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame was launched by Garden Centres at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair. It also won a Gold Medal at last month’s HTA New Plant Awards.

You can order plants of Cercis canadensis Eternal Flame from Suttons, and also from Thompson & Morgan. It is also available from Hillier Garden Centres.

Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and do not constitute an official endorsement by the RHS.

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