Originating from E. USA
This is a large shrub or small tree with show-stopping qualities in all its parts. It flowers on its bare branches before the foliage appears, and then produces strikingly marked foliage in great abundance. It may form a single or multi-stemmed plant that can be pruned to look like a small tree, with its lower stems cleared of foliage and a wide dome-shaped crown, or left to naturally form a wide and tiered shrub. Its large heart-shaped leaves are held alternately on each side of the branches on long stalks in a symmetrical pattern, giving the whole plant a distinctive and organized appearance. The branches are upright while the plant is young but quickly widen out, giving the plant a wide-spreading slightly pendulous shape, due to the dense foliage luxuriantly covering them and appearing to weigh them down.
The outstanding colouration of the leaves is reminiscent of a tropical or subtropical shrub called Acalypha and can appear as broad areas of pure white or in multitudes of small blotches in many different shades of green – all on one leaf; some may even appear as entirely white. As they emerge in the spring the leaves at the tips of the branches have a reddish tint, and in the autumn the white parts of the leaf turn yellow. This outstanding foliage quality may merit experimentation with hard pruning, keeping the plant pollarded back from its potential 7m mature height. If well fed and watered in a deep and rich soil the plant should grow vigorously, producing even bigger foliage.
The floral display in spring is an added bonus to start off C. ‘Alley Cat’s’ spring and summer contribution to the garden. The clusters of lavender-pink/cerise blooms are held tightly to the branches, each one curved in on itself in a shrimp-like formation. They last several weeks and fade as the foliage begins to emerge. Cercis are easy plants to grow and will tolerate most soil types, although they perform best in deep and rich soil. This form will benefit from some dappled shade in the hottest part of the day, making the white markings stand out even more.
Height and spread after 5 – 6 years 3m x 3.5m
Mature height and spread after 10 – 12 years if not pruned 7m x 5m