Catalpa Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tips
The is a quicker growing deciduous tree that can reach heights of around eighty feet. Though, more realistically, many trees of this species will typically grow to be about fifty feet in height. The catalpa's quickest growing period is during the first ten years of its age, where it reaches twenty feet in height, before slowing down in its growth. Regarding its growing regions, the catalpa can be grown in most areas throughout the United States and in many other climates and areas around the world. catalpa tree
Some of the most notable features of this tree are its white flowers that resemble an iris, given its shape and its purple and yellow coloring. The flowers themselves will appear in late spring and give the tree a noticeable white covering amongst its huge green leaves. Another notable, unique feature of this tree are the bean pods, which appear later in the season. As for the leaves, the sharp-pointed, semi heart-shaped leaves of the catalpa do not change color in the fall. At least not like leaves from other trees do. After the first frost, the leaves and seeds will fall off the tree. In areas where winters aren't all that bad, and depending on the species of the catalpa, you may see new trees popping up in spring from the dropped seeds/seed pods. The new saplings are quite easy to move somewhere that's more convenient for growing and will survive careful transplanting, without any problems. Though you can also collect the seeds from a seed pod for planting in a planter indoors and then transplanting that new tree in the spring, especially in colder climates. You can also grow a new tree from cuttings.
The catalpa is considered an ornamental tree of sorts and its white flowers certainly add a great deal of attention-grabbing appeal to the tree when they bloom in late spring. As long as you don't mind fallen seed pods, large leaves and flowers collecting on the ground, this tree is an excellent choice for growing in your yard. Even better, it makes for a great shade tree with its large leaves.
The more common species of the Catalpa are, as listed below:
Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)
Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)
Chinese Catalpa (Catalpa ovata)
Unofficial and historic names for the Catalpa tree are the Indian bean tree, Catawba, and the Cigar tree.
Planting and Growth
- Collect the pods after the leaves fall, once the pods are sufficiently dried, but before the seeds have fallen from open pods.
- Store the pods in a dry area. When you're ready, the seeds may be separated from the pods and placed in packets.
- You can grow a catalpa tree from cuttings, but it's easier to grow them from seeds.
- If you choose not to grow them in a planter then plant the seeds in the spring in a warm, light and rich soil.
- If planting more than one tree, or when planting in rows, make sure they're planted three to four feet apart.
- Feel free to add protection and markers around the saplings, as needed. Also, keep weeds and grass from growing around the tree when the trees are small.
- Plant the seeds about an inch down and in light soil, allowing the seedling to push out of through the soil.
When made into a tea the bark of the Southern catalpa tree has been used an antiseptic, supposedly used as a snake bite antidote, treatment for malaria and also for whooping cough. The flowers and pods have been used as a light sedative while the flowers have also been used for treating asthma. Also, because of the antiseptic properties of the tree, the leaves can be used as a poultice for wounds.
Disclaimer: It's best to consult a doctor for treatment of any health issues you may have.
A reproduction of the 1879 book by E. E. Barney. In it are facts and information about two species of Catalpa trees, Catalpa Bignonioides and Catalpa Speciosa,.
Questions & Answers
A catalpa is growing close to my house and might be growing into my drain pipes. If I cut it down how can I kill the stump without pulling it out and endangering my pipes?
The first thing to do is to cut the stump as close to the ground as you can. Depending on how big the tree is, you should drill anywhere around a dozen or so holes in the stump. The holes should be drilled with a one-inch drill bit and drilled to a depth of around 10 inches.
Then mix rock salt or Epsom salt with a small amount of warm water and fill the holes with the solution. After doing so, cover the whole stump with a dark tarp or a black trash bag for a few months. Although it is unlikely that any saplings will pop up, it is a good idea to keep on the lookout for them and to remove them if you see them.
It is May here in Michigan, and my Catalpa tree has no leaves or growth showing yet - is that normal?
It could be. Just as long as the tree seemed healthy during the last season, and hasn't been damaged. The Catalpa is typically the last tree to bud, and grows leaves in the spring. In your area, it could take as long as the end of May or so before it begins budding.
© 2014 Ron Noble