Catalpa Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tips

Updated on November 20, 2017

The catalpa tree 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.

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.


Medicinal Uses

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.

Additional Facts and Information in Relation to the Catalpa Tree: Catalpa Bignonioides and Its Variety Speciosa (Classic Reprint)
Additional Facts and Information in Relation to the Catalpa Tree: Catalpa Bignonioides and Its Variety Speciosa (Classic Reprint)

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,.


© 2014 Ron Noble


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      bett 6 weeks ago

      I have been trying to grow a catalpa tree from seeds. they get about three inches in height then die. what am I doing wrong? I have tried part sun, low sun. I have used last years seeds and done everything that the different web sites have suggested. if anyone can give advise I would be greatful.

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      Pam W. 3 months ago

      I would love to have some seeds from the fisherman tree if someone is interested in selling any.

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      ain't no thing but a chicken wing 5 months ago

      What are some uses you can do with catalpa beans? i have a ton of them but i don't know what to do with them

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      jeannette krane 8 months ago

      Are catalpa trees affected by drought by winter night frost without extra water after October shut off?

      Do I need to hand water during winter?

      Tank you!

      Jeannette Krane