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Catalpa, Northern Catalpa speciosa

Northern Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa
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Large, showy white, trumpet-shaped flowers grace the Catalpa in late spring. Its narrow crown is oval-shaped or uneven, upright with distinctively large, heart-shaped, bright green leaves and long, bean-like pods. Withstands wet, dry, alkaline soils and hot, dry environments, but prefers moist, deep soil. Sun or partial shade. Grows to 40'-60' with a 20'-40' spread. (Zones 4-8)

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Zones 4 - 8 Zones 4 - 8
Hardiness Zones 4 - 8
The Northern Catalpa can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map. View Map
Flowering Tree Flowering Tree
Type of tree
Flowering Trees, Ornamental Trees, Shade Trees
40' - 60' High 40' - 60' High
Mature Height
The Northern Catalpa grows to be 40' - 60' feet in height.
20' - 40' Spread 20' - 40' Spread
Mature Spread
The Northern Catalpa has a spread of about 20' - 40' at full maturity.
Medium to Fast Growth Medium to Fast Growth
Growth Rate
This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate. More about this.
Full Sun Full Sun
This catalpa does well in full sun, partial shade.
Various Soils Various Soils
The Northern Catalpa grows in acidic, alkaline, drought tolerant, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils.
Oval Shape Oval Shape
This catalpa has oval shape.

An excellent tree where fast growth is desired. Striking flowers that appear in early summer. Catalpas can withstand city conditions while adding interest to landscapes. Should not be planted where fruit and flowers can drop on sidewalks as they are slippery after they fall for a short period of time.


Large, tube, bell-shaped 2" white flowers are borne in 4"-8" long panicles in late spring. The crown is narrow, uneven or oval-shaped, with broad branches that curve upward. The very large, 6"-12", slightly heart-shaped, medium green leaves turn yellow-greenish or brown in fall. Bean-like seed capsules, 8"-20" long are green in color changing to brown and splitting open when ripe. It is tolerant of wet, dry, acid to alkaline soils, hot, dry environments, sun or partial shade, but prefers deep, moist soil. Because of the large leaves and seed pods, catalpa is not a tree to plant if a little annual "mess" is objectionable. Grows to 40'-60' with a 20-40' spread. (Zones 4-8)

Wildlife Value

The flowers of the catalpa are visited by hummingbirds. It is the sole host of the catalpa sphinx moth. Produces nectar and/or pollen, thus providing nutrition for bees in early summer.


The Catalpa tree is found in forests from southern Illinois and Indiana to western Tennessee and Arkansas. First cultivated in 1754, the wood was used for fence posts and railroad ties because of its resistance to rot coupled with the fast growth rate of the tree. In the south, Catalpa trees are traditional sources of fish bait. Catalpa worms, the larvae of Catalpa Sphinx Moths, are eagerly sought in early summer by anglers. Common names for catalpa are many and colorful-cigar tree, Indian bean tree, catawba, caterpillar tree, hardy catalpa, western catalpa.


A wide range of moisture content can be tolerated including some flooding and extremely hot, dry conditions.


The leaves are simple, opposite, somewhat heart or spearhead shaped, 6"-12" long, 3"-8" wide, medium green in summer, yellow or brown in fall. Their shape and giant size long make them a favorite with children.

Flower Color

White, trumpet shaped, 2" flowers that flare widely from the base, decorated with yellow lines or patches and occasional purple spots. Slightly fragrant. Catalpa begins to flower after 7 years.

Bloom Time

May - June.

Fruit Description

The fruits are elongated cigar-shaped or bean-like pods, 8"-12" long, 1/4"-1/2" wide. They are green in color turning brownish filled with numerous, 1" long seeds fringed at the ends. A favorite of children's play and imagination. Northern catalpa begins to flower after 7 years, but will take until 10 years of age to begin to a produce quality seed crop.