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PlantFiles: Northern Catalpa, Western Catalpa, Western Catawba, Indian Cigar Tree, Fish-Bait Tree
Catalpa speciosa

Family: Bignoniaceae (big-no-nih-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Catalpa (kuh-TAL-puh) (Info)
Species: speciosa (spee-see-OH-suh) (Info)

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

23 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost
Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 27 photos.
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13 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive bobbieberecz On Jun 22, 2014, bobbieberecz from Concrete, WA wrote:

I was given this tree about 5 years ago when it was about 6 feet tall and told it was an "Empress Tree". I had an Empress and knew by the branches and slight difference in leaves that it wasn't. It finally gave me a few blooms last year after 4 years of neglect and 1 year (the last) of summer time watering. At first the leaves wilted badly every time it got hot but now that it's established and gotten accustomed to little water in the summer it never wilts. This year there are many, many more flower buds waiting to open. It's finally big and broad enough to be gorgeous in the shrub and tree setting. After looking at the pictures here and seeing another catalpa elsewhere, I'm positive that's what I have. I don't remember the flowers being nearly the size of my Empress Tree. My soil is sandy/loam amended with chicken manure. But that was 5 years ago for this tree. It grows NOW (with watering) 2 to 3 feet per year.

Positive ohyoubigsilly On Feb 23, 2014, ohyoubigsilly from Ramsey, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Catalpas grow tall and side here in Minnesota, but look like something from the tropics! Makes a beautiful contrast to the humdrum regulars around here like maple, oak, and ash.

This tree blooms in mid-June and looks spectacular in row plantings or large groups with copious amounts of white, pendulous flowers.

Neutral Rickwebb On Feb 17, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This tree can be good or bad. It is a tropical-looking plant with many plant relatives in the tropics. Its original native range is around where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. It is fast growing, about 2 to 2.5 feet/year and normally lives less than 100 years. This tree with tropical beauty grows very large with a wide trunk, so it makes a good tree for parks and places with lots of room. The negative aspect is that it is messy, with lots of fallen twigs, branches, big flowers, big leaves, and large woody pods, and it is brittle-wooded. It oftentimes is a weed tree, infesting urban yards and waste places, where it is often too large.

Positive Babaloo123 On Jul 8, 2013, Babaloo123 from Rockwood
Canada wrote:

I live in south central Ontario and currently have 2 Northern Catalpa trees on our 1/3 acre lot. Both are descended from a tree planted on my birth date back in 1957. The original tree was dug up on my second birthday and moved to a new location in Toronto when my family moved. Our then neighbours loved the beautiful leaves and flower so much that my father germinated a seed and gave the sapling to them for their yard. Many years passed (20) and my family moved. I grew up, moved continents but our neighbours knew how much I loved that tree because of its history. They took a seed from their tree and germinated it and gave it to me when I returned to Canada with my own new family. We grew the tree at our new home for eight years and then moved on as well, taking a seedling with us from that tree. Its now been with us for over 20 years and I've germinated another tree which also stands on our property just in case one of our three grown children would like the great-great grandchild of the original tree. I could never be without our catalpas and everyone comments on them when they are in bloom. Yes the leaves are unsightly come fall clean up but they more than repay us with their lovely dense shade and beautiful heart-shaped leaves all summer.

Positive Dean48089 On Jun 19, 2013, Dean48089 from Warren, MI (Zone 6b) wrote:

Yet another plant that I would never be without. The leaves are big and bold, the flowers gorgeous. I especially like that it blooms after the magnolias, viburnums and rhododendrons are done. By the time the catalpa is done blooming the mimosa and hibiscus start, so that I see flowers wherever I look.

This tree is VERY fast growing, which was very much appreciated when I was a new homeowner and had no trees. Catalpa has no problem being pruned, just remember to prune immediately after blooming because next year's flowers will be on this year's new growth.

Here in Zone 6b I have never seen seedlings come up anywhere except in pavement cracks or the gravel along railroad tracks, which makes me think that the seeds want heat in order to germinate. That's fine, since I really don't want volunteer seedlings everwhere.

Positive Mike_W On Aug 30, 2012, Mike_W from Sterling, MA wrote:

I absolutely love this tree! My neighbors have a very large catalpa in their yard and last fall I dug up a few seedlings nearby. When I dug them up last October, they were only about 8 inches tall. Since planting them in March, they have grown to be almost 3 feet tall, and it's still August! They have about another 2 months of growing left in the season!

In addition to their fast growth, I like them for their tropical appearance. The leaves can be enormous and the seed pods remind me of giant greenbeans. Sort of a nice change from the common maples and oaks native to the area.

Positive OutlawHeart81 On Jun 15, 2011, OutlawHeart81 from Syracuse, NY (Zone 5a) wrote:

Beautiful shade tree, ours flowers much later than our neighbors down the hill but provides excellent shade and produces small almost popcorn looking flowers.

Neutral ouedtaria On Jul 25, 2010, ouedtaria from Vernon
Canada wrote:

This tree is so beautiful when mature. They are not messy as the pods being so big that they are easy to clean up. They give lots os shade and when in bloom, the tree is spectacular. I do need someone to tell me if they get caterpillars. Supposedly they get a yellow caterpillar with a black stripe that are good fish bait but I do not remember my tree having this so are they knowned to be infested with caterpillars. I need to know.

Positive clgs1 On Jun 1, 2010, clgs1 from Kennett Square, PA wrote:

Such beautiful blooms when other trees are done. Anyone know if these flowers are good nectar or pollen sources for honeybees?

Positive HalfWild On May 22, 2010, HalfWild from Boonsboro, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

This is a tree for romantics, children, and anyone else with lots of imagination. It is one of the most beautiful, charismatic trees you could ever have growing in your yard. Its leaves are giant green hearts, making wonderful shade and lovely to look up into from below. In full bloom, it looks like a tree entirely made of bridal bouquets. Its blossoms fall to the ground still fresh, while more of them blossom above, so plant it where your most romantic family member can sit under it on freshly mown grass when it is blooming. It is also excellent for climbing, and easily imagined as a giant beanstalk. My first catalpa was an invader in an old hedge when I was a new mother. I fell in love with it and planted a catalpa sapling in my new front yard when we moved to our permanent home. The kids are grown now, and the tree is spectacular.

Positive kat_kins On Oct 6, 2009, kat_kins from Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

I have been calling nurseries this morning in search of this tree. Much to my disappointment, nobody carries them due to lack of request for the N. Catalpa. Here is my issue, I live in Salt Lake which is a pretty non-hospitable environment for many trees (especially native eastern). It is quite easy to discover which species do best here by taking note of trees more than one foot in trunk diameter which are still alive. N. Catalpas not only survive and thrive here, but many are mature specimens and have gorgeous branching patterns. I will try to post a picture of one located in my neighborhood which is quite possibly one of the most beautiful trees I've seen! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!! These are legacy trees, and huge trees. Right spots include large open spaces like parks or large lawns (I am trying to replace a dead box-elder in the park across the street from me with a N. Catalpa). Like a Ginkgo, their best beauty develops at maturity. Give these trees time and a good location, and they become a legacy tree admired by many. (P.S., for those who think the pods are menacing and obnoxious, I just want to point out they are fascinating to little kids. This is great for urban environments as sometimes it is difficult to kids to be fascinated by nature in the concrete jungle of a city).

Positive Bledsoe On Mar 16, 2007, Bledsoe from Fort Collins, CO wrote:

I would argue with some of the people who have said negative things about this tree. It's an absolutely beautiful sight to see it in bloom. Here in colorado sometimes trees are limited that will grow with such sucess and this one. The leaves are rather large and fun to look at.

Positive masonesker On Jan 8, 2007, masonesker from Lansing, MI wrote:

The Catalpa is a very worthwhile choice to grow. I do not know if this is a native tree to Lansing, Michigan, but I do know from the book Michigan Trees by Otis that is is a naturalized species here in the Grand River Valley. Old specimans are often found in this area in graveyards and around fine old homes. While it does not seem to be very popular here anymore I would recommend it to anyone who wants an unusual, fast growing shade tree. When in bloom this tree has an ethereal beauty that can not be matched. The large, heart shaped leaves seem more like they belong in a rain forest than in Michigan. The one I planted does fine on a slightly shaded hill with dry sand/clay soil. I would argue that they do live for over 100 years; in rich moist soil they grow over 70 ft. in this region. Note: While this is a great lawn tree it is not for the anal as the large seed pods can create a mess. Much like most things in life it is a trade off. No more trouble than a Black Walnut or a Sycamore. Kids like the leaves and the birds seem drawn to this fine tree- well worth planting and easily grown from seed.

Positive ineedacupoftea On Mar 28, 2006, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

This tree has its place. Out of place, it is a menace.

Very attractive trees can be grown from seed and will outpace an expensive large container-grown plant. Full size in 10 years. Fast growth makes it a mildly brittle-stemmed plant, but heat/drought/soil tolerances with very unusual texture make it worthwhile in certain places. (Good to even 8.0 pH) Do not plant where the large leaf litter or rigid-dried-pod-litter will be a problem. Seedlings are not difficult to kill by mowing.

Positive mparry1 On Apr 26, 2004, mparry1 from Provo, UT wrote:

This tree is the highlight of our early summer, The blossoms are very aromatic and wonderful, The leaf provides great shade for our hot Utah summers. This tree is very hardy and bug/disease resistant. Fast/Medium grower. In fall this tree will usually drop it's leaves within a weeks period of time and usually after a consistant period of hard frost. This makes leaf clean up a rather short period of time. The pods can be a pain but with a good bagging mower this is a non-issue for us. No special watering is required for this tree which makes it essentially care free once established. This is the only tree I would consider a must for any yard we have.

Negative gold_thumb On Oct 21, 2003, gold_thumb from Dunstable, MA wrote:

The large heart-shaped leaves and irregular branching are an obnoxious contrast to the northern landscape. The most interest the tree provides is when its in bloom with large flowers that remind me of Rhododendron catawbiense 'Album' as the flowers are white with a clear violet-blue throat. I can't believe nurseries used to sell this!!! In the tree's defense, it is a strong fast growing tree but for ornamental purposes its simply not worth digging the hole.

Neutral smiln32 On Jul 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Fast grower and transplants easily. Prone to powdery mildew, though.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Greensboro, Alabama
Jones, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Morrilton, Arkansas
Merced, California
Placerville, California
Clifton, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado
Parker, Colorado
Pueblo, Colorado
Ellendale, Delaware
Savannah, Georgia
Aurora, Illinois
Cairo, Illinois
Champaign, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Denison, Iowa
Boonsboro, Maryland
Dunstable, Massachusetts
Sterling, Massachusetts
Brooklyn, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Lansing, Michigan
Warren, Michigan
Anoka, Minnesota
Eveleth, Minnesota
Cross Timbers, Missouri
Neptune, New Jersey
Canastota, New York
Essex, New York
Jefferson, New York
Columbia Station, Ohio
Lancaster, Ohio
Sandusky, Ohio
Toledo, Ohio
Salem, Oregon
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Parkesburg, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Rochester, Pennsylvania
Sayre, Pennsylvania
West Newton, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Westmoreland, Tennessee
Humble, Texas
Orem, Utah
Provo, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Arlington, Virginia
Concrete, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Worland, Wyoming

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