Content Detail

The Chinese catalpa thrives in Midwestern urban environments. It has showy blossoms that appear in the spring, followed by bean-like seed pods. This tree can withstand a range of soil types, including wet and dry conditions, which makes it useful in difficult sites such as moist, low spots and dry sites with poor soils.

  • Family (English) Bignonia
  • Family (botanic) Bignoniaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 20-30 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries, Messy fruit/plant parts, Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars No

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to China.

Bark color and texture:

Bark of mature trees is fissured, prominently ridged, and pale gray-brown. 

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple leaves may be alternate or whorled. Wide, ovate, light green leaves are up to 10 inches long and wide. They are usually entire but sometimes three to five-lobed. Leaves abruptly taper to points at the tips. Foliage turns an undistinguished yellow in fall. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are attractive, but not as showy as southern catalpa (C. bignonioides ) and northern catalpa (C. speciosa). Bell-shaped, yellowish-white flowers, each up to 3/4 inches long, have purple and orange inner spotting. They appear in clusters (panicles) up to 10 inches long.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit is pod-like capsules, 8 to 12 inches long and filled with winged seeds. Chinese catalpa capsules much thinner than those of other catalpa species.

Plant Care:

Easily grown in average, medium to wet, and well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, fertile loams. This tree can be messy when flowers and fruits fall. The branches are brittle and prone to storm damage.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Verticillium wilt and minor problems like leaf spots and powdery mildew. Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, including both wet and dry soils and seasonal flooding. 


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