Content Detail

Catalpa is a Midwest native tree that grows 40 to 60 feet tall, with a narrow, open, irregularly rounded crown and spreading branches. It has large, heart-shaped leaves and large clusters of fragrant, white flowers. The long, interesting seed pods persist through the winter. Northern catalpa is very adaptable to adverse conditions, but has weak wood and branch structure.

  • Family (English) Bignonia
  • Family (botanic) Bignoniaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-60 feet
  • Mature width 20-40 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct 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, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Irregular, Narrow, Oval, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts, Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Northern catalpa is a large, upright to rounded tree reaching 50 feet high and 35 feet wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native from the lower Midwest into the southern states, from southern Illinois south to Arkansas.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

It attracts insect pollinators.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is gray-brown and becomes scaly as the tree ages.

Leaf description:

Simple leaves are 6 to 10 inches long and heart-shaped, whorled or oppositely arranged along the branches. Fall color is yellow-green to brown.

Flower description:

There are upright, 4 to 8 inch clusters (panicles) of white, bell-shaped flowers with orange stripes and purple spots and stripes.

Fruit description:

It has pod-like capsules, 8 to 20 inches long, that are filled with winged seeds.

Plant care:

Northern catalpa grows best in full sun in well-drained soil. It is tolerant of temporarily wet conditions, but should not stand in water. It is very adaptable to adverse conditions although it is sensitive to pollution. 

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

Verticillium wilt and minor problems like leaf spots and powdery mildew.


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