Content Detail

Southern catalpa is a short-trunked tree with a rounded to irregular form that can reach 30 to 40 feet in height. Attractive, large panicles of white bell-shaped flowers with yellow and purple spots bloom in early summer and are long-lasting. Although it is messy when flowers and fruits fall. Native to floodplains, southern catalpa is very adaptable and tolerant of adverse conditions.

  • 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 North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 30-40 feet
  • Mature width 30-40 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Irregular
  • 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 Yes

Size and form:

A short-trunked tree with a rounded to irregular form that can reach 30 to 40 feet in height.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the southern United States.

Attracts birds and butterflies:

Flowers attract insect pollinators. 

Bark color and texture:

Bark is gray-brown and scaly with age.

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

The simple, opposite or sometimes whorled leaves are four to eight inches long with an entire margin. Leaves are bright green in summer with little to no fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

White, funnel-shaped flowers with purple markings inside that are grouped in a four to eight inch tall upright cluster.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Pod-like capsules are eight to 20 inches long and filled with winged seeds.

Plant care:

Southern catalpa can be planted in full sun to part shade and is very adaptable and tolerant of adverse conditions. It can be messy when flowers and fruits fall; branches are brittle and may fall in storms.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

Verticillium wilt and minor problems including leaf spots and powdery mildew. It is tolerant of drought and black walnut toxicity.


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