Catalpa: planting and care in open ground

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Catalpa: planting and care in open ground
Catalpa: planting and care in open ground

Distinctive features of the catalpa plant, growing on a personal plot, recommendations for reproduction, the fight against harmful insects and diseases, interesting notes, types.

Catalpa belongs to the genus belonging to the Bignoniaceae family. Representatives of this genus grow in nature in North America, they can also be found in the Chinese and Japanese lands, in the West Indies. Today, these beautiful plants are cultivated in many regions of the planet and in our latitudes (in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus). There are up to eleven varieties in the genus by botanists, and in Russia it is customary to grow four of them.

Family name Bignonium
Growth cycle Perennial
Growth form Small shrub or tree
Reproduction type Seeds or cuttings
Transplant time to the garden May
Disembarkation scheme 5 m is left between the seedlings
Substrate Fertile, moisturized, fresh
Indicators of soil acidity, pH 5-6 (slightly acidic)
Lighting level High
Recommended humidity Abundant watering
Special Requirements Not pretentious
Height indicators Maximum up to 30 m
Color of flowers Snow white or cream
Inflorescences or type of flowers Loose racemose pyramidal inflorescences or erect paniculate
Flowering time Summer
Color and shape of berries Green pods
Fruiting time End of summer
Decorative period Spring-summer
Places of application Hedges, decoration of paths, as a tapeworm, to strengthen the banks of natural or artificial reservoirs, as well as slopes
USDA zone 2–8

The curious name of the plant goes back to the word "catawba", which was called the Indian tribe of North America. But translated from the dialect of the Indians, the term "katahlpa" meant "winged head". According to one of the versions, the reason for this name is the feathered seeds of the catalpa, which, thanks to the "wings", have the ability to fly away from the mother plant over considerable distances. Another explanation for the name is large leaf plates swaying under the influence of the breeze, like the wings of a bird.

Interesting names found in the growing area of the catalpa are the cigar or Indian bean tree. Also, the local population calls it the "monkey tree" or "elephant tree", this is due to the outlines of the fruits of the plant. Due to the fact that flowering occurs in the summer, there is a name - summer chestnut.

Different types of catalpa can take both a shrub form and a tree-like one. The maximum height parameters that these plants reach is 30 m, but usually their height is limited to 5–6 m. At the same time, botanists noted that the average life cycle reaches hundreds of years. The tree-shaped trunk has a grayish-brown tint and is cracked in small plates. The elephant tree sheds its foliage at certain times (if the temperature begins to drop). If conditions are normal, then the leaves never fly around.

The foliage of the catalpa is large in size, reaching 30 cm in length and about 17 cm in width. The shape of the plate is cordate or broadly ovate, the leaves are located in whorls. The color of their rich, deep green color scheme, which with the arrival of autumn, if it gets cold, acquires a yellow tint. Nature has created a natural defense of foliage from harmful insects that can gnaw it - the presence of axillary glands that secrete nectar that can repel pests. Through the foliage, a dome-shaped dense crown is formed.

When the catalpa reaches 5-6 years of age, it begins to bloom. It starts in mid-June or early July. The flowering period is almost a month. Bisexual flowers bloom, gathering in large loose racemose inflorescences with pyramidal outlines. However, they can take the form of an erect panicle. Calyx, divided in flowers, with a funnel-shaped corolla, which is also divided into two parts. The length of the flower reaches 7 cm. The color of the petals is white or cream. There are two bent pairs of petals, while the lower three have a burgundy speck at the base and stripes of a bright yellow tone. There are species completely covered with such a speckled pattern. Somehow the flowers resemble delicate orchids. 5 stamens are formed inside the corolla, of which only two are crowned with anthers. The pistil of the flowers of the cigar tree is the only one; the ovary has a large number of ovules.

When flowering, a fragrant aroma resembling an apple is spread over the catalpa plantings. After the flowers are pollinated, interesting elongated fruits ripen, which in the catalpa have the form of polyspermous capsules. The length of such a fruit is 40 cm with an average width of about 1 cm. Such pods hang from elongated peduncles. The seeds of an elephant tree have wings that allow the wind to fly away from the mother tree. The seed pods may not fly off the branches throughout the winter months, giving the catalpa a very unusual shape. With the arrival of autumn, the pods become dark, but remain hanging on the branches until spring.

Since the plant is quite unpretentious, it can be used in landscaping a personal plot.

Growing catalpa outdoors - planting and care

Catalpa in the ground
Catalpa in the ground
  1. Landing place. Since in nature the cigar tree prefers open areas, it is recommended to choose a sunny location in the garden, but with protection from wind and draft. With insufficient lighting, the leaves will begin to shrink, and the flowering will become sparse and short. Although in nature, catalpa prefers moist soils, but the close occurrence of groundwater negatively affects the root system and can lead to its decay.
  2. Soil for planting catalpa. The plant prefers nutritious, moist and well-drained soil mixtures with acidity values of pH 5-6 (weakly acidic substrate) or pH 6, 5-7 (neutral). It is recommended to independently compose the soil from leafy soil, river sand and humus, in a ratio of 3: 2: 3, respectively. If the land on the site is poor or heavy, then it is recommended to dig it up, adding fine gravel and compost.
  3. Planting a catalpa. This operation can be performed both in spring and in autumn days. It is recommended to use for this 1–2 year old seedlings with an open root system. Transplanting adult specimens with an earthy clod around the roots is also possible, since there are no big problems for the catalpa in this case. A hole for seedlings is prepared with depth indicators from 80 cm to 120 cm. But this size directly depends on the parameters of the root system of the seedling. Before planting, a drainage layer of expanded clay or broken brick (at least 15–20 cm) is placed in the hole, then wood ash (about 7 kg) and phosphate rock (about 50 grams). You can use a complete mineral fertilizer instead. Before planting, the root system of the seedling is immersed in water with root formation stimulants (for example, heteroauxin or Kornevin) dissolved in it. If a row is formed from the seedlings, then a distance of 5 m is maintained between the plants. When planting, young catalps try to arrange so that the clod of earth is slightly raised above the ground surface. As the soil subsides, the root collar will be flush with it. After planting, the soil is moistened abundantly and the trunk circle is mulched with peat or sawdust.
  4. Watering. When caring for a catalpa, it should be remembered that in nature the plant prefers highly moistened soils, therefore drying is unacceptable. Once every 7 days, it is recommended to carry out abundant watering, and if the weather is very hot and dry, then humidification is performed twice a week. When the soil dries out strongly, the large leaf plates will become soft and lose their turgor. It will also weaken the elephant tree and can lead to both disease and pest damage. Each adult tree should have up to 2 liters of water.
  5. Fertilizers for catalpa … It is recommended to fertilize twice during the growing season. To do this, you can use rotted manure or mullein, which is diluted in a ratio of 1:10 with water. When the monkey tree is adult, then it should have up to 5-6 liters of solution. In the spring, in order for the growth of deciduous mass to take place, nitroammofosk must be used, and with the arrival of autumn days - potassium and phosphorus preparations. As a complete mineral complex, you can use Kemiru-Universal, and during the flowering period Agricola.
  6. Pruning catalpa performed with the onset of spring, when there is still no movement of juices in the branches. In this case, it is recommended to remove all shoots that are frozen or become dried up. Pruning will help the crown grow and form. Important! Pruning too much can cause the crown to thicken.
  7. General advice on care. Since the root system of the elephant tree lies deeply, after each watering or rain, you can safely loosen the soil, almost 30–35 cm. With too long and severe frost periods, young seedlings may freeze, almost to the level of a snow crust. Therefore, it is recommended to organize a shelter for those plants that were planted in autumn days. For this, a covering material is used - lutrasil, after the near-trunk circle is covered with fallen leaves. If there is no such covering material, then burlap or spruce branches may be suitable.
  8. The use of catalpa in landscape design. Since some species of elephant tree are large, they are suitable as a tapeworm in the center of lawns or flower beds. With small height parameters, group plantings can be formed from catalps, which will decorate paths or even hedges. Since the root system is branched, it can be used to strengthen crumbling slopes; catalpa is also suitable for landscaping too steep banks of artificial and natural reservoirs.

Recommendations for breeding the catalpa tree

Catalpa grows
Catalpa grows

To get a new tree with decorative flowers and fruits, it is necessary to sow its seeds or use a vegetative propagation method.

  1. Seed propagation of catalpa. Sowing seeds should be done at the end of winter. Before this, the seed is scarified so that the strong shell is destroyed and germination is facilitated. The seeds are first poured over with boiling water, and then they are soaked in warm water for 7-12 hours. To keep the water cool, it is best to place the seeds in a thermos. For planting, peat-sandy soil is used, poured into small pots or seedling boxes. The seeds are spread on the soil surface and sprinkled with the same substrate a little. Then it is recommended to wrap the container with plastic wrap or put a piece of glass on top. The place in which the container with seeds is placed should be well lit, but shaded from the direct rays of the sun at noon. The germination temperature is maintained within 15-25 degrees. When caring for the seeds, it will be necessary to ventilate for 15–20 minutes every day, and if the soil begins to dry out from above, then it is sprayed from a spray bottle. After 20-30 days, you can see the first shoots, then it is recommended to remove the shelter. They take care of catalpa seedlings until May, until the probability of return frosts has passed, and the soil does not warm up enough. After that, they are transplanted to a permanent place in the open field. But before planting, it is recommended to pre-harden the seedlings for two weeks.
  2. Cutting catalpa. When the second half of summer comes, you can try to root cuttings cut from the branches. The length of such cuttings should be at least 10 cm. The cut can be treated with any rooting stimulator and the branches can be planted in pots with a peat-sand mixture. You need to wrap them in plastic or put a cut plastic bottle on top. Caring for cuttings of an elephant tree is carried out in the same way as for crops. When it will be seen that the cuttings have formed sprouts and a root system has formed, then you can transplant into open ground.

Fighting harmful insects and diseases while caring for catalpa

Catalpa Leaves
Catalpa Leaves

You can please gardeners with the fact that this ornamental tree is very rarely affected by diseases or pests. But in some cases, catalpa becomes a victim of a fungal disease - wilt (verticillary wilting). At the same time, they notice that from July the foliage of the plant begins to droop, takes on a yellow color and withers. This process starts with leaves on the lower branches and leads to premature fall of all deciduous mass. It happens that at the same time the crown becomes, as if bare on one side and looks one-sided.

If you do not fight, the wilt will cause the summer chestnut tree to wither completely. As soon as the signs of the disease appear, it can be stopped and healed. It is necessary to process the catalpa with fungicidal preparations, among which Fundazon or Topsin-M are distinguished. Roval or Maxim means poured into the root of the tree also work well. As a preventive measure, it is recommended to spray the foliage with fungicides such as Quadris, Falcon or Previkur.

In order to prevent this complex disease in catalpa, it is necessary to carefully choose seedlings for planting and not violate the rules of agricultural technology.

The spanish fly acts as a pest of the monkey tree, which does not affect only the species of the hybrid catalpa (Catalpa x hybrida Spath), since the plant has an unpleasant odor. To carry out insect control, it is necessary to spray with insecticides such as Decis, Fastak or Kinmix. If young trees are weakened, then they become a victim of hornet, which in its outlines is similar to thin hornets. The females of this pest lay eggs in the wood of the catalpa and then the larvae begin to break through the passages in it, filling them with brown flour. Elephant trees afflicted with horn-tails begin to weaken and gradually dry out. It is very rare to save such specimens, usually trees are subject to destruction. In order to prevent cattle tails from appearing, it is better to carry out preventive measures and not violate the rules of cultivation, so that the plants do not weaken.

Interesting notes about catalpa

Flowering catalpa
Flowering catalpa

The properties of the elephant tree have not been fully studied today, but scientists have found that the bark contains specific resins, as well as tannins and tannins. These resins have beneficial properties. The leaf plates are saturated with monoterpene glycosides, and the oil of eleostearic acid is obtained from the seeds. In catalpa seeds, this oil component reaches almost a third. The use of this substance is found in the manufacture of paints and varnishes.

If we consider the substance catalposide, which is part of the bark and foliage, then it has diuretic properties.

Preparations based on the bark of the elephant tree help to improve metabolism, medicines from the leaves and fruits help in the treatment of diseases associated with the respiratory tract and cancers. A decoction of catalpa flowers has long been used to cleanse the skin of acne, rashes and blackheads.

Scientists have researched the extract of catalpa, which helps to overcome the problems caused by diabetes. Even the healers of the Indians used the plant to fight malaria and whooping cough.


It is categorically impossible to use the roots of catalpa, which contain poisonous substances and can cause death.

Description of the types of catalpa

In the photo, Catalpa is bignoniform
In the photo, Catalpa is bignoniform

Catalpa bignoniform

(Catalpa bignonioides). Differs in a spreading shape, the trunk can reach 10–20 m in height. The bark of the trunk is light brown, cracking into thin plates. A funnel-shaped asymmetric crown is formed from the branches. The length of the leaf plates is about 20 cm. The outlines of the leaves are heart-shaped, painted in a greenish-yellow color, which over time takes on a bright green hue. Flowering occurs in early summer. Inflorescences in the form of brushes are collected from flowers with snow-white or yellowish petals, which are covered with a pattern of specks of crimson tone. The corolla does not exceed 30 cm in length. The end of summer bears pod-shaped fruits measuring 40 cm. At the beginning of autumn, they take on a brown color. The most popular varieties of the species are recognized:

  • Aurea has leaves of a heart-shaped and golden color. Foliage surface with velvety pubescence.
  • Nana does not exceed 4–6 m in height, tree-like. The spherical crown is made up of dense leaves, the flowers do not bloom.
  • Kene It is famous for its large foliage with a heart-shaped shape, there is a yellowish edging on the leaves, and the central part is bright green.
In the photo, Catalpa is beautiful
In the photo, Catalpa is beautiful

Beautiful Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) -

the most frost-resistant species. It has a tree-like shape with a crown in the form of a ball. The height reaches 35 m. The bark of the trunk is gray, thin-lamellar. The foliage is large, the length of the leaf is 30 cm and the width is about 15 cm. The leaves are attached to the branches with thin elongated petioles. The surface of the leaves is smooth, the color is light green, there is a whitish pubescence on the reverse side.

When blooming, flowers with white-cream petals open. The inside of them has brown-purple specks and yellow stripes. The corolla reaches 7 cm in length. A pleasant fragrant aroma spreads during flowering. The buds begin to bloom from the beginning of summer, this process stretches for 20–25 days, but only after reaching 10–12 years of age the trees can bloom. The fruits are polyspermous capsules, ripening in the middle of summer. The most popular is the variety of this variety - Catalpa Powdered (Catalpa speciosa var.pulverulenta). The height of this plant rarely exceeds three meters, and it can even be considered a large bush, and not a small tree. The leaf plates are distinguished by a pattern on the surface of small dots of a light lemon shade, which are very densely located. The color of the petals in the flowers is snow-white, but they are decorated with a purple spot.

In the photo, Catalpa spherical
In the photo, Catalpa spherical

Catalpa spherical (Catalpa spherical)

Such trees have sprawling shoots, forming a crown with a wide-round shape. The height rarely exceeds 20 m. The color of the bark of thin plates is light brown. The leaf plates are 20 cm long and about 15 cm wide. The color of the leaves is light green, the leaves are smooth on top, with whitish pubescence on the back. If the leaf is rubbed, a characteristic aroma is heard. The flowers, collected in racemose inflorescences, are white with a pleasant aroma. Corolla length 5 cm. Inside there are a pair of yellow stripes on a dark brown speckled background. The flowering is 20–25 cm. The fruits are elongated, polyspermous capsules resembling pods.

In the photo, Catalpa is ovoid
In the photo, Catalpa is ovoid

Catalpa ovate (Catalpa ovata)

may occur under the name Chinese catalpa or Catalpa yellow … From the species name it is clear that the native growing area falls on the lands of China, its western regions. Plant growth is slow; the height rarely goes beyond 6–10 m.

Video about growing catalpa:

Pictures of catalpa:

Catalpa Photos 1
Catalpa Photos 1
Catalpa Photos 2
Catalpa Photos 2
Catalpa Photos 3
Catalpa Photos 3
Catalpa Photos 4
Catalpa Photos 4
Catalpa Photos 5
Catalpa Photos 5

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