Plant Encyclopedia

Northern Catalpa

Catalpa speciosa

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Northern Catalpa tree with white flowers

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The native Northern catalpa tree (Catalpa speciosa) is a popular choice for homeowners and landscapers. With its upright form and heart-shaped leaves, this tree brings elegance to any space. When you need a large ornamental shade tree for your landscape, make sure to select the Northern catalpa tree.

Plant Attributes

The Northern catalpa trees are members of the Bignonia family, and they are related to the Trumpet vine and Royal paulownia. All these species of catalpa are known for their fast growth rate. Under the right care, this tree could reach over 80 feet in height. Its huge leaves are heart-shaped and measure about 12 inches wide. Those large leaves make the catalpa a popular choice as a shade tree.

When you see a catalpa in the spring, you will be amazed by the display of azalea-like flowers. Hummingbirds love to visit these spectacular bell-shaped flowers for the sweet nectar. During May and June, the entire catalpa tree is enveloped with these blooms. This tree also produces long fruits that resemble cigars. That is why the Northern catalpa is often called the “cigar tree.” Each tree can contain more than 100 seed pods. The fruits ripen from September to October. During the winter, those brown pods provide some added interest in your landscape.

Landscape Use

In nature, the Northern catalpa is one of the showiest trees, and you can find it along rivers, creeks, and streams in a large portion of the United States. If you are creating a naturalized prairie, then this Northern catalpa is a great selection. With a little meadow seed mix, you will have a space that can be enjoyed by the local wildlife.

This tree makes an outstanding choice as a municipal street tree. When paired with ashes and elms, you can have a property filled with ornamental shade. The grayish-tan bark easily blends into any landscape. This Northern catalpa makes the perfect focal point. For those wild areas in your property, the catalpa will shine. With its rough texture, your eye is drawn to this tree. It is the perfect contrast against rugged perennials and prairie grass.

For those properties with a pond, the Northern catalpa is a must-have addition. The flowering tree shimmers in the reflection of the water. It will create a spot where you can kick back and relax in a chair or hammock. The Northern catalpa is the top choice to place in those rain gardens. In those wide-open spaces, the catalpa is best used as a windbreak or shelterbelt. You are guaranteed that this catalpa tree will keep its form and size for many years.

Planting & Care

This tree needs plenty of space to survive. Its large size can outgrow your site if not placed in the ideal spot. You want to plant these trees in areas where they can develop and grow naturally. However, it is incredibly adaptable and can flourish in almost any soil, including those wet soils. For less stress on the tree, it needs to be watered on a regular basis. Once the tree has established in your yard, it is very hardy.

You want to choose a sunny spot for these trees. However, they can handle those areas with shade too. If there are crossing branches, make sure to prune in the summer. Those younger trees must be cut to encourage better growth. Once the tree is mature, you might have to prune some low branches to prevent maintenance issues under the tree.

These trees are robust. Once they have settled, there is no need for additional maintenance. You can feed in the springtime with a balanced fertilizer to promote a healthier plant.

Additional Information

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Northern Catalpa


Throughout the Midwest, you will find these spectacular trees blooming with their panicles of creamy white flowers. This catalpa can grow in a variety of soils and environments. With its delicate flowers and pod-like fruit, it will add some brilliance to any space. For some beauty and texture to your landscape, you will definitely want to use this stunning tree in your next project.

The Northern catalpa is an excellent choice for all those outdoor spaces. This native tree is a natural showstopper. At Arbor Valley Nursery, we can help you secure this tree for your inventory. Our team can offer some advice about the right trees, shrubs, or plants for your clients. If you want more information about these trees, make sure to fill out the contact form.

Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Deciduous tree
  • Watering Needs:
  • Botanical Pronunciation: Catalpa speciosa
  • Deciduous/evergreen:
  • Growth habit: Fast
  • Average landscape size: 40-60 feet high, 20-40 feet wide
  • Special features:
  • Foliage color:
  • Blooms: Spring,
  • Flower color: White
  • Flower attributes:
  • Garden style:
  • Design Ideas: Northern Catalpa’s coarse texture is a great contrast against medium- to fine-textured large shrubs and trees in the landscape
  • Companion Plants: Katsura Tree and Eastern Redbud will all make great complements to the form of Northern Catalpa.

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