How long do catalpa trees live

Catalpa: Care and Growing Guide

The catalpa tree (Catalpa spp.) is well-loved and recognized for its height, enormous heart-shaped leaves (up to 12 " long and 8" wide), twisted spreading branches, panicles of creamy white fragrant blossoms, and long dark brown seed pods. Though its tendency to spring up in odd places and grow rather quickly has earned it a reputation of being a bit of a "weed tree," plenty of folks love having this large graceful shade trees on their properties. They became popular at the turn of the century in the Northeast US and one often sees streets or cul-de-sacs named some variation "Catalpa Terrace" or "Catalpa Circle."

Also known as southern catalpa, hardy catalpa, western catalpa, northern catalpa, catawba, cigar tree and caterpillar tree, it is native to a wide-ranging area including North America, the Caribbean and East Asia. It's been cultivated throughout the US since the early 1800s. The flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for pollination, and this tree is the sole host for the catalpa sphinx moth. With dense foliage and large leaves, the catalpa provides excellent cover and shelter for a wide variety of song birds and wildlife. The tree's hardiness once made it an important source of lumber, particularly for railroad ties and fence posts. It's seen in many large parks due to its hardiness and graceful shape in the landscape, but as an urban tree the leaf litter can be somewhat problematic near sidewalks and cars.

Common Name  Catalpa, catawba, cigar tree, western catalpa
Botanical Name  Catalpa spp.
Family  Bignoniaceae
Plant Type  Deciduous tree 
Mature Size  40 - 60 ft. tall, 20 - 40 ft. spread
Sun Exposure  Full sun to part shade
Soil Type  Clay, loam, sandy, moist, dry
Soil pH  Tolerates acidic to alkaline
Bloom Time  Late May to June
Flower Color  White 
Hardiness Zones  USDA 4-8, depending on species
Native Areas  North America, Caribbean, East Asia 

Care of Catalpa Trees

The catalpa is remarkably adaptable to a wide range of soil, moisture and weather conditions, and thought it needs a good amount of sunlight, it's not fussy about its growing conditions.

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


The catalpa does best with at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. It prefers full sun to really thrive.


The catalpa tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, from acidic to alkaline, wet clay soils, sandy, loam and more. Good drainage is always preferred but the catalpa can survive both flooding and extended periods of drought.


This tree tolerates drought as well as heavy rains and flooding and is not subject to problems from extremely wet or dry weather.

Temperature and Humidity

Being native to warm, temperate zones, the catalpa has a somewhat narrow growing zone range of 4 to 8 (depending on species), but is a reliable deciduous tree that can tolerate cold winters and hot summers fairly consistently. It's not overly bothered by high humidity or dryness.


If your soil is fairy moist and rich, such as loam with good drainage, you won't need fertilizer for your catalpa. However, when planting in clay, silty or sandy soil, or in dry soils, you should consider applying a standard 10-10-10 fertilizer a few weeks after planting, to give it a good start and promote healthy growth.

Types of Catalpa Tree

There are two main species of catalpa tree grown in North America, the northern catalpa and southern catalpa, both of which are fairly similar. The Chinese catalpa is a somewhat different species with yellow flowers, also known as yellow catalpa. All three are commonly planted outside their native areas as ornamental landscape trees.

  • Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) has somewhat larger seed pods, leaves and flowers than the southern catalpa.
  • Southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides )
  • Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata), also known as yellow catalpa
  • Haitian catalpa (Catalpa longissima)


Catalpas should get regular pruning in youth to ensure good stable growth and good form. Start pruning at one year for new trees. Trim away suckers from the base, and trim large lower branches with a pruning saw to promote a straight, central "leader" trunk. As the catalpa grows, keep lower branches trimmed to allow for easier maintenance at the base of the tree. Pruning is best done in early spring after blooming or late fall.


Though they grow quickly, it takes about five to seven years for catalpas to reach maturity to the point where they blossom and bear seed pods each year. Some varieties, such as the Haitian catalpa, begin producing flowers in the first two years of maturity. They can be grown from soft root cuttings or branch cuttings, or from seed. They also reseed freely in most areas where they are established.

How to Grow Catalpa from Seed

Catalpa trees grow easily from seeds, which germinate fairly rapidly without any special treatment. The seeds (from the pods) should be sown in fairly warm temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and sowed on the surface of a light peaty soil mix, rather than covered in soil. You can collect the seeds in fall, keep refrigerated, then plant in spring and transplant the seedlings when they're 3-4 inches tall. Mist lightly with water and they will germinate within 14-30 days. You can direct sow the seed after last frost in spring, or in winter in a cold frame, sunny window or greenhouse.

Common Problems with Catalpa Trees

The catalpa's seed pods appear in autumn. While beautiful on the tree and lending seasonal interest, these seed pods are fairly messy and may be slippery to pedestrians, so these trees should not be planted near sidewalks or parking lots. They can also be can be propagated from cuttings taken during the summer from non-flowering branches.

Although prone to pests, like the larva of catalpa sphinx moth, which can defoliate the tree, and some diseases, such as powdery mildew, leaf spot, and twig blight, catalpa trees are fairly resilient, weathering pests and diseases to grow well each year.

The Average Age of a Flowering Catalpa | Home Guides

By Jann Seal Updated October 05, 2020

The Southern and Northern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides and Catalpa speciosa) are true American natives. Originally one species, they were separated by the last great Ice Age and evolved independently, according to the University of Arkansas Extension. No longer defined simply by geography, both species have characteristics individual to each, yet retain similarities. The Southern catalpa grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 9, while the Northern catalpa grows best in hardiness zones 4 to 8. Both species live a long time: The oldest living Northern Catalpa is registered with Monumental Trees at 150 years old. The Southern Catalpa tree's lives approximately 70 years.

Southern Catalpa Tree Facts

Also known as a "cigar tree" because of its long, cigar-shaped pods, this catalpa species, while defined as a Southern version, has been identified as far north as Connecticut and even farther. The Southern catalpa tree was officially listed in the plant trade in the 1720s, and it now grows wherever it's sowed. Pyramid-shaped white flower clusters with purple and yellow streaks and a faint scent emerge in May and June, and the clusters grow up to 11 inches in length.

The Southern catalpa's leaves are heart-shaped and broad, with a lighter green on the underside. Prominent veins are apparent, and they range from 6 to 12 inches in length, with an equally long stem. The edges are smooth and the tips pointed or rounded. Before falling in autumn, they turn a bright yellow. While lying on the ground, the Southern catalpa leaf emits an unsavory odor when punctured, which should serve as a warning when mowing without raking beforehand.

Identifying the Southern Catalpa

The Southern catalpa's unique identifiers are the marks left in a branch when a leaf falls in autumn. The three round footprints left behind, known as leaf scars, are brownish-grey and easily identify the species. The tree’s seedpods grow between the leaves and the flowers. Resembling cigars, these 12-inch-long seed casings hold hundreds of flat seeds and mature in the autumn.

Green in the spring, the seedpods turn brown in the fall, and when the fruit dries and cracks, its seeds are released. While flowers don’t emerge on a Southern catalpa until the tree itself is at least 7 years old, the seedpods don’t mature until age 10. New seedpods are produced every two to three years, which should alert you to the age of your tree, especially if it’s the first time this occurs.

Pros/Cons of Catalpa Trees

The catalpa tree's root system is extensive and invasive. Selecting the right spot in which to plant the catalpa seeds or bare-root specimen is crucial, not only for the tree, but for your home’s foundation, the underpinning of your pool, and the invincibility of the slope behind your home. As the strong roots expand, they provide a stable structure in soil that has been affected by erosion, but they also tamper with sidewalks. Plant the tree at least 50 feet from a structure.

On the downside, once the catalpa has finished its flowering cycle and the leaves have changed from yellow to brown, they fall to the ground in enormous quantities, along with the seedpods. A good wind spreads the seeds, and you may find newly sprouting trees in nearby lawns. Considered one of the messiest of trees, you need a heavy-duty rake to pull up the daily detritus of leaves, flowers and worms.

Harvesting Catalpa Tree Worms

Catalpa tree worms, or caterpillars, are a boon to the fishing industry. Harvesting and freezing them not only provides income to professionals, but in areas where fishing and catalpa trees are synonymous, roadside tables abound with kids selling the worms for loose change. Some people are industrious enough to hang buckets under the leaves to catch the worms as they fall.

The caterpillars are the larvae of the sphinx moth, and they feed exclusively on both the Northern and Southern catalpa tree’s leaves. Often the infestation is so intense that defoliation is apparent. If this occurs early enough in the season, a second wave of leaves appears. A tree that is already weak may suffer from the damage and need to be removed. Worms that aren’t collected for fishing bait spend the winter near the base of the tree and emerge as sphinx moths in April through October, according to Penn State Extension’s report on the worm/moth.

Identifying the Northern Catalpa Tree

The Northern catalpa tree is deciduous, like its cousin, the Southern species, and it's often planted where land reclamation is needed. Original settlers used the wood for railway ties and fence posts because of its resistance to rot, and carpenters and craftsmen use the wood for interior cabinetry. The telephone companies prefer it to construct the poles to hang telephone cables. The USDA suggests that if your tree is 20 feet tall, it should be 20 years old. A felled catalpa tree can be age-identified by its concentric trunk rings. However, the inner rings may be difficult to differentiate; they are extremely close together, and the width of the trunk is an indicator of age, explains Monumental Trees.

The Northern catalpa grows taller than the Southern, but unless you see them side by side, it’s difficult to differentiate. The leaves are thinner and up to 12 inches in length. The biggest tell: the seedpods. The Northern’s seedpod is thin and can grow up to 2 feet in length, resembling a long, thin French green bean. Inside, the seeds are 1 inch in length with fringes at both ends.

Medicinal Benefits of Catalpa

Long believed by Native Americans to have numerous medicinal benefits, the catalpa's leaves are used as a poultice for snake bites. Because its leaves are heart-shaped, they used it as a curative for heart disease. Early 19th-century medical journals reported that the catalpa’s leaves were poisonous; however, it's the roots that are highly poisonous and should not be ingested. Pioneer medical practitioners found that the seeds and seedpods from the Southern catalpa relieved stress from asthma, bronchial infections and heart problems. Catalpa tree leaves also were crushed, or the bark was ground to make a hot tea to reduce the swelling of lymph glands. In addition, it can be used as a substitute for quinine when treating malaria.

The foundation of modern medicine is based on the these pioneer beliefs, and medical research has determined that catalpa has diuretic properties. The catalpa was also used to expel intestinal worms and as a sedative. The pods are mixed with distilled water and other eye treatment additives to assist in the treatment of conjunctivitis.


  • The University of Arkansas Extension: Division of Agriculture: Plant of the Week: Southern Catalpa
  • Monumental Trees: Measuring Girth
  • Penn State Extension: Catalpa Worm/Catalpa Sphinx Moth
  • USDA: Plant Guide; Northern Catalpa

Writer Bio

A versatile writer, Jann enjoys research as well as doing the actual writing. A career in television writing, as a magazine editor and celebrity interviewer, Jann adapts to her environment, having traveled the world, living overseas and packing and unpacking her treasures for a new location over 30 times.

Catalpa - description, cultivation, photos


  • 1. Description
    • 1.1. Popular species
  • 2. Growing
  • 3. Diseases and pests
  • 4. Reproduction
  • 5. Success secrets
  • 6. Possible difficulties

Catalpa (Catalpa) - a small, consisting of 11 types of types genus in the Bignoniaceae family. Deciduous and evergreen trees grow in North America, China, Japan, Cuba. In nature, they live up to 100 years, reaching 30 m in height.

Plants have a tap root system that penetrates to a considerable depth. Catalpa grows most actively during the first 40 years of life, then growth slows down. The bark of the trees is colored light brown, at first it is smooth, as the plants grow older it becomes scaly.

Catalpa has a sprawling, tent-shaped crown. The branches are ascending in the upper part, prostrate in the lower part. Shoots are densely leafy.

PHOTO: Large heart-shaped or egg-shaped leaves sit on long petioles, are whorled or opposite.

In summer, beautiful flowering is added to the decorative foliage. At the tops of the shoots, large funnel-shaped flowers collected in panicles or brushes bloom. Their corolla is painted white or cream, the pharynx is decorated with dark strokes and spots.

PHOTO: Catalpa flowers smell very nice.

After flowering, fruits appear - long narrow boxes filled with winged seeds with a tuft. These "pods" remain on the trees all winter, giving originality to the plants.

Popular species

Catalpa has been cultivated for centuries. The most common species is Bignonioides Catalpa (C. bignonioides) .

PICTURED: A low plant, often a small tree with 2-3 trunks or spreading bush.

Among the developed forms and varieties the most popular are:

Bignonioides 'dwarf' catalpa (C. bignonioides 'nana') , which height does not exceed 4 m.

IN THE PHOTO: The plant is characterized by a slow growth rate, suitable for forming a trunk.

C. bignonioides 'aurea' catalpa with yellowish-green leaves.

PHOTO: C. bignonioides 'aurea'.

C. bignonioides 'Koehnei' , the leaf blades of which are decorated with a green insert.

ON THE PHOTO: C. bignonioides 'Koehnei'.

Species Catalpa ovoid (C. ovata) is distinguished by three-lobed dark green leaves and yellowish flowers.

IN THE PHOTO: Due to the shortened vegetation period, the shoots of Catalpa ovoid become woody before the arrival of frost.

Beautiful catalpa (C. speciosa) is a frost-resistant species that spreads young foliage earlier than others.

IN THE PHOTO: Catalpa beautiful's multiple flowers stay on the branches from 2 weeks to a month.

Catalpas are suitable for group compositions and single plantings. Trees are recognized as excellent honey plants and are resistant to air pollution. It must be borne in mind that plants begin to bloom at the age of 5 years.


One- or two-year-old seedlings are planted in spring or autumn. Landing pits 1 m deep and 70 cm in diameter are dug in well-lit places protected from the wind.

Future trees will need free space, the optimal distance between them should be 4–5 m. It is recommended to enrich the earth with humus, add peat, sand, phosphorite flour. When planting, it is important to leave the root neck just above the soil. The soil must be compacted, watered abundantly, the stem should be mulched.

Catalpa can be propagated by seeds , but they rarely mature in cultivation. In case of luck, sowing is carried out before winter or in spring in open ground.

The best results are obtained by growing seedlings . Seeds are soaked for several hours in warm water, buried in cups. The containers are kept in good light, at a temperature of + 20–22 ° C. Landings are gently moistened and regularly ventilated. After the departure of return frosts, they are transferred to the garden.

You can increase the number of plants green and woody cuttings . The use of root growth stimulants significantly increases the chances of success.

Diseases and pests

Verticillium wilt, horntails.


Seeds, green and woody cuttings.

Secrets of success

Catalpas are thermophilic plants and grow best in southern regions. In the conditions of the middle zone and to the north, they need to be protected from frost in the first years of life. The trunk can be covered with spruce branches or non-woven material, the trunk circle with foliage. As they grow older, winter hardiness increases, and the need for shelter disappears. Even if the tree freezes, it will quickly recover with the advent of heat.

Catalpas are watered in the spring-summer season. Mulching will help reduce the number of procedures. The soil must be periodically loosened and weeds removed.

Trees are fed with nitroammophos in spring, potassium-phosphorus fertilizers are applied at the end of summer. During the vegetative period, they are fed twice with a solution of rotted manure (1:10).

Sanitary pruning is carried out in early spring, removing frost-damaged shoots.

Possible difficulties

Leaves lose turgor.

Cause: insufficient watering.

Summer yellowing and leaf fall.

Cause: Verticillium wilt. editors

Table of tree life expectancy

0 Akaki #

December 12, 2018 at 04:28 pm



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July 19, 2021 at 01:47 pm

PJ reply


0 Oleg #

March 28, 2019 at 11:19 am

Thank you. I found out who has a life expectancy of 400 years


0 He #

April 2, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Average duration


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May 23, 2019 class.


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One letter yew with


0 Administrator#

December 15, 2019 at 09:25

Thank you. Fixed.


0 Dinara #

January 16, 2020 at 18:36

on Earth??? Please fix this too


0 Administrator#

January 16, 2020 at 18:39

Thank you. Fixed.


0 H #

January 23, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Banana is a grass, not a tree


0 Administrator#

January 23, 2020 at 03:16 pm

Thank you, you are absolutely right.
But since many users are looking for information about the banana as a tree, we decided to leave this perennial herbaceous plant in this table, making a clarification.


0 Human #

April 26, 2021 at 07:42 pm

This is a berry


0 Amalia #

January 23, 2020 at 17:49

European cedar pine
We did not know that the cedar pine lives so long


0 Amalia #

January 23, 2020 at 5:53 pm

European Cedar Pine
Wow she lives so long: 1000 years


0 Nikolai Borisovich #

March 3, 2020 at 09:38

Where is the hornbeam? And the boxwood? These are our residents. And where is my beloved Pinia? This is an Italian pine, Rome is planted with it. Expand the list!


0 Administrator#

March 3, 2020 at 10:17 am

Nikolai Borisovich thanks for the comment - added.


0 Guest #

March 9, 2020 at 03:55 pm



0 Administrator#

March 9, 2020 at 19:48

Added. Thank you.


0 Alexei #

November 27, 2020 at 16:30

You write incorrectly about the Siberian cedar. 1000 year old Siberian cedars were found in Eastern Altai. Under favorable conditions, it can live up to 1000 years. The Siberian cedar is a subspecies of the European cedar pine.


0 pupil #

December 29, 2020 at 13:28

I am in the 1st grade and I needed to thank the site for the environment


0 Anna #

January 6, 2021 at 09:07 am

Bamboo is grass!


0 Administrator#

January 6, 2021 at 11:41 am

Anna . Thank you. Made a correction.


0 Lily #

January 12, 2021 at 16:49

The world around in 1st grade. Tasks, of course, are not for children, but for parents. Thanks for the table.


0 Evgenia #

January 17, 2021 at 13:26

And we are 1st class for the outside world!! Thank you for the sign)


0 Kirill #

January 18, 2021 at 6:24 pm



0 Ratalia #

February 1, 2021 at 18:14

Thanks for the information


0 Alexander #

March 1, 2021 at 14:51

Ginkgo biloba biloba
Liquidambar resinous
Bird cherry
Sakura ???


0 Administrator#

March 2, 2021 at 09:33

Alexander thanks, added.


0 Alexander #

March 2, 2021 at 11:34

Hazel (hazelnut)


0 Administrator#

March 2, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Thank you, added.


0 Alexander #

March 2, 2021 at 10:55 pm



0 Administrator#

March 3, 2021 at 09:04

Robinia - added.
Jasmine is a shrub.
Thank you.


0 Alexander #

March 3, 2021 at 09:50

Kalina (bush)


0 Admin#

March 4, 2021 at 08:42

Added mulberry. Thank you.


0 Alexander #

March 30, 2021 at 20:45



0 Alexander #

March 30, 2021 at 8:48 pm



0 Administrator#

April 2, 2021 at 09:30

Alexander thanks, added.


0 Irina #

May 14, 2021 at 09:57

Thank you! I found the necessary information to resolve the issue: the tree is sick or it should already be cut down due to old age.


0 Ivan #

June 25, 2021 at 16:10

It was a revelation for me that Poplar lives only 60-80 years! I do not believe. Poplar grows next to my house, 1.5 meters in diameter and as tall as a 10-storey building. I have never seen anything like this in our city .. and I think it is 200 years old, no less, because I saw an Oak 1 meter in diameter where there was a sign that it was 300 years old!


0 Elena #

June 26, 2021 at 18:27

Oak grows very slowly, so it is not surprising that at the age of 300 it has not yet gained strength.


0 Naddya #

October 8, 2021 at 15:36

Based on what sources is this table compiled?


0 Administrator#

October 8, 2021 at 19:05

Wikipedia and various foreign sites.


0 Irina #

23 February 2022 at 16:44

There are 3000 year old olive trees in Cyprus


0 Egor #

June 7, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Manchurian walnut would be nice.

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