By Jennifer Poindexter
Growing and caring for a northern catalpa tree is a rewarding experience. These trees produce abundant beauty between their colorful blooms and decorative foliage.
Plus, it makes a wonderful shade tree if provided enough space and the appropriate growing conditions.
However, before you decide to jump into growing this type of tree, be sure you understand the basics. I’ll walk you through what you should know about growing a northern catalpa tree.
Then, you can decide if this is the right tree for your landscaping goals. Here’s what you should know about growing the northern catalpa tree:
Growing Conditions for the Northern Catalpa Tree
The northern catalpa tree is one many gardeners turn to when they need a shade tree or something to liven up a space where it seems nothing else will grow.
When growing this tree, you should expect bright green foliage which are shaped like arrowheads. In the midst of this are cream colored blooms which flower from spring to the early portion of summer.
In the fall, the foliage of this tree turns a greenish yellow before dropping.
The northern catalpa tree generally reaches heights ranging from forty to seventy feet tall and lives for up to sixty years.
This tree is also hardy in planting zones four through eight. Now that you know some general information about this tree, let’s talk specifics for a growing location.
When growing a northern catalpa tree, you should pick an area which receives full to partial sunlight. The tree isn’t as picky about soil as it can withstand areas that become saturated.
However, the tree tends to thrive in areas with dryer soil. If you can find a location with well-draining soil that maintains even moisture, this is best for the tree.
Now that you know what a northern catalpa tree needs in a growing location, let’s discuss how you can go about growing this tree.
How to Plant the Northern Catalpa Tree
Do you have the ideal growing location picked out for your northern catalpa tree? If so, let’s talk about how you can get this tree in the ground and growing.
There are two common methods used to grow this type of tree. The first option is the easiest because you purchase an established tree from a local nursery.
This is an excellent option for someone who wants to get their landscape established quickly or for the beginner gardener.
In this case, dig a hole that’s two times the depth and width of the root ball. Be sure to spread the roots out in the hole and backfill it halfway.
Fill a five-gallon bucket with water and pour half into the hole. Allow the moisture to absorb into the ground and finish filling the hole with soil.
At this point, pour the rest of the water over the dirt. Use your foot to press firmly around the base of the tree. This should compact the soil enough to provide the needed support for the tree to stand up straight while becoming established.
The other common method to growing a northern catalpa tree is propagation by cutting. To do this, you should remove a five-inch cutting from a mature tree in the later portion of summer.
You want to ensure the cutting is from the new growth which occurred in spring. You’ll notice these portions of the tree because the tip of the cutting will be flexible while the other portions of the cutting will be harder and more durable.
Once you’ve removed the cutting, if there’s any leaves attached to the bottom portion of it, remove them.
After this, dip the cutting in rooting hormone and plant it in a container which drains adequately. Fill this container with a well-draining growing medium.
Keep the soil consistently and evenly damp. You may wrap the container in plastic to provide a greenhouse effect.
However, you must check the soil daily to ensure that it doesn’t dry out. Store the cutting in a warm growing location with ample sunlight.
In approximately one month the cutting should develop roots. Continue to care for the plant indoors until the following spring.
Then, you should harden the sapling off and plant it in its permanent growing location. These are two methods to growing the northern catalpa tree.
Pick the option which best suits your gardening goals and budget. From there, you should be well on your way to enjoying this tree for many years around your home.
Caring for the Northern Catalpa Tree
The northern catalpa tree is a low-maintenance option which grows well in many areas where other trees won’t.
If you’d like bright green foliage, gorgeous cream-colored blooms, and ample shade, then make sure you know how to provide care to this tree once it’s planted.
The first thing you must do for the northern catalpa tree is to water the tree deeply in its first growing season. This will help it to establish its root system.
When watering the tree deeply, ensure you apply larger quantities of water to the tree for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
Not only will this lighten your load on how frequently you must care for the tree, but it’ll saturate the roots of the tree during the time of watering.
Plus, it’ll saturate the ground surrounding the tree, and the water will be absorbed by the soil. As the days progress, and the tree needs more water, it’ll dig its roots into the ground to retrieve the previously absorbed water.
In the process, this creates a deeper root system for the tree. Deeper root systems are usually stronger root systems which equates to healthier trees.
The next thing you must do is fertilize this tree with a balanced fertilizer each spring to provide the necessary nutrients for the tree to produce new growth and blooms.
Next, you must prune your northern catalpa tree. Wait until the second spring the tree has been planted.
From there on, ensure you prune to shape the tree, remove low branches, and also remove suckers. All of this should encourage new growth for the tree.
The last thing you should do is stake the tree when it needs it. Many times, as a tree grows, it’s hard for the trunk to support it initially. You can stake the tree by placing a piece of wood at an angle in the ground next to the tree.
From there, run wire from the wood to the tree trunk. This should pull the tree upright. However, one more suggestion is to wrap the wire in PVC pipe or an old rubber hose as it could keep the wire from cutting into the tree and prevent girdling.
These are the few things you should do to care for a northern catalpa tree. Take good care of this tree and hopefully, it’ll take care of your landscape over the years.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact the Northern Catalpa Tree
The last thing to discuss when learning the process of growing and caring for the northern catalpa tree are the potential threats and downfalls to this plant.
This tree has only one true pest that tends to impact it. You must learn how to treat catalpa sphinx moths.
You may notice this pest as it’ll appear that your tree is taken over by caterpillars. This is one stage of this pest’s life cycle.
Should you see eggs or caterpillars on your tree, it’s best to treat them immediately. You may cut away any areas of the tree where eggs are, you may handpick caterpillars and place them in a bucket of soapy water, or you can treat the tree with an insecticide.
The diseases the northern catalpa tree most commonly face are verticillium wilt, leaf spot, and powdery mildew.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for verticillium wilt. If it’s in the ground, the only thing you can do is plant items in this location which are immune to this particular disease.
Most smaller trees die from the disease. Some larger trees can live with the disease for a while if you cut away any damaged part of the tree.
However, leaf spot and powdery mildew can be treated with a fungicide. When dealing with fungal disease, it’s best to deter it when possible.
By planting your tree in an area with sunlight and well-draining soil, you keep the soil dry and warm. Since fungal disease likes to grow in cold, wet areas, it shouldn’t grow in these conditions.
Also, if your foliage is wet for a prolonged period of time, it’s easy for fungal disease to form on the leaves. Avoid this by pruning the plant to ensure proper airflow around it.
You may also consider watering the tree earlier in the day, so it has plenty of time to dry before the cool night air moves in.
The last thing to mention about the northern catalpa tree is it produces fruit which look like long pods. These pods can be anywhere from eight to twenty inches in length.
As the year progresses, the pods fall from the tree. Not only does this create litter in the growing area, but this tree can also become invasive due to these pods.
To avoid both a mess and this tree’s invasive nature, ensure you clean up any pods which the tree drops.
You now have plenty of information to help you make an informed decision on whether the northern catalpa tree is the right option for your landscape.
Utilize the information mentioned here to help you grow, care for, and protect your northern catalpa tree should you decide it’s the right option for you.