Where and how to grow Southern Catalpa trees?

Raney10(z7 TN)April 18, 2006

I received seeds of this tree and got excellent results by winter sowing them. They are growing very fast and I have repotted them up into gallon size pots.

We live in the mountains, 1700-1900 elevation and I'm hoping I can grow them here.

Can someone tell me more about this tree? Does it need sunshine? How tall and wide and is it fast growing?

Thanks in advance for your help.


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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

I've never grown one myself, but it's my impression that catalpas are pretty tough to kill. Here's some links to info below -- enjoy your trees!




    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 11:41PM
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Raney10(z7 TN)

Thanks for the excellent links. I probably will be able to find a sunny spot for a couple or three and maybe some of my neighbors would like the rest. I'm really glad to find out that the Southern Catalpa is a bit smaller than the Northern one.

Thanks again for the quick response.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:40AM
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april_h_o(Z6 Nashville)

They will often have a small yellow and black caterpillaer on them which makes excellent fish bait. The caterpiller eats the catalpa leaves, but seems to leave everything else alone. I'm not positive, but I believe these Catalpa worms only survive on Catalpa trees.....kind of like koala bears that can only eat eucalyptus leaves.

They will be a medium sized tree, perhaps 40 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide at maturity. The blooms are attractive, too. Nice tree.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 11:08AM
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Raney10(z7 TN)

Thanks April. Do you have any idea what the caterpillar turns into? I would be very happy if the Catalpa tree is the host plant for a butterfly. We have lots of tulip poplars so we do have lots of Swallowtails. I've increased my flower garden about double in size this year and planted lots of butterfly host plants, especially those necessary to become certified as a Monarch Waystation.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 8:49PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

That caterpillar on catalpas turns into a kind of sphinx moth.

I have northern catalpa (C. speciosa) but not the southern species (C. bignonioides). If you ever get more seed, I'd love to snag a few...:)


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 9:38PM
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Raney10(z7 TN)

Sorry I'm so slow responding as I've been out of town for a few days.

Marty, where do you live? you can have one of my gallon size potted ones if you live nearby.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 7:59PM
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tngreenthumb(z6 TN)

I can attest for the caterpillars being good fish bait. My dad and his brother planted a few of the trees, but if I remember correctly, they had to order the first batch of worms.

But now, even 25+ years later, there are still worms every year.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 9:44AM
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Joe could you sponge off of your Dad and hook me up with a couple of bags full!!!! The Catfish go freakin' nuts over 'em.

Marty I can't get Tim off his lazy rear to come over there and get one of the Catalpa's. Is there any chance that you could bring it to the Swap or is that too much trouble? The only reason we want one is for the caterpillars. How old or how established does the tree need to be before they infest it? Can we take some from another tree, stick 'em on the new one and let nature take over?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 2:51PM
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tngreenthumb(z6 TN)

Hey Jeff. I'll check when I get to my mom's house the day before the swap. (if it's not dark) Not sure if they are hatched yet, and if they are they are probably tiny. Unless you have a tree to transplant them to, I doubt they'd be much good for fishing yet.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 3:30PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

Raney, I live about 35 miles SW of Nashville. Is that anywhere near you? Or, are you going to the Middle TN Plant Swap? I'll be there.

Hey Jeff, I'll bring that tree if I get a working truck. Mine died... I took it in for an oil change and they killed it. :( Of course, it had upwards of 300,000 miles on it, so it had earned its rest, I reckon. But the timing is horrible, right in the middle of spring design/installation jobs. Oh well, I needed a full size truck anyway.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 7:24PM
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Raney10(z7 TN)

Marty, think I'm about 45 mi SE of Nashville. About halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga on Cagle Mtn. When is the Middle TN Plant Swap? I know it's May but don't remember the date and we have so much going on next month. Sure would love to come and bring you a Southern Catalpa.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 9:59PM
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Raney email me at jtoothmanindadj@comcast.net and I'll send you the info sheet on the Swap.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 10:28PM
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robmidtenn(Garden Hardiness 7)

When I was a kid in north Lousiana (Monroe) there was a street named Catalpa, with blocks and blocks of Catalpa trees, big ones. They were supposed to have sprouted from fence posts when the area was a large farm. We used to love to beat the wasps to the Catalpa worms, and use them for bream or catfish bait. Gooie and messy, for boy fishermen only.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 9:44PM
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does anyone know if there is a market for catalpa trees I have several I will be tkaing out would make someone great deal

Thanks Gary

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 6:05PM
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april_h_o(Z6 Nashville)

I don't know about a market for them - a lot of folks nowadays don't know what they are.

It's a pity you have to take them out - they are cool trees.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 8:26PM
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Gary, where are you located? How big are the trees? Catalpa's have a large root system. If they aren't small you might have a problem taking them out.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 1:24AM
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I live between Nashville and Chattanooga and would like to uy a couple Catalpa trees.
Does anyone know where I can find them?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 10:24AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


Catalpas are not all that common as nursery plants. They are considered by many to be weedy or less-desirable. They grow very quickly, so are weak wooded and generally short-lived. That doesn't mean you shouldn't want one! It's just that you may not be able to find them locally.

Since they are so fast growing, they can be easily and quickly grown from seed too, so you may want to consider that option. Here are some mail-order sources, including Garden Watchdog ratings and web addresses:

Arrowhead Alpines (so-so G.WD. rating)(www.arrowheadalpines.com) has a couple of different types.

The Fragrant Path (decent G.WD. rating)(fragrantpathseeds.com) has seeds for five types.

Gossler Farms Nursery (decent G.WD. rating)(gosslerfarms.com) has one type.

F. W. Schumacher (very good G.WD. rating)(www.treeshrubseeds.com)has seeds for one species

Forestfarm (good G.WD. rating)(www.forestfarm.com/) has eight types.

Musser Forests (good G.WD. rating)(www.musserforests.com) has one type.

Sheffield's (very good G.WD. rating)(sheffields.com) has seeds for three species.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 10:38AM
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