Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

Our Favorite Trees for Waukesha

  • Hardiness Range: 4 to 8
  • Height: 40’-70’
  • Spread: 20’-50’
  • Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Bloom Color: White

Why We Love It: 

Huge, dinner-plate sized leaves with gorgeous white flowers in spring.  The Catalpa is underutilized in home landscapes and provides a great alternative to overused, popular specimen shade trees.  One of the RARE trees that will thrive in terrible soils and even on floodplains!   

Catalpas are wonderful for pollinators, and at the same time they have few problems with serious landscape pests or diseases.  The Catalpa Sphinx moth larvae (a North American native!) feeds on Catalpa species exclusively.  These caterpillars have many natural enemies (the same parasitic wasps that feed on tomato hornworms feed on catalpa sphinx larvae), so they do not pose a serious threat to Catalpas in Wisconsin the way that they can down South.  Catalpa sphinx larvae are nicknamed the “Fisherman’s Worm” by anglers throughout the US, who may not even know the name of the tree, but have learned to seek them out and collect the caterpillars for bait.  This is a tree with a rich history. 

Know Before You Plant: 
Catalpas earned the nickname “Cigar Tree” for a reason.  Long, 12-18” green beans (aka “cigars”) are formed each year.  These bean pods typically hold on the tree through the winter, and drop the following spring.  For that reason, the Catalpa is not a great choice for a spot that overhangs high-volume car parking, or as a street tree where fastidious cleanliness is desired.   

Where it Thrives: 

Large yards, parks, cemeteries, open spaces.