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How To Grow Catalpa Trees from Seed

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

It should be known that the species I will be explaining is the Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa. I have no experience with its southern cousin, but based on the hardiness and willingness to grow, I bet this method will work for those as well!

Catalpas are mysterious and amazing, catching the eye of anyone that sees them. This is typically due to their humongous leaves and long dangling bean pods.

The flowers are beautiful white hummingbird flowers, making them all the more attractive to have in your yard or garden.

Not much is documented about the origins of the Catalpa tree, other than the fact that it is native to America and seems to have been heavily cultivated near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River. If you are well versed in true American history you will know that there was once an amazing civilization living in this area. Traces can be seen from the mounds, pyramids and earthen works left in this area! That is certainly a topic for another time. However it is my feeling that this monster bean tree was once a main fixture in cultivation amongst Native peoples.

Like I just mentioned, the catalpa is basically a huge legume tree! It doesn’t require much nutrients to survive and will actually increase the moisture and nitrogen content of your soil. This makes it an incredible plant for establishing gardens in areas where seemingly nothing will survive.

It is for this reason that I plan on bringing a few to the homestead to plant among the pine forest. Pine trees will cause soil to become acidic, therefore these trees will be vital in encouraging Aquarian Acres to become able to support a wide array of other plants. Years down the road, the Catalpas can be harvested for timber as they are a beautiful hardish softwood!

As the ancient Chinese proverb states, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now." So let's do that.

Growing your very own Catalpa tree is very simple if you can collect yourself some seeds. If you already have a catalpa tree or know of one nearby, just wait until the pods become dark brown and crunchy. I actually waited until spring time to collect mine. Crack those bad boys and girls open and you will find a bunch of seeds!

Catalpas are truly not picky when it comes to soil, I simply prepared some small pots with a potting soil and clay mix. Place the seeds standing upright and lightly cover them with soil. I planted mine about two months before the last frost in a cold frame greenhouse.

Godspeed little seeds!

To be honest, that’s about it! Keep the soil moist for a few weeks and eventually you will see sprouts!

So truth be told, I did this same process last year and was supposed to plant them in the ground in fall… but time flew and I accidentally left them alone all winter. Unsure if they would come back I have been watering them with my other plants and lo and behold I see some signs of life! Only the one in the center pot was insulated well enough for survival.

So make sure to plant your baby trees before the first frost!

They are one of the last trees to leaf in spring so do not fret if yours take a while to come back. Ideally they should be planted at the end of the growing season in their permanent place.

Even though they are so simple to grow, I felt I needed to share this because Catalpas are truly an amazing plant! They get to be over 60 feet tall with a 30 foot span when mature.

To get them established well, plant them in a shadier location as they are sensitive to frost. You can place some rocks around the base to help protect the roots as well.

Keep in mind that like all trees, they do grow kind of slowly… but in just a few years both you and the hummingbirds will absolutely love your new Catalpas!

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