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CATALPA BIGNONIODES – Indian Bean Tree
The Indian Bean Tree does not come from India and does not grow beans! It originates from the Eastern United states and was introduced in 1726. It has large heart shaped velvety leaves, very large when the tree is young. The leaves are late to emerge not appearing until late June and will be killed off by the first frost without changing colour.
The tree comes into flower in the middle of July with white flowers that have yellow and purple flecks. The flowers are produced in large clusters and can be so numerous as to obscure the leaves of the tree altogether, thus ensuring its status as one of the most appealing summer trees.
The beans are the tree's bean-like pods, which are very slim and almost perfectly cylindrical and can grow up to 16 inches in length. These pods contain winged seeds and remain on the tree throughout the winter before splitting and releasing the seeds.
It will grow to 15m (50ft) in good conditions with a wide spreading much branched head and is a popular parkland tree. It is not particularly long lived though there is a specimen in a Reading Churchyard that is 150 years old.
Where to grow
To grow well it needs full sun and a fertile well drained soil, it will do better with a little bit of shelter from winds which can damage the large leaves. As it never forms a terminal bud the last bit of late summer stem growth is almost always damaged by winter frosts, which leads to its multi-branched habit.
Did you know?
The Indian in the name refers to the local native American (Red Indian) tribe near to where the tree was first recorded by a European botanist. His transcription of their name, Catawba, was incorrectly recorded as Catalpa and the tree is now also known as the Southern Catalpa.
- Medium - 10-15 metres
Shape / Habit
- All soil types
- Full sun
Difficulty / Hard to Grow
Evergreen / Deciduous
- Late to leaf
- Large Leaves
- Parkland Tree
- Garden Tree
- City/Urban Sites
- Needs shelter
Pruning Catalpa bignonioides
Catalpa bignonioides is ultimately a wide crowned tree, so early pruning is important to establish a strong and well balanced frame. You may find that older trees need to have heavy branches removed to avoid the risk of them snapping off.
It is also possible to use Catalpa as a multi-stemmed, coppiced shrub by cutting stems down to near ground level. Although the tree responds well to hard pruning, and coppicing or pollarding can increase the leaf size, bear in mind that this will be at the expense of flowers.
When should I prune? Prune and coppice in winter when the plant is dormant. In early spring remove any frost damaged growth.
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital that for at least 3 years after planting your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass.
- Mulch mats are an effective way to stop grass and weeds, although they will require a careful eye to make sure they continue to work. After clearing the ground around the tree, firmly fit the mat by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. Be careful not to allow the woodchip to touch the stem as it can cause rot.
- Weed killer is very effective, however it is harmful to the environment. Organic weed killers usually do not kill roots. Weed killer needs to be applied each year for the first 3 years, preferably when the tree is dormant, or just once before applying a mulch mat.
- Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.
Are the delivery costs the same no matter how many plants I order?
Yes the delivery costs are the same no matter how many plants you have on your order. They are worked out based on your distance from our nursery and can be found here.