Indian Bean Tree Catalpa bignonioides

Description & features

British Grown - The British Grown logo denotes plants and trees that have been both propagated and grown in the UK. Read more

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Step 2 - Size and quantity

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Size / Height
Price
Quantity
 
15L pot size / 1.75-2.75m
£54.00

All prices include VAT

All prices include VAT

All prices include VAT

All prices include VAT

British Grown - The British Grown logo denotes plants and trees that have been both propagated and grown in the UK. Read more

Product description

CATALPA BIGNONIODES – Indian Bean Tree

Characteristics

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.

Features

Mature height
Medium - 10-15 metres
Spread
10-15metres
Shape / habit
Open
Spreading
Growth rate
Medium
Soil type
All soil types
Sun levels
Full sun
Difficulty / hard to grow
Medium
Evergreen / Deciduous
Deciduous
Season of interest
Summer
Leaf
Green
Foliage
Dense
Late to leaf
Large Leaves
Flower colour
White
Flowering month
July
Other
Needs shelter
Uses
Parkland Tree
Garden Tree
City/Urban Sites
Pollarding/Coppice

Features

Mature height
Medium - 10-15 metres
Spread
10-15metres
Shape / habit
Open
Spreading
Growth rate
Medium
Soil type
All soil types
Sun levels
Full sun
Difficulty / hard to grow
Medium
Evergreen / Deciduous
Deciduous
Season of interest
Summer
Leaf
Green
Foliage
Dense
Late to leaf
Large Leaves
Flower colour
White
Flowering month
July
Other
Needs shelter
Uses
Parkland Tree
Garden Tree
City/Urban Sites
Pollarding/Coppice

Aftercare

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.

Watering

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.

Weed Control

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 for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one  metre wide completely free of grass.  The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:

  1. Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup.  Apply each year for the first 3 years.  It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
  2. Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this.  This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.

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.

Staking

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.

Ties

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.


Comments

By Ronnie Eldridge on 18/09/2013

Are the beans (fruit) edible or poisonous?

By Simon on 22/09/2013

Hello Ronnie,

It doesn’t seem that the beans are not poisonous, though it would not be a good idea to eat them either.

By Stella on 18/07/2014

We love our Catalpa, this year it’s flowering for the first time and looks lovely however, it is now about 20 - 25 feet tall and casts shadows over our very small garden and part of our neighbours too . My question is can we prune it back a lot or a little, we don’t want to lose it just contain it a bit ?

By Simon on 21/07/2014

Hello Stella, Catalpa can be pruned very hard. But you would want to do it in the new foliage appears in the spring. Though if you prune it back hard it would be at the expense of the flowers.

I hope this helps.

Simon

By Rob Pike on 16/08/2014

I have seen this bean tree here in Mid west France in a secluded spot alongside a small lake , I first noticed the beautiful cluster of white flowers in late spring and at this moment mid August the beans are 9ins to a foot long , is it possible to propigate the bean seeds and when`s the best time I`m wondering .

By Simon on 04/09/2014

Hello Rob,

It is possible to grow from seed. I would plant them out in the autumn and you should see them start to grown in the late spring/early summer.

By Jayne on 13/02/2015

I had beans on my tree last summer!

By R.e.de gelsey on 27/02/2015

Love this tree

By Marguerite Tucker on 22/05/2015

Can this tree be grown in a container and, if so, can the size be controlled by pruning the root system? Any advice on growing in a container would be most welcome.

By Simon on 05/06/2015

Hello Marguerite,

I wouldn’t recommend growing this tree in a container, they are big trees ultimately and as such would want to be in the ground.

Kind regards,

Simon

By Alan on 27/06/2015

I have a beautiful bean tree which I grew from seed.  It flowers profusely but so far no pods??  Does anyone know why this should be so?  Do a certain number of years have to elapse,I wonder.  Thanks

By Dottie Call Sheets on 08/07/2015

Does this tree have horned worms on it used for fishing ?
Thank you .

By Mandy on 22/07/2015

Have had this tree for 16 years and only flowered once. We cut it back ever year after leaves fall off in autumn because garden not very big. Is this the reason it won’t flower again?

By Amanda on 26/07/2015

Hi, I have had my bean tree for 15 yrs and it has never flowered! It’s in full sun,  could you tell me why please

By Simon on 29/07/2015

Hello Alan,

The Catalpa tree may not set fruit in cooler years.

By Simon on 04/08/2015

Hello Dottie,

The Catalpa worm (Ceratomia catalpae), used as fishing bait, can be found on Catalpa trees where it is native, in the Southern USA. Hawk moth caterpillars - or horned worms - native to the UK prefer nightshade family plants as a food source.

By Simon on 06/08/2015

Dear Mandy,

If you prune back the Catalpa every year then it will probably not give you a display of flowers, I’m afraid.

By Simon on 06/08/2015

Hello Amanda,

The Catalpa takes a good 15 years before it first flowers, so you could expect your first blooms soon.

By Brooklyn on 12/08/2015

Something is eating our Catalpa! One day it was full of leaves and now there are only a few! What in the world would be eating it?

By Simon on 12/08/2015

Hello Brooklyn,

I don’t know of any particular pests that the Catalpa is susceptible to in Britain, so I can’t say what has been eating the leaves on your tree, afraid. In the USA the tree harbours the Catalpa worm, a hawkmoth caterpillar, which can quickly defoliate a Catalpa tree. Hopefully your tree will grow more leaves and get over the attack.

By Alan on 12/08/2015

my beautiful bean tree is presently smothered in lovely white flower bracts but again this year there are no sign of the all elusive beans??    Is this a fertilisation problem i.e. The birds and the bees requirement or can I expect pods next year, I wonder.    The tree was grown from seed about 12 years ago.  Thanks

By Simon on 17/08/2015

Dear Alan,

The Catalpa tree does not reliably produce beans without a good warm summer, so this could be the reason. Insects are needed for pollination. Hope you see some beans soon!

By Lewis on 19/08/2015

I am looking to incorporate a Catalpa into a mixed planting scheme, so restricting it’s size by coppicing would be essential. How much growth (height/spread) could I expect, roughly, each year? Also, how established would the plant need to be before starting to cut it back without risking damage? Thank you.

By Simon on 24/08/2015

Dear Lewis,

You can expect a couple of feet extension growth each year, but it mostly comes along quite late in the year. This means that some of the young growth doesn’t have time to harden off before winter and is damaged by cold weather. It is best to wait till spring to prune. You can start some formative pruning in the first year after planting, but you may want to wait to see how the crown develops before any heavy pollarding action.

By janice on 22/09/2015

Hello I have a large Catalpa, about 20ft tall and spread. It’s branches are in the way when my husband uses the ride on mover. I need to take off maybe 2 large branches from the lower trunk. Would I do this in the spring? I live in Brittany.Thank you

By Simon on 24/09/2015

Dear Janice,

Yes, undertake the pruning in the spring.

By martini on 17/06/2016

If a large, healthy tree is vigorously pruned at the end of June, will it recover?

By Simon on 22/06/2016

Hello Martini,

It would be better to prune in spring, but if you have pruned in June I wouldn’t worry too much.

By Mike on 23/06/2016

Hi

Have just found that I have one of these Catalpa trees in a large pot, great plant, am about to move to a slightly larger pot, garden is small, plant in pot suites garden.

question, do thees trees have a large root spread?

Mike

By Simon on 24/06/2016

Hello Mike,

The root spread depends on conditions, but in a pot you won’t have to worry! Ideally you need to pot on to larger pots as the tree grows, to avoid it getting pot bound. It will also need regular watering and feeding.

By Peter on 19/07/2016

Question. We have a beautiful Catalpa in our garden.

It’s mature, we’ve been in our house for 20 years plus and it was a lovely tree then.

We’ve noticed these last two summers, that one small area of upper branches have not had foliage.
A tree surgeon said it might have been squirrel damage. Could it be - and
will it recover naturally?

Many thanks
Peter

By Simon on 20/07/2016

Hello Peter,

It is possible that a squirrel has damaged your Catalpa. They tend to strip bark off, which kills the stem. This means that it is unlikely those damaged branches will return to life. Dead branches on Catalpa also result from frost damage in the winter. It sounds like these branches are a little too high for you to inspect close up, where you could scratch off a little patch to see if it is green underneath and therefore still alive. To help with aesthetics and as a safety precaution, it would be worth having a tree surgeon cut out the dead branches.

By ERROL MALISH on 07/08/2016

I have a catalpa tree which I purchased from a garden centre 25 years ago, the house shelters the tree from the prevailing winds, last year there was just one flower on the tree and it was the first one ever. The tree only has leaves on for 5 months of the year but this affords welcome shade throughout the summer months. I first saw several Catalpa trees on a campsite in northern France their flowers were magnificent and contrasted with the huge lime green leaves. There is a Catalpa tree in canal gardens adjacent to Tropical World, Roundhay park Leeds. I really like having a Catalpa tree growing in my garden, it is always a topic of conversation when we hold Barbecues throughout the summer months.

By ruth groombridge on 08/08/2016

I have an Indian Bean Tree which appears to attract some sort insect
which is nibbling away at the leaves,I have tried pest spray but to no
avail,please has anybody an answer as the leaves are begining to look
like lace.

By Ruth on 09/08/2016

We have the most wonderful Catalpa in our SW France garden.  It is glorious and every year literally drips with long green beans. We do prune it rather
drastically every spring or it would just grow and grow. It’s shape is beautiful and the pruning seems to enhance it.

By Simon on 11/08/2016

Hello Errol,

Great to hear you have seen a flower on your Catalpa, they’re quite special. Hope there are more to come! It is worth bearing in mind that they are late into leaf when considering a Catalpa, but it’s worth the wait when they finally come out.

By Simon on 11/08/2016

Hello Ruth,

Where are you based? There is a Catalpa worm prevalent in the USA that can decimate the leaves of this tree, but we don’t have it in the UK. Spraying can catch pests while they are active, but it’s sometimes too late once the damage has been done. Hopefully the tree will recover, but it would be worth trying to identify the pest so you can tackle it with something suitable before another outbreak. If you send a photo to us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) we will try to identify the cause.

By Simon on 11/08/2016

Hello Ruth in SW France,

Catalpas do grow more vigorously in warmer climes. It sounds like you have the perfect spot for it!

By Dawn warren on 18/08/2016

We have two of these lovely trees, but this year one has in the last week started having dead leaves, they are just brown and falling off, the other one is fine.  We have pruned back each year and they have both been beautiful apart from this last week.  Any ideas?  We live in Derbyshire uk , help please!!

By Simon on 19/08/2016

Hello Dawn,

If the trees were recently planted, then browning leaves could be a sign of drought stress or windrock. Otherwise, I wonder it could be due to weather conditions, but difficult to pinpoint the issue without seeing the tree. If you would like to send a photo to us (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) we can take a look.

By David O. on 14/09/2016

I am very interested in purchasing a Catalpa but am concerned about garden space.  Would it be feasible to restrict a tree to 4m height and a similar, if not smaller, spread, either through yearly pruning or alternatively by constricting the roots in a large pot in the ground?

I am not so concerned about the flowers, it is really the leaves and bark that I think make this an attractive tree.

By Simon on 21/09/2016

Hello David,

You can certainly cut back Catalpa on a regular basis to keep it small. Coppicing or copparding in this way will encourage large leaves. It is best to prune in spring as the leaves are beginning to emerge.

By Alan on 21/09/2016

My Catalpa grown from seed 12 years ago is now producing clusters of white flowers BUT no bean pods.  Does anyone really have a definitive answer why?

By Simon on 21/09/2016

Hello Alan,

Interesting to hear that you have flowers but no beans. There are several possible reasons. It may be a matter of time, for Catalpas start producing flowers from about 7 years old but beans a few years later. Then, a hot summer is necessary for the beans to form. Finally, although the flowers are hermaphrodite, they are designed to restrict self-fertilisation, so it could be a pollination issue. You could try treating the tree to a high potassium feed in spring to encourage flowers and fruit, and then hope for a hot summer!

By Jenifer Lord on 26/09/2016

I planted an Indian Bean Tree in 1992, which I was told would combat green fly as there were roses in my garden, not wanting the greenfly damaging my rose bushes, as well as hoping I would have a beautifully large-leafed tree giving ultimate canopy shade in my garden.

The tree changed little and didn’t grow much in about ten years at which point I decided to shape it…

I prunded it in February after all the leaves had gone and low and behold the tree responded and started spurting upwards!

Since then, with regular February pruning, the tree has grown and I have had magnificent white flower clusters each summer.

This year, however (in 2016), without its usual pruning in February, thinking I would let it grow a little taller - now abot 30ft tall in September - it produced ‘beans’ FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME and I can only think that ‘it did its own thing’ without having beeen pruned…

Next February though pruning will have to be carried out again to keep the tree in check so we will see what happens next year…!

By Simon on 27/09/2016

Hello Jennifer,

That’s great, I’m so glad you have had a display of beans. The pruning sounds like it spurred it into growth. This is a fantastic example of how you sometimes need a lot of patience for Catalpas to take off. Is it working as greenfly deterrent, I wonder?

By paula holt on 17/10/2016

hi had my indian bean trees 2 years one in the ground one in a pot now its october they are losing their leaves is this normal and should i feed the trees.

By Simon on 19/10/2016

Hello Paula,

Fear not, it is completely normal for Catalpas and many other trees to lose their leaves in October. Catalpa bignonioides is in fact late into leaf in the spring, and early to shed them, in our climate. You should certainly feed the tree you are keeping in a pot, as it will use up the nutrients in the growing media very quickly. I would hold off doing so until next spring, though. The tree in the ground has access to the nutrients in the soil, but will certainly benefit from a top dressing in spring, as well.

By Bob on 03/12/2016

I received a catalpa seedling (6” - 8” tall with a few tiny leaves) last June 2016 as a gift.  Left it in a pot for about a month to give it a good start.  Planted it in July and it prospered in the ground, producing big leaves, rapid growth, and a strong trunk.  After our warm Fall (Indianapolis, IN), we are now in winter-like weather and the tree not only dropped all of its leaves, but all of its branches.  It is about three and a half to four feet tall.  Otherwise seemed very healthy up until this “total drop.”  Normal? Abnormal?  Wait until Spring and see what happens?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

By Simon on 07/12/2016

Hello Bob,

Certainly not unusual for Catalpa to drop all its leaves quite early in colder climes - it is very late into leaf and early to lose them here in the UK. Frost can also nip the branch ends, but sounds like it may have had a severe impact on your sapling. If it has been planted correctly and given the right aftercare it should be hardy, so I would expect it to come back in the spring.

By Lorraine on 21/12/2016

Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the Indian Bean tree. I live in Central West NSW Australia I have a seedling approx 24” high
I would like to plant it in my small front garden as a feature. I have an easement on one side of the front garden & town water pipe running along the the front garden.
Will the roots of the tree damage these things? Would I be better planting the tree in a large container under ground?

By Simon on 23/12/2016

Hello Lorraine,

I’m afraid I couldn’t comment on how the Catalpa will grow in your climate and soil. In the UK it doesn’t become a terribly large tree thanks to our winter weather.

By Alan Rawlinson on 23/12/2016

Doubtful candidate for a small garden, especially in a favourable climate like NSW has.    As stated in the description they can go to 50ft with a huge spread, and I recall one in the park in Harlow Essex like this.  Absolutely beautiful, but rampant!    First noticed a row of these next to Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament in Londdon, but sadly chopped down now.    Still waiting for the pods on my 10 year old one, grown from seed

By Lorraine on 30/12/2016

Thank you Simon & Alan,
50’ spread now that’s a huge span!
Such a beautiful tree, I will heed your advise & plant something else in the front garden.
Thank you for saving me from a big mistake. I will plant the Indian Bean on the family’s farm.
Cheers
Lorraine

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