Southern catalpa

Southern catalpa is a short-trunked tree with a rounded to irregular form that can reach 30 to 40 feet in height. Attractive, large panicles of white bell-shaped flowers with yellow and purple spots bloom in early summer and are long-lasting. Native to floodplains, southern catalpa is very adaptable and tolerant of adverse conditions.

Botanical name:

Catalpa bignonioides

All Common Names:

Southern Catalpa, Common Catalpa, Eastern Catalpa, Cigar Tree

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Shade tree,
  • Parkway/street

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet),
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)

Mature Height:

30-40 feet

Mature Width:

30-40 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts,
  • Weak wood and branch structure

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fragrant flowers,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

This tree can be messy when flowers and fruits fall; branches are brittle and may fall in storms.

Disease, pests and problems

Verticillium wilt and minor problems including leaf spots and powdery mildew.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Found in the southern United States.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray-brown, scaly with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite or sometimes whorled leaves; 4 to 8 inches long with an entire margin.
Bright green in summer with little to no fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White, funnel-shaped flowers with purple markings inside; grouped in a 4 to 8 inch tall upright cluster.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Pod-like capsules, 8 to 20 inches long, filled with winged seeds.



Location of Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa) at the Arboretum