How to Prune Northern Catalpa

This deciduous tree is known for its cigar-like seed pods, its large leaves (6 to 12 inches), and its lovely flowers that resemble foxgloves. A mature northern catalpa can reach a height of 40 to 70 feet and a width of 20 to 40 feet. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8. The northern catalpa is pruned for the following reasons: to cut away any broken or diseased branches, to manage its place within your landscape, to provide clearance around walkways, structures, and roofs, and to remove deadwood.

Prune away dead, diseased, or damaged branches immediately, making a clean cut at the breaking point or cutting off the entire branch. Clean cuts enable the tree to heal properly and deter disease. You can do this at anytime during the year.

Make a visual inspection of your tree, and locate any branches that are infringing upon other trees or shrubs, structures, walkways and the roof of your home (if the tree is planted close to it). If you have branches rubbing on your roof, they can cause damage, which can lead to leaks in the roof.

Determine where the branch collar (on the underside of the branch where it connects to the trunk) and the branch bark ridge (on the topside of the branch where it connects to the trunk) are on the branch or limb you are going to prune. Make a clean cut in front of the branch bark ridge and the branch collar. Do not leave a stub, and be careful not to cut into the branch collar or the branch bark ridge; this should be left intact for the health of the tree. Perform this type of pruning when the tree is dormant, which is in early spring, late fall or winter.

Visually inspect the crown of the tree for dead twigs, dead branches, dead limbs and crossover branches. Removal of deadwood is called “thinning.” Thinning is usually done on mature trees, and due to the heights involved, it is best that it is performed by a tree service. Not only are they used to heights and have the required tools, but certified arborists know what branches can and should be removed, insuring the health and appearance of the tree.

Catalpa bignonoides Aurea

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Golden Catalpa ‘Aurea’



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:



30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Bainbridge Island, Washington

Spokane, Washington

Catalpa bignonioides ‘AUREA’

Every garden, even the small one, deserves a specimen tree: in the centre of the lawn, in the corner, or in front of the entrance. This southern catalpa offers quite a few attractive features: leaf size, leaf colour, flowers, and the habit itself.
Aurea variey bears huge, tropical looking, heart shaped leaves (20-25 cm large), of bright yellow-green colour. They are slightly hairy like suede, pleasant to touch. They have interesting scent similar to tobacco leaves that allegedly repels insects.
Beginning of summer 20-30 cm tall upright panicles are formed with many bell-shaped, white flowers with purple and yellow marking. Seeds ripen in long brown pods that hang on the tree all winter until early spring.
Just one thing has to be observed: summer mildew. When the weather is warm and wet, usually beginning of summer, the leaves may be affected by mildew infection which is manifested by small grayish white spots that quickly spread throughout the entire leaf. Once you see the spots treat the leaves with a fungicide (with copper content). Otherwise the leaves will remain covered with the mildew film until the autumn.
It grows medium fast or fast. Shrub forms look best as they form its natural wide umbrella shape from the ground. Tree forms make umbrella crowns, too, and tend to make layers of branches with age. Naturally it grows to some 8m but it is usually kept much smaller by pruning from mid-spring until early summer. Pruned catalpas have denser and more compact crowns.
Catalpas are not too picky about pH or soil type. However, they will respond well to good, well-drained soil. Our catalpas performed exceptionally well even on clay and withstood temporary water-logging. They do not suffer from air-pollution and adverse conditions. Fully hardy to approx. -28°C (USDA zone 5).
Last update 05-12-2008.

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