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How to Grow Catalpa Trees from Seed

By M.H. Dyer ; Updated September 21, 2017

Catalpa trees, often called Cigar Trees or Indian Bean Trees, are distinctive for their huge heart-shaped leaves, showy white and yellow blooms that cover the tree in the summer months and the long bean pods that develop in autumn. Catalpa trees are a fast-growing tree that will soon provide plenty of shade on hot days. The tree can be messy when the pods drop, so it's best to plant them several yards away from your front door or walkway.

Purchase catalpa seeds from a reputable greenhouse or nursery. Beginning with good quality seeds is essential if you want to grow healthy catalpa trees.

Fill a jar with sand or perlite and dampen it slightly. Bury the catalpa seeds in the sand or perlite and put the jar in the refrigerator. This process of wintering over should begin in autumn so the catalpa will be ready to plant outside in the spring.

Fill a 2-inch planting container with good quality commercial potting soil. Any container will do as long as the bottom has good drainage. Plant a catalpa seed about 1/4 inch deep, and water it lightly.

Put the container in a cool place that gets low sunlight, and keep the soil moist until the seed germinates. This should take about 15 to 21 days. Once the seeds spout from the soil, move the container to a sunny window until you’re ready to plant the seedling outdoors.

Plant the catalpa seedling outside when the weather has warmed in the spring. Surround it with chicken wire to keep it safe from predators, and keep it moist. Leave the wire in place until the trunk measures at least three inches in diameter.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Catalpa seeds
  • Sand or perlite
  • Jar
  • 2 inch planting containers
  • Commercial potting soil
  • Chicken wire

Tip

  • If you are starting with catalpa pods, winter them over as described. By spring, the pods will split open, releasing the tiny catalpa seeds.

About the Author

 

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.