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How to grow an Indian Bean Tree

Like any other plant, it needs adequate care until it matures. It may become inconvenient during the summer because of its flowers creating litter. When autumn starts, it will produce a hefty supply of leaves.

Here are some useful facts about the Indian Bean Tree’s growing requirements.

Catalpa with a beautiful crown on the green grass on a summer day


They love the sun.

These trees would appreciate if they are placed or planted under full sun; they can also tolerate partial shade.


Any type of soil would do—they are not picky.

As long as the soil is moist, Catalpa can tolerate most soil types. If available, it will thrive best if grown on rich, deep, and well-draining soil with a PH from 5.5 to 7.0.


Because of their native habitat near rivers and in woodlands, they prefer wet to moist soil. Make it a habit to check younger saplings during hotter months. Once established, they can tolerate dry soil but may still need constant and adequate watering.


They can grow big. Because of its height and size, it should be given sufficient space. Preferably, it should be distant from possible structures and establishments. By giving it enough space, it could also grow up to its potential mature height.

How to grow an Indian Bean Tree from seed

Nothing beats taking care of a plant—or a tree—from seed and seeing it thrive. There are a few ways to propagate the Indian Bean Tree, one of which is growing it from its distinct winged seeds.

Seed propagation remains the most successful way to propagate the tree.

Once the Catalpa tree has shed its leaves, looks visibly barren, and the flowers have dried up, you can start gathering the pods. Check the capsules that have fallen on the ground. They should be dry. If so, they are ready for sowing.

You can follow these easy steps:

a.) Gather dry pods from the ground. Start opening the pods and collect the seeds.

b.) Sow the Catalpa seeds in moist soil. If you are planning for a big batch, you can plant them on seed-starting trays to make transplanting less time-consuming.

c.) Water as needed and consistently.

When transplanting, dig a hole a few inches larger than the root ball. Loosen the soil. Gently unfurl the bottom of the root ball. Cover the hole until it becomes level with the soil surface. Once buried, tap the soil gently. Be careful not to compress it. Water the transplanted sapling thoroughly. Fertile compost or worm castings can be added to supplement its growth as a slow-releasing organic fertilizer.

After a month, it may already be about 3 to 4 inches tall. Once the seedling seems stable enough, you can start exposing it gradually outside to make it hardy. If it has developed a strong root system and is resilient enough to withstand the natural elements, you can transfer it to a bigger pot or plant it on the ground a few weeks after the last frost.

Planting directly on the ground is advantageous. After all, Catalpa needs enough space for its roots to wiggle through. A tree planted directly could also have direct access to more nutrients and water. It grows quickly but starts to slow down once it has reached a certain height.

How to propagate Indian Bean Tree

Catalpa can also be propagated through other propagating methods. Just keep in mind to pick the strongest-looking specimens to have a higher chance of success.


If you worry that you might lose the qualities of a particular Catalpa tree, say a unique color pattern, grafting is one of the propagating methods you can consider. There are many grafting methods. You are encouraged to try what suits you best.

Generally, locate a viable rootstock and the Catalpa stem or branch (scion) possessing the plant traits you desire. With a sharp knife, cut the rootstock’s stems into two segments.

Meanwhile, scrape the bottom part of the scion diagonally until you reach the cambium layer. It is the layer after the tree’s bark. Make sure it is perfect enough to fit between the rootstock’s cut stem. When joined, the cambium layer should align in order to induce growth. Cover the joined stems with grafting tape. Make sure to seal it tightly.

Taking Cuttings

Compared to grafting, taking stem cuttings is easier to replicate. But, it may still not guarantee a successful propagation. Using a rooting powder could increase its odds of successful rooting and fungal rot. Take a healthy stem, dip it into a rooting solution, and plant it in a pot or on the ground.

So, what actually is an Indian Bean Tree?

The Catalpa bignonioides is commonly known as “The Indian Bean Tree” because its seed pods closely resemble those of beans and legumes. It provides a pleasant addition to a garden with its striking flowers during spring and summer. They also attract beneficial insects such as bees during the day, while moths take their place at night.

Indian Bean Tree In Flower

The Indian Bean Tree is a perennial deciduous. Hence, it sheds its leaves during autumn and early winter. Its native habitat is located in the Southeastern United States, in Gulf States such as Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Missouri. After its cultivation in 1726, it has since naturalized in some neighboring regions. Outside the US, it can be found in countries such as the United Kingdom.

It belongs to the Catalpa genus, with around 10 species under it. This tree thrives in sub-tropical zones, in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zones of 5 to 9. Catalpa normally lives for about 50 years. It is a fast grower, often reaching heights from 30 ft. to almost 50 ft. tall.

Meanwhile, the much bigger Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), a species now found in most northern and eastern states, grows to about 40 ft. to even 100 ft. tall. The Northern and Southern Catalpa are both different species. To differentiate the two, the former is generally bigger than its cousin. The Northern one has larger, stouter leaves that narrow to its tip. The Southern Catalpa’s leaves are much smaller and look arrow-shaped.

This plant’s most striking characteristic is its namesake: its bean-like pods.

Before becoming one, they start as blooms. It produces clusters of white bell-like flowers, lined and dotted with variations of yellow, maroon, and orange. They grow as big as 15 to 25 inches.

You can find out how and when to prune an Indian Bean Tree here.

Once it is finished blooming, the tree will start to produce fruits. The pods are about 15 to 20 inches long, slim, and dark brown in color when dry—which might also explain why some people call it the Cigar tree. The capsules contain light-gray seeds with distinct white fringed ends about ⅓ wide and 1 to 2 inches long.

The tree’s crown grows irregularly, unlike other trees with predictable growing patterns. Its leaves are distinctly heart-shaped and grow as large as 12 inches. They grow in patterns of three. When its green leaves are crushed, they may give off an undesirable odor. This is absent in its Northern counterpart. Due to its larger leaves and overall foliage, it may inhibit the growth of seedlings, bushes, and smaller trees underneath. So always consider its size before planting or transplanting one.

In addition, the Indian Bean Tree is often planted along pavements to provide shade and air circulation, especially during hotter months. It has also seen uses in construction work where its robust and durable wood is ideal for fences and general woodwork. The tree also attracts the catalpa worm which is often used as fish bait. For the most part, it largely remains as a lovely ornamental tree in a yard or a garden.

The Indian Bean Tree may also become invasive. So consult with your local wildlife or agricultural offices when it becomes a nuisance or starts affecting other locations outside its native habitat.

But, be wary! Ironically, despite being called a “bean” tree, it is not advisable to consume any part of it. The Catalpa’s roots are labeled as “highly poisonous”.


An Indian Bean Tree makes a wonderful supplement to a backyard or street. It has visually appealing flowers, durable wood, and intriguing seed pods. They are resilient and can withstand the elements. These trees can shelter more life, providing insects a source of precious nectar and giving ample shade to critters, animals, and passersby.