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What is an Indian Bean Tree?

The Indian Bean tree, originally from the southeastern United States, known as the Catalpa bignonioides aurea is a hardy, fast growing deciduous tree. Deciduous meaning it sheds its leaves annually.

Catalpas have wide, heart shaped leaves that are usually golden in colour and around 8 to 12 inches long and grow around the end of the stem.

The tree has white flowers, the flowers are a trumpet liked shape with ruffled edges and grow about 2 inches long, with a mix of yellow, orange and purple markings.

When the flowers bloom in the late spring to early summer, the flowers combined with the big leaves gives the tree a tropical appearance and a very dense canopy of bright colours.

Although the Indian Bean tree will do well in moist, well drained soil – they are quite hardy and do tolerate different soil types.

The tree will survive on moderate to regular watering. Once the weather warms up, ensure you water it at least once a week. These love full sun or light shade.

How high do Indian Bean trees grow?

If left unattended, the Golden Indian Bean tree can grow up to 30 to 60 feet tall, and about 20 to 40 foot in width!

The dwarf variety of this tree, known as the “Nana” (Catalpa Bignonioides “Nana”) is more of a globe shape, has a high leaf density and only grows to around 6 to 10 feet tall and 5 foot in width.

How to prune an Indian Bean tree

To keep this tree in check and stopping it from getting too big, the Indian Bean tree recovers well from hard pruning. To do this, I use a pair of loppers, secateurs and a small saw to cut it back every winter (I do this from January to March). By doing this, over time the trunk of the tree thickens up and the new branches coming up give an increasingly dense canopy of leaves.

Another benefit from this is that as the plant matures, the leaves over time get gradually larger. When most leaves are starting to die, go brown and drop off later in the season; this tree still has a very bright striking green leaf.

Let’s take a look at one from a garden of mine;

Indian Bean Tree


Before Pruning in winter.


Indian Bean tree after heavy pruning.

As you can see from the above pictures, all I do is cut this years growth back to the previous cut each year. This keeps the tree in check.

When do Indian Bean trees flower?

Because I usually prune the tree in my garden once every year back to its previous size, there’s a chance I may never see mine flower.

However, if left they flower around the middle of July. The flower consists of white petals with yellow and purple flecks on them, the flowers can come in large clusters making this an appealing summer tree.

Are Indian Bean trees edible?

Although it’s called ‘Bean Tree’ you might think it would grow some edible beans on it, despite this the Indian Bean tree has no known edible properties. Its roots are said to be highly poisonous, with that being said a few medicinal teas have been made from its bark, pods and seeds for different ailments.

What type of soil for Indian Bean tree

Catalpa aurea mainly prefer deep, moist well-drained soil, however will also adapt to dry or semi moist soil.

Characteristics & Requirements

Plant type

Tree

Lifespan

Perennial

Bloom time

Spring/Summer

Plant height

15-18m

Spread

6m – 12m

How to grow an Indian Bean Tree

Luckily I have written an article for just that. Click here to find out how to grow your own Catalpa.