Catalpa is a genus of plants in the trumpet vine family, Bignoniaceae and are native to temperate regions of North America, the Caribbean, and East Asia. There are approximately 40 to 50 species in the genus and yet, by and large, the most prevalent species worldwide is the Southern catalpa, also known as Indian Bean tree, or Catalpa bignonioides. This is an imposing native of North America with attractive heart-shaped leaves that ultimately reaches 40 to 60 feet tall and is truly spectacular when in full bloom. However, its size eliminates it from most modern gardens, especially as a mature Catalpa is likely to develop brittle branches. But there are dozens of other species of Catalpa that are hardly known and one in particular is a stand-out and this is Farges catalpa, or Catalpa fargesii. Among connoisseurs this almost unheard of tree is considered to be the most beautiful of all catalpas. And while it has all of the assets of most catalpas, such as adaptability to soil types, climate, urban conditions, etc, it also has characteristics that set it apart. 

Farges catalpa, a native of China, is a spectacular tree noted for its showy clusters of flowers. Most catalpas have white flowers but Farges catalpa has beautiful lilac, foxglove-like flowers speckled with burgundy. These midsummer flowers are very distinctive and reminiscent of the stunning Royal paulownia. But another distinction of Farges catalpa is the foliage. Whereas most catalpas have heart-shaped leaves, Farges has long, tapering leaves that are quite elegant all season long. And finally, on a practical note, Farges catalpa only reaches 30 to 40 feet, almost half the height of Southern catalpa. This size is far more adaptable to modern gardens. And like most species in the Catalpa genus, Farges catalpa will thrive in full or part sun, poor or fertile soil and will grow across most climate zones. It would do well across southern Australia, all of the UK and in North America it would grow from southern Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico. Added all together Farges catalpa should be the most popular of all catalpas and yet this lovely diminutive tree is almost impossible to find other than in the most select connoisseur nurseries.


Farges catalpa

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