Catalpa ‘Bungei’ (Dwarf Indian Bean Tree)

This is a clever idea – a man made plant originally from Belgium, we think. Catalpa bungei is a dwarf form of the better know Catalpa bignonioides (Indian Bean Tree) and in this case, the shrub has been grafted onto the 6ft trunk of Catalpa bignonioides. The result is a highly distinctive formal little deciduous tree with a tight rounded head and a beautiful layered appearance due to the arrangement of the large leaves. Best as part of a geometrical arrangement – an avenue, a row or a matrix for example. They need space to be seen at their best. After many years, the head might need cutting back as the wood is quite brittle and could break under its own weight. The ideal size to keep them would be 10ft tall with a head about 7ft across. Rarely used in Britain (they’re probably seen as too formal by most people which is exactly what our customers like) but any traveller to northern France, Belgium and Holland will see them everywhere. If you want quick, affordable, easy, low maintenance and reliable formality or symmetry, this a great little tree.

Towards the end of the summer, these occasionally get powdery mildew on the leaves (a white bloom) which can be treated with a fungicide but as it’s the end of the year and they’re deciduous anyway, probably easier to wait for the leaves to drop, gather them up and burn them.

The other thing we notice (as with all tight, formal trees), pigeons love to nest in them. Believe it or not, pigeons have such strong wings they can actually break the smaller branches on this tree.

Exactly how you dissuade pigeons from nesting in your Catalpa bungei, I will leave to you. We find you can accomplish quite a lot with a stick. We have yet to see this tree flower.

The ones pictured are almost opposite the main entrance to Horsham railway station, West Sussex.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Green

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Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.

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