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Chitalpa Information – How To Grow Chitalpa Trees In The Garden

Chitalpa Information – How To Grow Chitalpa Trees In The Garden


By: Teo Spengler

Chitalpa trees are airy hybrids. They result from a cross between two American natives, southern catalpa and desert willow. Chitalpa plants grow into short trees or large shrubs that produce festive pink flowers throughout the growing season. For more chitalpa information including tips on how to grow chitalpa, read on.

Chitalpa Information

Chitalpa trees (x Chitalpa tashkentensis) can grow into 30 foot tall trees (9 m.) or as large, multi-stemmed shrubs. They are deciduous and lose leaves in winter. Their leaves are elliptical, and in terms of shape, they are about at the halfway point between the narrow leaves of desert willow and the heart-shaped foliage of catalpa.

The pink chitalpa flowers look like catalpa blossoms but smaller. They are trumpet shaped and grow in erect clusters. The flowers appear in spring and summer in various shades of pink.

According to chitalpa information, these trees are quite drought tolerant. This is not surprising considering that its native habitat is the desert lands of Texas, California, and Mexico. Chitalpa trees can live 150 years.

How to Grow Chitalpa

If you want to know how to grow chitalpa, first consider hardiness zones. Chitalpa trees thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9.

For best results, start growing chitalpa in a full sun location in soil with excellent drainage. These plants tolerate some shade, but they develop foliage diseases that make the plant unattractive. However, their trunks are very sensitive to sunscald, so they should never be sited with a western exposure where reflected radiation will burn them badly. You will also find that the trees are tolerant of high alkaline soils.

Chitalpa Tree Care

Although chitalpas are drought tolerant, they grow best with occasional water. Those growing chitalpas should consider irrigation during the dry season a part of the tree’s care.

Consider pruning an essential part of chitalpa tree care too. You’ll want to carefully thin and head back lateral branches. This will increase the density of the canopy and make the tree more attractive.

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Anyone have a Chitalpa tree and landscape suggestions?

I am planning my backyard landscape. It is a 20'x40' rectangle. This is all I have so far. I hope the picture works, it's the first time I have tried it. I looked up all of the small trees recommended on this site and others and I think I have decided on a Chitalpa. I find lots of pictures of the flowers on the web but not a lot of pictures of the grown tree. Does anyone have one? Is it a fast grower? Is it very hard to train it in to a good tree shape? Does it have any peculiarities that I should know about? Do you think I could plant it in a box (5'x5') about 1 or 2 feet off of the ground to give it more height or would that limit the roots too much?

I have added a basic drip system. I really want to add some sort of trellis and vines to block my neighbors from view. Anti-social, I know. One side has renters that like to have parties and the other side has barky dogs. I am trying to think of a cheap way to support vines along the top of the block wall. I need at least another foot of height. Or I could try a fast growing shrub. Would a Tecoma Stans provide much of a screen at around 6' of height?

I am trying very hard not to buy and plant anything yet but I am going to go browse the nurseries this weekend. Just to get ideas of course. I will have to leave my money at home.

Thank you for any suggestions,


Issue: July 1, 2001

I have a beautiful Chitalpa, which keeps losing its leaves in great masses. According to the local agricultural extension office, it is not a matter of a disease but rather of cultural practices. I been told the soil might be too alkaline or that I water too much because I planted some day lilies under the tree. What happens is that the leaves start out healthy, then develop yellowish spots, the veins start turning brown, spots like brown spots on roses develop and the leaves become fairly dry and drop off. I would appreciate your advice very much. - Christian T. via internet

This is a problem that has been challenging us as more and more people plant Chitalpa trees. These symptoms develop each summer here in New Mexico creating a mid-summer leaf drop. The trees often refoliate following the onset of monsoon rains and cooling temperatures. However, the leaves usually develop symptoms and drop again once the monsoon rains end. However, as you will see in the information below, supplemental irrigation does not seem to prevent the problem.

Samples of Chitalpa leaves with symptoms that you described have been sent each year to Dr. Natalie Goldberg, NMSU Extension Plant Pathologist, who has looked for a causal organism. The following paragraph is her response to these samples:

"No plant pathogenic microorganisms were isolated from the sample submitted which I am also certain is not Catalpa, but the hybrid Chitalpa, a cross between Catalpa and Desert Willow. I have had a number of samples of this plant over the past few years and I am getting more and more as the tree is being used more in landscapes. I have two at my house and, to be honest, I would not plant them again nor do I recommend them without some reservations. The problems I see are yellow to brown spots on the leaves, leaf blight, wilt and premature defoliation. Trees may exhibit some or all of these symptoms. The symptoms occur on trees that are well watered as well as those that do not receive much water. The symptoms seem to occur in summer when the days really start heating up. Several branches on my trees wilted and defoliated in July of last year. I pruned out the dead limbs and the tree leafed out fine in the spring, but I am just waiting for it to happen again (since it's happened each of the last three years). We have never isolated any pathogen from the samples submitted. I really feel this is a response to environmental stress, but neither increasing or decreasing water seems to help. However, John White, Doña Ana County Horticulture Agent, and I both feel that this hybrid requires watering along the lines of its relative, the Catalpa parent, rather than the Desert Willow parent. Your question about acidifier is a good one. I have not tried this, but it just might help - used at a labeled rate and applied as directed, I'm pretty certain it wouldn't hurt."

Dr. Goldberg stated that she has observed some trees that look good and in our discussion the possibility of pH being a factor was considered. We hypothesized that acidification might help. So, as you mentioned, the alkalinity of the soil may be a factor.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: [email protected], office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at [email protected], or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!


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I found this in DG' Plant Files: (GW won't allow me to name this site, it's blocked. I tried to post a link to the plant files but cannot.)

"I love mine. I thrives real well. I see many in Vegas where I live but unfortunately they are all very leggy, I prune mine usually before the winter or before the growing season (about 1/3) and it always comes back much fuller and denser looking. I end up doing all my neighbors Chitalpa trees after they saw mine become so fuller. It gives plenty of shade because of it. Growth is fast too when pruned. Trunk looks good with barely a few tiny vertical cracks which are hardly noticeable. It sits on the same drip system as my other plants and gets plenty of water in the heat of the summer. It also loves fertilizer. Year after year it grows healthy, full/dense and lots of flowers. Last but not least, every year just before the growing season I use an annual tree insect control. Bonide or Bayer. Before when I didn't the leaves were populated with insects. Since I've been using the tree insect control my trees have been insect free"

Maybe you should just prune it back and let it regrow next year. Also, add some fertilizer next spring/summer.


Choosing Plants for Your pH

Right plant, right place: the 'Limelight' panicled hydrangea can tolerate soil with a high pH. Photo: Beth Bolles, UF/IFAS.
All rights reserved.

Most common landscape plants tolearate a wide range of soil pH. Popular woody shrubs and trees like pittosporum, viburnum, oaks, and pines will grow well in acidic to moderately alkaline soils. Several turfgrasses can also tolerate wide ranges of soil pH.

The best pH range for vegetable and flower gardens with sandy soils is between 5.8 and 6.3. If your soil pH is between 5.5 and 7.0, no adjustment needs to be made. However, there are a few acid-loving plants, including azalea, blueberry, and gardenia, that will not do well in soils with a pH greater than 5.5.

The Florida-Friendly Plant Selection Guide (pdf) provides information about the soil pH tolerance of many Florida landscape plants. Hard copies of the list are also available from your county Extension office.

Changing Soil pH

For best plant growth and performance, always choose landscape plants suited for the natural pH of your soil. While there are additives that can raise or lower the pH of soils, the effects of these materials are often short-lived. However, if you are determined to change your soil's natural pH to grow a specific plant, you have the two following options.

Raising the pH of Acidic Soils
To raise the pH of acidic soils, add a liming material like calcium carbonate or dolomite. Dolomite has the added benefit of supplying magnesium, which is often deficient in Florida soils. Have your soil tested before applying any liming materials to the soil, because many natural and urban soils in Florida have an alkaline pH. If a soil test indicates that your soil is too acidic, have a lime requirement test performed. The lime requirement test will measure your soil's natural ability to resist changes in pH. This test is offered as part of the standard landscape and garden soil test offered through the soil testing lab. Results of this test will indicate exactly how much lime you need to apply to reach a target pH. You will then be able to apply the correct amount of agricultural limestone.

In order for lime to be effective, it should be thoroughly mixed into the soil. This is easily accomplished before planting a garden or landscape. When applying lime to established landscapes or turf, lime should be surface applied and watered in.

Lowering the pH of Alkaline Soils
Lowering the pH of strongly alkaline soils is much more difficult. In fact, there is no way to permanently lower the pH of soils formed from high-calcium materials such as marl, shell or limestone, as well as soils severely impacted by alkaline construction materials. Under these circumstances, it is best to select plants which are tolerant of high-pH conditions to avoid continuing plant nutritional problems.

Soil pH can be temporarily lowered by adding elemental sulfur. Bacteria in the soil act to change elemental sulfur into sulfuric acid, effectively neutralizing soil alkalinity. However, the effects of elemental sulfur are localized to the area that was amended, and the effect is temporary. Soil pH will begin to rise shortly after soil bacteria exhaust the added sulfur supply. This effect will require repeated applications of sulfur to ensure the soil remains at the desired pH.

If too much sulfur is added, or if it is added too frequently, it can actually injure or kill your plants. Therefore, it is important to never apply sulfur in excess of 5 to 10 pounds of sulfur per 1,000 ft2 per application. If you decide to apply sulfur, make sure to monitor your plants.


Watch the video: Chitalpa tree