The chitalpa tree (x Chitalpa tashkentensis) is a hybrid tree made between the Southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) and the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis). The tree was developed in 1964 by A. Russanov of the Botanic Garden of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences in Uzbekistan. The tree was introduced to the United States in 1997.
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The chitalpa tree is a fast growing deciduous tree that grows to be between 20 to 35 feet tall, producing a dense, spreading crown of dull green, 6-inch leaves. The bell-shaped, white and pink flowers appear throughout the summer, and are highly attractive to butterflies. Common cultivars include Pink Dawn and Morning Cloud, both of which have pale pink or white flowers. Flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.
Chitalpa is best suited for deep, moderately fertile soils that are well draining. Plant in full sunlight or partial shade in USDA zones 6 to 9. The tree can tolerate temperatures as low as -17.8 degrees Celsius, though it may experience cold damage on foliage. Though moderately drought tolerant, chitalpa will do better if watered deeply and regularly, especially when first planted. Propagate the tree by cuttings rather than seed.
Chitalpa has a long flowering period and a manageable size, making it suitable for a variety of purposes in the landscape. The tree can be grown as an accent screen in beds and borders, or as a dense screen between property lines. Plant chitalpa as a specimen to augment xeriscape plantings with yuccas and sage. The insect and bird attracting flowers of the tree make it a strong addition to a wildlife oriented garden.
The tree is rarely affected by serious insect or disease problems, though powdery mildew can significantly mar the beauty of the tree. Powdery mildew is more likely to occur in areas with high humidity, or in shady locations. Treat with a fungicide, and prune to increase air circulation. Check for common garden pests such as mealybugs, aphids, scale and whiteflies. Most pests can be easily treated with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil such as neem oil.
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