Catalpa Tree Fighting for Life

Asked June 24, 2018, 4:51 PM EDT

Hi, We have a 12-year-old Catalpa tree in our yard that is suffering but trying to live. It has always leafed out later than some of the other trees in our neighborhood in SW Minneapolis, but it has been healthy until this spring. None of the existing branches produced leaves and appear to be dead. The Catalpa is now growing new branches with big leaves in the lower half of existing (now dead) branches. I have never seen this before. Do leave it be and see if it grows next year? Do we cut the dead branches and leave the new? Do we cut the whole thing down?

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

There has been a lot of random damage to catalpas this year, young and old. Largely due to the extremely cold April temperatures following a normal to above normal March. Catalpas became decimated which means they lost their normal winter hardiness, which with a normal April would have been no big deal. However, after losing their hardiness by late March and being subjected to 5 degrees F in April, there has been some dieback and even some total death of Catalpas several years old.

Having said that, Catalpas are vulnerable to Verticillium wilt. which this tree might have. The only way to confirm whether it has Verticillium wilt is a lab diagnosis at the UMN Plant Disease Clinic. Go online for details including charges.

Either way, the dead wood is not coming back so it should be removed. If it doesn't have Verticillium wilt, it should recover and look good in a handful of years.