Small tree, widespread in nature in Central Asia, the Catalpa bungei plants in Europe are used many varieties of catalpa, as a garden plant. The tree of cigars develops a short squat trunk, with a light bark, which widens into a roundish, very ramified and dense crown; the foliage is light green, deciduous, slightly leathery, oval, elongated and pointed; it reaches the 5-6 meters of height quite quickly. During the spring months the catalpas produce large trumpet flowers, pink in color, gathered in clusters, to which they follow long siliques containing the large dark seeds. Some researchers have discovered that the essential oil contained in the foliage of some species of catalpa has an effective anti-mosquito action; from catalpa bungei A particular species of tree has been selected, the Catambra, which contains in its foliage a large quantity of essential oil, so that a couple of plants can manage to keep mosquitoes away from a small garden; in some municipalities of northern Italy the catambra are used in gardens and public parks, to ward off the threat of annoying insects.
These plants are easy to cultivate and, in addition to the anti-mosquito effect, they also provide, during the summer months, a good portion of fresh shade, so they are also advisable as single specimens in contained gardens. For this reason it is advisable to know the cultivation requirements of the cigar tree if you intend to grow it in your own garden.
The specimens of cigar tree they prefer sunny positions, but they also adapt to the partial shade; these are very resistant trees, which do not fear the winter cold or the summer heat. If desired it is also possible to cultivate the catalpe in large containers, remembering to provide with adequate irrigation.
In general, the catalpa plants are satisfied with the water supplied by the rains, even if it is advisable to water the young trees recently placed at home and the specimens cultivated in a container. In spring it is advisable to bury at the base of the plant well-ripe organic fertilizer to allow an optimal growth of the species. In the event of periods of drought, the catalpa can survive difficult weather conditions but only for a short time. If the soil is dry and arid for quite a long time, the plant will suffer from the lack of water and will begin to lose leaves and weaken. In any case, between one watering and the other it is essential to allow the soil to rest and dry. Once dry, you can proceed with the new irrigation.
While preferring soft and humus-rich soils, the catalpa can adapt even in adverse conditions, as long as the soil is well drained. As for the specimens grown in pots, it is advisable to replace the soil contained in the pot every 2-3 years. For an optimal growth of the catalpa, the ideal soil must be fertile and rich; only then can the plant develop at its best. When the vegetative restart takes place, an important step to be taken is to use mature organic fertilizer to ensure adequate nutrition for the cigar tree. With the passage of time, when the plant has reached maturity, it will be able to recover the nourishment necessary for its maintenance thanks to the particularly developed and deep root system.
The multiplication of this species occurs by seed, in spring; It is possible to reproduce it by removing a couple of pods and extracting the seeds. These will appear winged, flat with tufts of white yellowish hair on the ends. It is therefore advisable to leave the seeds to soak for a whole day and then proceed with sowing in the ideal soil. This must always be kept warm and moist. In this phase it is good to keep under control seeds and seedlings as they are more delicate and young. Wind, weather or excessive irrigation would in fact cause the immediate death of the plants. In late spring or early summer it is possible to practice cuttings, taking them from the tips of branches that have not produced flowers. The cutting is a particular technique of multiplication that allows to give life to new seedlings of catalpa starting from the use of small twigs or roots of the chosen mother species and installing it in suitable soils).
Pests and diseases
The cigar tree is a species that is often attacked by pests and develops diseases, especially in recent decades. If in the past the occasions in which the catalpa was affected by these problems were rare, today, due to the different climatic conditions and the sudden rise in temperatures (also and especially during the winter season), this species is subject in particular to the attack of aphids and the development of Varicillium. Aphids ruin the buds and buds but generally the plant can be restored in a short time thanks to the use of specific pesticides available on the market. The varicillium, on the other hand, is a very dangerous fungus for the plant that causes the general drying of the branches and in extreme cases, even the death of the catalpa itself. Another problem that may arise is the appearance of caterpillars or mincing larvae. In this case, just remove them manually to allow the plant to develop without further problems.
Cigar tree - Catalpa bungei: Catambra
The Catalpa would be a tree little known to most people were it not for a botanical experiment that in the last few years has brought this plant to the limelight. Catalpa was in fact used as a base to make Catambra, a plant born from the initiative of the Ambrogio nurseries in Brescia and spread like wildfire thanks to its ownership of a mosquito repellent, also confirmed by the European patent.
The Catambra plants are all sold with a label that certifies the plant number, the patent and its mosquito repellent characteristics. A discovery that has made it possible to solve the annoying problem that arises every summer, namely the attack of the annoying mosquitoes that with the first heat begin to spread causing with their bites, itching and irritation.