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We'll start with a background of this plant, because that is key to knowing what the problems are. Chitalpa is a hybrid between Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) and catalpa. Chitalpa is a larger tree than desert willow, with wider leaves and larger flowers, but it is much smaller than its other parent, catalpa, a very large tree. Catalpa also uses more water than the drought-tough desert willow.
Chitalpa was thought to have the best qualities of both plants, and was recommended in the Southwest until we discovered its problems tolerating extreme heat.
Trunk splitting is a very common problem with this tree. Growth does return easily, but splitting happens continually every year. Trees can never completely recover from that, but not much can be done to prevent it. Also, complete defoliation in the summer is very common.
If this happens to your tree, don't waste time; go ahead and remove it and replace it. Consider the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) instead. The flowers are just as beautiful, but the leaves are more billowy. It requires less water and is extremely heat and drought tolerant. It is deciduous, but has really great winter sculpture.
photo credit: CTG viewer Heath Weber