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The Empress Tree

Paulownia Tree

This plant is in the figwort family. It exhibits a growth habit similar to that of the fig tree.

It can grow 40 - 60 feet and the leaves can be 12 inches across or more. The leaves will have woolly hairs.

The flowers are the most impressive spring blooms ever.

They hang down in lavender showy bells similar to foxglove.

Paulownia in WinterZones 6 - 9.

Grow in sunny to half sunny areas.

Time released fertilizer is best.

Pruning should be the early spring directed only to dead wood. Do major cutting after flowering. Sow seeds or root cuttings in the spring. This is a great specimen for the garden lawn or city parks. Give it lots of room!

(Here's a link to a pruning article)

Propagation: the paulownia seeds can be sown as soon as ripe or store for up to a year. When these pods are mature/brown and crusty they are ready for harvesting. Root cuttings are easily done.

Two very different reference sites on the Paulownia: Pro and Con.

And a site that sells fast growing trees: Fast Growing Trees Nursery

Emily: Fertilizing and Watering


Hi! Thanks so much for responding! I did some researching and perhaps you can let the others you mentioned know what I have found out concerning my Royal Empress trees.

I found out that they require a good deal of Nitrogen, B1 and potassium. The ideal fertilizer mix would be 30-10-10 or 20-10-10. I looked around and the best I could find close to this was Miracle-Gro being 24-8-16.

I also picked up a bag from the Espoma company, "Quick Solutions Fast Acting Nitrogen" Ammonium sulfate. I mixed the Miracle-Gro with about a 1/4 cup of the Ammonium Sulfate into about 1 1/2 gallons of water.

I watered my trees with this about twice a week. Over the past 3 weeks my leaves have stopped turning yellow and drying up. Some of the leaves are still speckled with tiny brown dry spots But for the most part the majority of the leaves are still a deep green color.  I have new leaves growing every day. I don't know if this is normal but I have a decent number of ants that are going up and down the trunk. Is that normal for all trees?

I've been careful not to over-do-it with fertilizer which is a tempting thing to do when you start to see an improvement. I imagine that too much water can cause problems as well, right? These trees are 2 years old and are about 14 feet high with a large spread. They eventually should produce lavender flowers but no sign of them yet.


Emily: Do I start over?

Dear Emily: I planted this empress tree about 6 weeks a go. It was maybe an 1" to 2" shorter this it is in the picture.  The only blooms I'm getting is from the top. There was a small one on the bottom but it fell off. The top is blooming great. My question is , if it doesn't grow much bigger before winter, do I cut it to the ground next spring and start over?

A: We have seen even taller, more spindly trees. So that's not unusual.

You can prune it back to the ground if you want larger leaves and a bushier plant. If you want it to keep growing tall, then leave it alone. Once it gets better branches (next year?) you can just prune the branches that are crossing each other or that are not shaping up nicely.

PaulowniaOurs in the front yard (Northern FL) is 4-5 years old, 40-50 feet tall, about a 30 ft diameter crown and is more than 12 inches diameter at the base.

A reader writes: Your readers should know that the paulownia tormentosa is considered an invasive species in the eastern U.S., and perhaps other parts of the country, and that it originates from China. (Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service).

Emily: Can I grow it in a pot?

Paulownia TreeDear Emilyl: Hi! I just bought an Empress Tree from someone at the farmer's market who said it would only reach 10' high; after reading about it on your web site, I'm wondering whether I should plant it or give it to someone with more room (I have a rather small yard). Do you think it would be suitable to grow it in a large pot? I live in Zone 6.

A: It will grow in a large pot for a while, but after a few years, you will not want to move it indoors or its roots will explode the pot.

Our current tree is about four years old, was planted (probably) as a small tree (couple of inches) and is now 40-50 feet tall, and the trunk at the base is 12-14 inches in diameter (diameter, not circumference).

So put it in a pot for a few years and enjoy it, knowing that it will eventually grow too large for you.

Heck, it should reach ten feet high, the first year!!

Emily: Are the roots invasive?

Dear Emily: Would the roots of the paulownia / Empress Tree be invasive to a septic system. I need shade in my back yard, but do not want to run into problems by having to cut roots out of my pipes. My yard is approx. 150' wide and the lines are at the far left of the yard. What would be the spread of the root ball?

A: I would only suspect the roots of this tree would present a problem..... they are huge and this is a relatively fast grower......

I would not recommend anything this size near the septic tank.

Empress Tree

Emily: Is it a weed?

Dear Emily: I just bought three Paulownia trees. I got interested with the tree because I needed a flowering, fast growing tree for my yard. I have a medium size yard with three trees already growing. While waiting for the trees from the nursery, I came across a site that tells more about the tree. It's describing the tree as a weed because it spreads all over the place and invades flower beds and all. Is there anyway to prevent this from happening? I learned that weeding can help but is there anyway to prevent the seeds from spreading in my lawn before they grow into little "weeds"?

A: Yes the Paulownia tree can be a nuisance. It is the fastest tree I have seen growing aside from the Cassia tree. You can manually pull up the new little trees. That probably is the best weed control you will have. I would not spray anything. You can try snipping the bloom right after it displays its bloom so the seed will not develop.