How to Grow and Care for Empress Trees

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Empress Trees: Care and Growing Guide

The Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is beautiful and fragrant, growing incredibly fast. Its flowers are a jewel-like shade of purple and its shape is unusual and unique, while its heart-shaped foliage can grow to a staggering 30 inches wide.

You will find it impressive, but consider planting something else. In just a few years, this can become a problem in your backyard.

Botanical NamePaulownia tomentosa
Common NameEmpress Tree, Royal Paulownia, Foxglove Tree
Plant Typeย Deciduous Tree
Mature Size30 to 40 ft. tall, 30 to 40 ft. wide
Sun ExposureFull sun
Soil TypeAdaptable
Soil pHAdaptable
Bloom TimeApril
Flower ColorLavender
Hardiness Zones5-8, USA
Native Areaย China

Empress Tree Care

You are probably wondering why the drastic warning was given to persuade you to choose another tree to grow in your garden. Unfortunately, the empress tree is attractive to the eye, but it is not good for the landscape, property, environment, or local ecosystems.

At first, the tree smells divine, vanilla, and the tree blooms with thousands of foxglove blossoms every late April and early May. But this seeming benefit of the tree is actually its biggest downside:

The fruits of each of these flowers contain 2,000 seeds, with a single tree capable of releasing 2,000,000 seeds a year. Also, the empress tree can grow 20 feet in a single year. The potential for the tree to become invasive is huge, and the potential for it to take over a landscape if you don't remove a lost seedling is just as high.

Even if you are a fantastic seedling hunter and can diligently prune your tree, this tree can quickly become an unwanted guest.

The roots are thick, spreading, and destructive with the potential to cause root damage. Determined to spread, the tree eventually sends out voracious suckers from its root system that grow as fast as the main tree.

What all this means is that you have a tree that has an insatiable thirst and will draw all the water out of nearby plants and trees. The roots make it difficult to dig and plant other plants.

Invasive Species

The empress tree is an invasive species that aggressively spread seeds and shoots sprouts. Check with your local extension office to see if it is classified as invasive or illegal to plant in your state, county, or county.


To reach the full amount of flowers, you must give your empress full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you are not concerned about getting a full bloom, she will tolerate partial shade without any ill effects.


Ideally, its preferred soil is moist and rich, but it will grow in almost any condition. It's known to grow in sidewalk crevices, dirty rain gutters, sandpits, and ashes from campfires, so there's no need to worry too much about ground conditions with the Empress.


The tree is almost indestructible once established but requires some care, including abundant watering. After planting the tree, be sure to mulch two to three inches to the drip line, not touching the trunk to help retain moisture.

You will need to water it weekly at a rate of two to three gallons of water per inch of stem diameter. Continue this regimen for the first season through fall. No more supplemental irrigation will be needed in the future.

Temperature and Humidity

Empress trees are hardy. Very resistant. They can withstand temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but these temperatures are deceptive. In reality, the tree is much less tolerant than these numbers express.

The roots of the empress tree are harder than its stems. The flowers and leaves will die at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and the entire stem will die at -10 degrees Fahrenheit if the cold lasts for more than a short period of time.


It is not necessary to fertilize the empress tree. It will grow rapidly in most conditions and doesn't need much of a boost to thrive. It is known as a pioneer species and can grow in conditions that other species consider inhospitable.

What Is a Pioneer Species?

A pioneer species is the first species to colonize a previously damaged or altered ecosystem.

Are Empress Trees Toxic?

Empress trees are not toxic to humans or pets.


Taking on this task can be a matter of preventing property damage and trying to manage incredibly fast growth. You will need to clean branches that may be susceptible to damage from snow or wind or that present hazards.

But be careful when pruning - Empress wood is notoriously weak, and making inappropriate cuts and using inappropriate pruning techniques can further weaken the wood.

When trying to control the aggressive growth of the empress tree, various techniques are employed depending on the desired result. To slow growth and keep the tree at a manageable size, you'll want to cut your tree down to about five feet each fall. This will allow the tree to regrow and bloom each spring.

If instead of blooming you prefer an interesting shrub with fascinating 36-inch-wide foliage, cut it just above ground level. This will not allow flowers or berries to appear but will create spectacular foliage.

If you want a flowering tree that is unlikely to become a pest, choose a dogwood or a beautiful magnolia tree.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Is Empress (Paulownia) invasive?

Source: World Tree

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