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Paulownia tomentosa, photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth
Paulownia tomentosa, photo courtesy of Susan A. Roth

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Zone
Zones 4-9, 11-24
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Paulownia tomentosa

Empress Tree

Deciduous, Trees, Flowers

Native to China. Large leaves and exotic-looking flowers give a tropical effect. The tree grows quickly to 40–50 ft., with nearlyequal spread. Heavy trunk; brittle, nearly horizontal branches. Light green, roughly heart-shaped leaves are up to 1 ft. long. Brown flower buds the size of small olives form inautumn and persist over winter,then open in early spring,before leafout. Fragrant, 2-in.,trumpet-shaped flowers are lilac-blue, marked on the insidewith darker spotting and yellowstripes; they appear in erectclusters up to 1 ft. high. Flowers are followed by seed capsules shaped like tops; these are persistent, remaining on the tree along with next season’s flower buds. This tree does not bloom well where winters are very cold (buds freeze) or very mild (buds may drop off).

Grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soil. Tolerates air pollution. Protect from strong winds. Plant where falling flowersand leaves are not a problem.Not a tree to garden under due to dense shade, surface roots.If cut back yearly or every otheryear from an early age, it willproduce a mass of giant-sizeleaves to 2 ft. long but at theexpense of flower production.

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