Royal Empress Tree Care

The Empress tree is one of the fastest-growing trees you can find. She has fragrant gemlike purple unusually shaped flowers with heart-shaped foliage. No wonder her Majesty the Royal Empress tree remains close to many gardeners’ hearts.

But there are some things you need to know before planting this royal majesty tree, so stay a bit longer to find out.

Plant Name: Paulownia tomentosa

Other Name: Empress Tree, Royal Paulownia, Foxglove Tree, Princess Tree

Plant Type: Deciduous Tree

Native Areas: Central and Western China

Light Requirement: Full Sun Exposure

Watering: Moderate

Fertilizer: None needed

Toxicity: Non-toxic

Temperature: -10°F – 120°F

Propagation: Not recommended

Growth: Mature height 40 feet tall and wide

Soil Type: Adaptable

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9

More About Royal Empress

Paulownia tomentosa tree

The Empress tree grows at a tremendous speed and is appealing. But in some states, it is classified as an invasive species. When the flowering tree blooms, it smells like vanilla, but it can flower thousands of flowers, forming foxgloves in late April to early May.

Unfortunately, this is the tree’s drawback as the fruit on the flowers can hold up to 2,000 seeds, and one tree can cast up to 2 million seeds in a year. Furthermore, the tree grows about 20 feet tall in a year and can grow up to 50 feet tall when fully mature.

Hence, the big task is to remove the seedlings, or they might take over your landscape. Unfortunately, the tree also grows a thick root ball that spreads wide and can destroy foundations.

Then it also sends suckers from the roots that grow fast into the tree’s main trunk or a new tree.

Royal Empress Care Guide

Paulownia tomentosa @lindavolder Paulownia tomentosa @lindavolder

The important thing is to first check with your state to find out if you can grow the Royal Empress tree in your garden.

Furthermore, you will need ample space for the tree away from other trees and plants. For example, to provide the tree a 15 feet or more space away from other trees, plants, and the home.

Or the other alternative is to grow the Royal Empress in a bonsai tree where it cannot cause any havoc in the landscape.

The Best Soil Texture For Royal Empress Trees

The Royal Empress tree prefers rich, moist soil that will grow in any soil condition. You find these trees growing in gutters, a firepit, sandboxes, to firepit ash. So you need not fuss with this tree to amend soil conditions.

Lighting Needs For Empress Tree

Paulownia tomentosa under full sun

The Royal Empress tree thrives in full sun exposure needing six hours of direct sunlight.

In a lot of sun exposure, your Royal Empress tree will display those large clusters of blooms.

But if you are not concerned about flowering, the tree does well in partial shade without any negative effects. It just shows you how hard this tree is.

Watering Paulownia Tomentosa

Wow, this tree is indestructible. No wonder, even with rapid growth, it is an invasive species.

Still, if you plant a tree in your garden, it needs care, including water. So after you plant young trees, please provide them with enough water.

Also, add some mulch about two inches deep without touching the trunk. Your trees will need more water in the first growing season.

Once the root system establishes itself, it survives on rainwater.

Temperature and Humidity

young Paulownia tomentosa tree

Compared to other outdoor plants, the Royal Empress tree, according to many people, is hard to withstand temperature drops to -10°F. However, a mature princess tree can withstand a temperature as low as -13°F (-25°C )

It can also withstand high heat up to 120°F. Still, the roots are hardier than the straight trunks on this tree.

It has been noted that the flowers and leaves die when it reaches zero degrees, and the trunk dies when reaching -10°F even if it is cold for a short while.

Hence the Royal Empress tree’s cold hardiness is not as everyone thinks.

Fertilizing Royal Empress Tree

You need not feed the Royal Empress tree as it has a rapid growth rate and can withstand most conditions, not requiring much.

It is a pioneer species growing in conditions no other tree is known to grow. Okay, now you may wonder what a pioneer species is.

The truth is that it is a species that colonized first in an ecosystem previously disrupted or damaged.

Pruning Royal Empress

Pruning is essential with the Royal Empress tree to prevent any property damage.

Furthermore, it will keep the tree manageable as it has a fast growth rate. The best is to clear the branches susceptible to wind and snow.

Another note with trimming your Royal Empress trees is that the wood is weak, and poor cuts or using the wrong techniques weaken those straight trunks.

To control the growth, you can cut your Royal Empress trees down to five feet in the fall, and they will grow back to bloom in spring.

To form an interesting shrub without any blooms with a 36-inch width, you can cut them above ground level, and the blooms and fruit will not form.

Royal Empress Varieties

There are quite a few notable native species you can grow instead of the Royal Empress tree seen here:

Nordmax 21

Here we have a unique cultivar with cold hardiness down to -18 F°. As with the other trees, it can reach a considerable height of 50 feet and has a wider crown for shade. The blooms appear in early spring and can last for six weeks producing seeds.

Still, it will not continue to drop fruit that spread.

Phoenix One®

The tree can withstand heat to drought up to growing zone 11. It has a rapid growth rate and similar height to the other species. The main difference is that it does not bloom flowers, so no seeds that spread and become invasive.

If you want to look for other alternative fast-growing trees you can plant in your yard, check our The Best Fast-Growing Privacy Trees For The Yard blog for more privacy- non-invasive trees.

Royal Empress Common Diseases and Pests

Like your nearby plants, the Royal Empress trees can become the home of pests like aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and more. But the trees are also prone to the following diseases.

Canker Diseases

canker disease @scotnelson canker disease @scotnelson

The disease can result from different pathogens attacking the tree and found in dead tissue on the stems or branches. As a result, the bark will start to ooze a resin-like sap and become discolored.

The leaves turn brown and start to wilt and fall to the ground. Eventually, the trees die, and no treatment is available for the disease.

You can only prune the damaged to dead foliage to prevent it from spreading to nearby plants.

Leaf Spot Diseases

leaf spot disease

With leaf spots, you see spots on the foliage ranging in shape and color.

The leaves turn brown and fall off the trees. Yet, it does not cause severe damage, and chemical treatment is unnecessary. You only need to provide proper sanitation methods and water at the base of your tree.

Also, remove debris around the surrounding soil and thin out crowding branches.



Another fungal disease is powdery mildew attacking your plants and appearing like a powder on the foliage.

The leaves discolor and will distort falling from the branches. You find it present when your trees are in more shade than sunlight, and there is no air circulation.

The best treatment is neem oil to prevent spreading and pruning away the infected foliage.

Frequently Asked Questions

The wood of the Empress tree is used for making musical instruments, paddle boards, boating, and surfing. In addition, you find wood in windows, doors, crown molding, and furniture.

The Empress trees are known to live up to 150 years, so they can even outlive you in your garden.

The Empress tree has invasive roots as it sends up suckers that can grow into the main trunk, while each flower has more than 2,000 seeds that spread with the wind and insects. Furthermore, it is one of the fastest-growing trees you can find.

The most expensive tree is the Sequoia tree, named after a Cherokee chief Sequoyah, and it is the emblem of the United States.

Empress trees are sold at your local nursery or with Plantly online. But we recommend checking your state laws to determine if the Empress trees are listed as invasive species.

Whether you want to buy, sell, or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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