The Q&A Archives: Empress Tree

Question: I saw an advertisement for a tree called Royal Paulownia. It is being offered by Gardeners Choice. The picture shows a nice looking tree with purple flowers. It claims to grow roof high in one year, with a possibility for 30-50 feet total height. Can you tell me more?

Will the tree grow OK in southeastern Michigan?

Will it flower all the time, or only during a certain time of the year? If so, what time of the year does it flower, and for how long?

Does the flower attract any certain kind of animals or insects?

Would you recommend it in a rural setting?

My lot is about .67 acres, of which I have only cleared enough oak and ash trees for the house and small front and rear yards. I do have a bare area in the one front corner of the yard, which this might look nice in.

Answer: Paulownia tomentosa, the Empress Tree, will flower in your area and should not need winter protection. It's a fast-growing tree to 40' or 50', but don't expect 10' of growth per year! A more realistic expectation is 2'-3' per year. Empress trees grow best in full sunshine, with summer irrigation. They are not picky about soil and usually do not need feeding. The trees will cast very heavy shade, and have lots of surface roots, so place your tree where it can grow without compromise, and don't plan to garden directly under it.

You can expect exceptionally attractive spring blooms. The tree is relatively pest free, and is a good choice if you have the room for it.

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