Paulownia tomentosa

Foxglove tree, princess tree, empress tree

(2 customer reviews)


Paulownia tomentosa, also known as the Empress Tree or Princess Tree, is an enchanting deciduous tree celebrated for its stunning aesthetics and rapid growth. Originating in East Asia, particularly China, this tree has gained global popularity. It showcases large, heart-shaped leaves, often spanning up to 30 centimetres in width, providing ample summer shade. Come spring, it graces us with magnificent, lavender to purple, trumpet-shaped flowers that cluster in erect panicles, creating a breath-taking display.

The Empress Tree is famed for its impressive growth rate, often reaching 3 to 6 meters in a single year. Its wood is prized for timber, and its ecological advantages, such as soil improvement and carbon sequestration, make it a preferred choice for sustainable landscaping and agroforestry initiatives. In exotic planting schemes, this tree is often coppiced in early spring which results in enormous leaves up to 1+m wide!

This tree’s blend of visual allure and environmental benefits cements its position as a cherished addition to gardens and landscapes globally.


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Origin: Central and Western China
Genus: Paulownia
Species / Cultivar: tomentosa
Common Name: Foxglove tree, princess tree, empress tree
Synonym: Paulownia imperialis

Plant Biography

Paulownia tomentosa, commonly known as the Empress Tree or Princess Tree, has a fascinating botanical history rooted in East Asia. Native to China, this deciduous tree has a rich heritage dating back centuries. Named after Anna Pavlovna of Russia, who married King William II of the Netherlands and became the Queen of the Netherlands and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in the 19th century, it symbolises both elegance and strength.

In its native China, the Paulownia tree was historically revered not only for its stunning flowers but also for its versatile wood, known as “Phoenix Tail” or “Kiri” wood, used for crafting fine furniture, musical instruments, and even boat construction. Its rapid growth and timber qualities have made it an essential resource in Asian culture.

Introduced to Europe and North America in the 19th century, Paulownia tomentosa quickly gained attention for its ornamental beauty and potential economic value. It is now widely cultivated worldwide for its ecological benefits, including nitrogen fixation and carbon sequestration, making it a prized addition to sustainable forestry and agroforestry practices. This tree’s botanical history reflects its enduring legacy, combining aesthetics and utility, and it continues to captivate people with its charm and environmental significance.

Paulownia tomentosa
Soil: Well drained
Soil that does not show much signs of moisture, either visibly or when handled.
Growth Rate: Fast
Expect to see prolific growth, especially during growing season.
Maintenance: Low
Minimal skill or input needed beyond the basics, a very independent plant.
Situation: Full Sun
Wants direct, unfiltered sunlight most of the day, such as a south facing position.
Eventual Height: 8-12m
The plant's ultimate height in typical growing conditions.
Eventual Spread: 8+m
The plant's ultimate spread in typical growing conditions.
Hardiness: Hardy
Survives unprotected in an average winter. May need protection in extreme long frosts.
Habit: Deciduous
Sheds all its foliage annually, so for a period of the year it will be without foliage.
Lifecycle: Perennial
This plant is persistant and does not die off after flowering. It will return each season indefinitely, if provided with suitable growing conditions.
Care & Size Guidance

Care & Size Guidance

Caring for Paulownia tomentosa, the Empress Tree, requires attention to its unique growth patterns and environmental preferences. This rapid-growing deciduous tree thrives in well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil with good aeration. It thrives in full sun exposure and benefits from ample space for its expansive canopy. Adequate watering is essential, especially during the initial stages of growth, but it should not be overwatered, as it dislikes standing water. Pruning and thinning branches in late winter or early spring helps maintain its shape and control its growth. Regular fertilisation, especially with organic matter, supports its vigour. By providing the Empress Tree with these care essentials, it will flourish and reward with its impressive growth rate, striking lavender to purple flowers, and overall beauty.

Expert Tip

If you plan to coppice, allow the plant to establish for two years beforehand. Coppice in early spring (April) and you will be rewarded with enormous, tropical-looking foliage... so allow plenty of room!

2 customer reviews for Paulownia tomentosa

Great service as usual. Plant arrived far bigger than I expected and in great condition. Can’t wait to see it grow.

Paul (verified owner)

Excellent service and plants.I am looking forward in seeing them growing in my tropical garden.
Will buy from this company again.

Vanessa G.