Planting Instructions for Royal Empress Trees

Promoted as a fast-growing shade tree, Royal Empress tree has gained some popularity in recent years. This Asian native produces lavender flowers in the spring, which are replaced by large, heart-shaped leaves.

Unfortunately, Royal Empress trees are considered an invasive species in many eastern US states. It is estimated by the US National Park Service that one Royal Empress tree can produce 20 million seeds each year. Check with your local county extension service to find out if the Royal Empress tree is invasive in your area.

Growing a Royal Empress Tree

Variety: Paulownia tomentosa
Zones: 5 to 9
Soil Type: Average soil requirements
Soil pH: 5.5 to 6.5
Sunlight: Prefers full sun
Watering: Average watering needs

Caring for Your Royal Empress Tree
Locate your Royal Empress tree in an area with plenty of sun. A Royal Empress tree won't be fussy about the type of soil it's in, but like most plants it will prefer a well-drained location. Plant your tree in the spring or at least six weeks before the first frost in the fall.

Dig the planting hole so that it is as deep as the soil in the tree's container and twice as wide as the container. Remove the tree from its container and place it in the center of the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil and then water the soil to compact it. Fill the hole with the remainder of the soil and water again.

A phosphorus-based fertilizer during the first year will encourage your Royal Empress tree to develop strong roots. Water deeply at least once a week, rather than giving a lot of shallow waterings. Deep watering encourages root growth, and you may want to create a water ring around the base of the tree to encourage root development.

Royal Empress Tree Alternatives
If you are put off by the invasive nature of the Royal Empress, here are some native species alternatives to consider:

  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis or arborea)
  • Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)


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