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Paulownia tomentosa - (Thunb.)Steud.

Common Name Foxglove Tree, Princesstree, Empress Tree, Royal Paulownia,
Family Scrophulariaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards The plant contains some potentially toxic compounds[222].
Habitats Woods, 1300 - 2000 metres in W. China[109].
Range E. Asia - China.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Paulownia tomentosa Foxglove Tree, Princesstree, Empress Tree, Royal Paulownia,

Paulownia tomentosa Foxglove Tree, Princesstree, Empress Tree, Royal Paulownia,


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Bloom Color: Lavender. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Paulownia tomentosa is a deciduous Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs). The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


P. imperialis. Sieb.&Zucc. P. recurva. Bignonia tomentosa.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Secondary;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves
Edible Uses:

Leaves - cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails[177, 183]. Flowers[177]. Eaten with miso[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Astringent  Skin  Vermifuge  Warts

A decoction of the leaves is used to wash foul ulcers and is also said to promote the growth of hair and prevent greying[218, 222]. The leaves are also poulticed onto bruises[218]. The leaf juice is used in the treatment of warts[218, 222]. The flowers are used in the treatment of skin ailments[178, 218]. A tincture of the inner bark is used in the treatment of fevers and delirium[218]. It is astringent and vermifuge[178, 218].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Wood

Wood - not attacked by insects. Used for making boxes, clogs, furniture, musical instruments etc. Good for posts and beams in construction[46, 61, 151, 178]. A source of charcoal[46, 61].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pest tolerant, Aggressive surface roots possible, Specimen. Requires a deep moderately fertile moisture retentive but well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered position[11, 200]. Plants are tolerant of atmospheric pollution[200]. A very ornamental and fast growing plant[11]. The flower buds are formed in autumn and can be excited into premature growth during mild winter weather, this growth is then more susceptible to frost damage[1, 11]. The flower buds are hardy to about -15°c when dormant[200]. Plants, and especially seedlings less than 2 years old, are frost tender when young[11, 200]. They do not flower reliably in maritime zones, this is probably due to insufficient warmth and dryness in the summer[200]. Branches tend to be brittle[200]. The flowers have a delicate sweet fragrance[245]. Trees can be coppiced annually, they will then produce very vigorous growth with leaves up to 1 metre wide[11]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features:Not North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Blooms are very showy.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. Sow stored seed in late winter in a greenhouse at 15 - 20°c[78]. The seed requires light for germination[200]. Fair to good germination. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Overwinter in a cold frame for its first year and plant out in late spring[200]. Root cuttings 4cm long in December. Good percentage[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Barry & Margarita   Sun Mar 26 12:39:28 2000

> What does anyone know about Paulownias in pc design? Has anyone used them? Just curious--they seem interesting.

That all depends on one's outlook. They are EXTREMELY invasive and have become serious problems. Since the #2 threat to native species is invasive exotics (second only to habitat destruction in the USA), I am not a fan. Unfortunately, they're being heralded as fantastic trees due to quick growth. They produce ungodly numbers of seeds which are widely dispersed. This is why they're impossible to control.

   Sat Mar 26 01:23:33 2005

This person knows nothing about what makes a plant truly invasive. First off, many plants we embrace are more invasive than Paulownia, by a long shot. Paulownia has been native to the US for over 200 years. Now if it is so invasive why are the forests not overrun with them? I would be quicker to call the Douglas Fir invasive. In fact the seeds need lots of lumins to germinate, and even if they do they mostly die for lack of water, which they also need a lot of. Really people. Study before you go off the deep end with fear-based conclusions. If there were more Paulownia in the US forests then we might all be living in Paulownia houses with Paulownia furniture like some Asian cultures, which are hell-bent on growing it as fast as they can. Hmmmmmmmmmm And if it were more plentiful we might have been eating it for centuries and be healthier too!!!

Rich   Mon Jun 6 19:54:29 2005

Link: American Paulownia Association Dedicated to the advancement of Paulownia as a forest crop in the United States

C.O. Lavery   Mon Aug 7 2006

The plant contains some potentially toxic compounds[222]. I'd like to learn more about the toxicity of P. tomentosa - specifically if there are case studies,etc. Is this plant used as browse?

Peggy   Fri Sep 1 2006

I have had two Paulownias for 7 years and they have never bloomed. Today I am sure I am seeing large clusters of fuzzy buds, greenish, yellowish, no lines, round and probably at least 30 per cluster. It is September 1 here in southeastern Ohio and what I read says this should be fruit. Is it possible that mine is blooming now instead of Spring? Flowers would not have been missed. Any thoughts?

Pleasant Valley Cabins   Fri Sep 1 2006

I have 2 Paulownia trees that someone gave me. They have never bloomed and have been planted 7 years. I got so excited today when I saw what appears to large clusters of buds, yellowish/greenish/fuzzy/round/no visible seams or lines. I came straight online and although they look like buds, today is September 1 in southeast Ohio. This is fruit bearing time. Is it possible they are just now blooming? I could not have missed the flowers. Easily would have been seen. Any thoughts?

Camelia Dujko   Tue Apr 10 2007

Hello, I am from Romania, Bucharest; I have bought a young Paulownia tomentosa without knowing too much about it, and now, after I read more about this tree, I am a little afraid by its invasive action. My garden in front of the house is 750 Sq. meters and I have a lot of other fruit trees and shrubs; so, maybe its better to move the Paulownia tomentosa in a village where I have some more land. What you advise me? When is the time to move it? Now, the temperature outside is 18-20 oC during the day and 7-8 oC in the night. Is better to wait the autumn? Thank you for your advise. Camelia Dujko

J   Wed Jun 27 2007

This species has immense value in sustainable agroforestry systems. Paulownia-crop intercropping is practised on about 2 million ha in China and has become an important cultivation system in the northern plains of the country. Paulownia elongata is one of the fastest-growing trees in this region. About 0.5 m3 timber can be harvested from a ten-year old individual tree. Paulownia possesses some characteristics beneficial for intercropping, such as deep rooting, late sprouting of leaves, and a transparent crown. Interplanting paulownia in agricultural fields generally seems to improve the microclimate for agricultural crops. The tree has played a notable role in mitigating the effects of early summer's dry-hot wind and drought. Thanks to these effects, economic return has increased by 15-25% compared to single crop cultivation. (adapted from The Agroforestry Environment, And Description Of The Prevailing Systems, by Liu Jinlong, see http://sfmchina.cn/issuance/UploadFile/20066141546311.pdf)

The Agroforestry Environment, And Description Of The Prevailing Systems Academic paper on Agroforestry systems

jose r londoño   Sat Sep 6 2008

Puede generar eiwsgo en las estructuras de casa las raices de la pawlonia. ¿ cual sería la distancia minimareomendable?? Gracias.

Luke Harding   Thu Feb 26 2009

I work within the national arboretum in the UK and we have several large Paulownia in the grounds. They all flower frequently and look amazing. I have never found any seedlings in the surrounding areas so I think the status as a pest or invasive species is very much dependent on the climate. The arboretum is situated in the southern part of the UK, a lot warmer than some parts of the USA but also a lot damper and colder than others. States with a similar climate to UK shouldn't have a problem with this tree.

Adrian Fox   Mon Jun 29 2009

Does anyone know why a lot of young seedlings (usually after pricking out into pots) wilt and die? I don't know if it's lack of water or too much watering. I'm growing them in a polytunnel with quite high temperatures but kept them moist. The majority are growing away well. As I've now got around 70 I wonder where I will be able to put them over the winter as it seems they are frost tender when young?

Jules   Thu Jul 30 2009

To Adrian Fox - I've germinated a few hundred now and had a small number die. If they wilt almost immediatly after pricking out it's because the roots have been damaged, they root deep so you really need to fish around to make sure you're getting all of the root when pricking out. I find it's better to prick out as soon as possible. If they are dying a few days or weeks later in their new pots, all of my losses at this stage have been from damping off disease caused by over watering - often made worse if the greenhouse it too humid.

   Apr 5 2016 12:00AM

We live in Gonubie, South Africa, and we have a humid coastal climate but mild winters (day/night temperatures vary on average by 7°) Will this tree be successful in our area?

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