Paulownia tomentosa

Empress Tree

On the way home from picking up a pizza this evening, we drove past a purple flowered tree that reminded me of a Jacaranda. The name Pauwlonia comes to mind. Big soft, grey-green leaves and a young looking trunk. About 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

This native of China is in the same family as Catalpa, Bignoniaceae. They like moist, well-drained soil in full sun. A sheltered location is best, for as with many fast growing trees the branch structure can be weak. The tree can reach 50 feet tall and wide with a horizontal branching pattern. The Sunset Western Garden Book says that pruning it back hard every year or two starting when it is small will produce very large leaves. That could be striking in a tropical garden. I’m remembering a plant in the Exotic garden at Great Dixter that was coppiced for that same effect. I can see it in my mind, and feel as though it is a plant I’m otherwise familiar with but it’s an unusual species used in an unconventional way.

Hardy in some areas of zones 5 and 6, and to zone 11. Can be a little weedy due to heavy seed production and fast growth.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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