Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paulownia tomentosa seedlings (Empress Tree)

I have always been fascinated by plants that grow extremely quickly. I used to think it was because I was impatient. Then I grew Lithops from seed and if that doesn't take patience I don't know what does! There's just something incredibly rewarding and exciting about a plant that can change so greatly every day.

Although I'd heard about Paulownia tomentosa before, it wasn't until a few months ago that I actually saw one growing in my area. One of the trees seemed to be cut down to the ground every year. These young, vigourous growth actually produces larger leaves than the mature branches on the other tree. At that point I realized I needed my own. I ordered the seeds online and they arrived a few weeks later.

I germinated them in this little grocery store sushi container. I LOVE my sushi and even though the grocery store kind isn't the best, sometimes it's enough so I never have a shortage of these containers. I kept the lid on and the container in a southern window sill. Within six days the first sprouts were up. They looked very delicate but seem to have become more robust. Supposedly there were 50 seeds and it looks like I have at least 50 plants so the germination rate was really high.

The seedlings are currently outdoors in a mini greenhouse (partially open) and receive a few hour of direct sun each day. I'm going to have to pot them up soon because they've more or less stopped growing. Hopefully I'll be able to pry them apart relatively easily without too much damage to the young taproots.


  1. Watch out; those things are weeds where I grew up. If you keep it around long enough though, the flowers are very pretty, and it's overall not a bad-looking tree once it gets past its weed stage.

  2. Fortunately I'm on the edge of their hardiness range. I expect every few years the entire tree will die to the roots, unless I can find a more sheltered area. So HOPEFULLY it won't prove to be a problem. I may even coppice it just to promote the larger foliage.

  3. They really are lovely trees; I absolutely adore their flowers. Here in southeastern Michigan they are beginning to pop up increasingly often as foliage plants and I have seen one specimen that regularly flowers and sets seed but even so I agree that in this climate they are unlikely to become invasive as they did in some other places.

  4. @CollegeGardener, I've never seen the flowers in person. Of course if it does prove to be invasive, I'll remove it but it seems like a lovely tree and hopefully everything will go to plan.


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