Paulownia tomentosa – Empress Foxglove tree

Paulownia tomentosa foxglovetree

Native to eastern asia, this ornamental beauty has been labelled as the fastest growing tree on earth,

8-10 feet a year in 3-5 years !

This beautiful tree is known by many names, the sapphire dragon tree, princess tree, royal paulownia, (”paulownia” was in honour of the princess anna paulownia ,daughter of  a russian czar)

It is a large leaved member of the figwort family, and the handsome foliage will add a tropical aura to your garden or conservatory.

Some interesting information about this tree:

The wood is not attacked by insects, is light in weight and is therefore excellent when used for posts and beams in construction, widely used for making boxes, clogs, furniture, musical instruments, also a source of charcoal.

A decoction of the leaves is said to promote the growth of hair and prevent greying, the leaves can be poulticed onto bruises, and the leaf juice is used in the treatment of warts!

But by far the most striking feature of this tree, is that the flowers appear before the leaves.

In spring, during april/may, the spectacular show begins.

Foxglove shaped tubular blossoms in shades of lavender, violet and blue grow on the bare branches, filling the air with a sweet fragrance.

A spectacular, stunning sight when seen in full flower, after the flowering period, the handsome leaves appear.

despite the exotic look of these trees, they are fairly hardy and grow well in southern britain. The brown, furry buds of the flowers are formed in the autumn and can be damaged by severe late frosts

Gardeners in colder areas with heavy frosts frequently concentrate on the spectacular foliage.  Coppicing and cutting it back can increase the average size of leaves from about 14″ to over 2 ft, making it the most magnificent of foliage plants. If planting outdoors, choose a spot with protection from gales, a deep well-drained soil and a place in the sun.

Can also be container grown, remember a plant will only grow to the size of the container it is planted in.

Seeds are said to be easy to germinate and seedlings grow rapidly, flowering in as little as 2-3 years under good growing conditions.

About the Author


Maria is currently growing everything from seed that she can lay her hands on. Also playing with colours and textures to fulfill her garden desires...