Empress_Foliage (2)

No, Our Royal Empress Trees Aren’t Invasive, Here’s Why

Pam Fertilizer, Flowering Trees 21 Comments

In some states Royal Empress Trees or Paulownia Trees are commonly thought of as invasive trees. In fact, they’re listed as invasive trees. This can be pretty jarring to hear while shopping for a new tree. No one wants to plant something that will spread all over their neighborhood. However, not all Royal Empress Trees are invasive, there are sterile and non-aggressive varieties. Although, the Royal Empress varieties that are invasive will quickly spread all over.

EmpressTree-Nursery-04Some varieties of Royal Empress Trees can produce up to 20,000,000 seeds per year that get released into the wind and carried far distances away. Those numbers can lead to huge amounts of new trees. Once these new trees get started they can be hard to stop. They’re very tough and drought tolerant. Royal Empress Trees can survive in a huge variety of different climates. They also take off and can get 40 to 50 feet tall and 30 to 40 feet wide. This large canopy spread often times creates large amounts of shade under the tree, which can block sunlight from local plants. Local trees and plants can’t survive with this lack of sunlight. Once a Royal Empress Tree spreads and takes over an area, they beat the local competition as well. This puts them on a lot of invasive trees and do not plant lists!

Noninvasive Royal Empress Trees

science-guysHowever, you don’t have to worry about our Royal Empress Trees spreading because they’re sterile. Our Royal Empress Trees are cloned from sterile tissue culture in a laboratory. This process ensures that a young new tree will have the same flower color as the parent tree while also ensuring the seeds your new tree produces are sterile. Plants grown from seeds can often times turn out very different from their parents.

For example, if you eat a delicious apple and plant the seeds, then in a few years when your new tree produces fruit its apples can taste completely different. In the Royal Empress Tree’s case the grafting process ensures that the new young trees are also sterile, so they won’t spread all over your neighborhood. Seeds that grow on sterile trees will still be released in the wind, but they won’t be able to produce new trees.

We often look for varieties of this tree with low rates of spreading and nonaggressive roots. The Paulownia Elongata is a trusted noninvasive variety. The Paulownia Tomentosa is another popular Royal Empress Tree variety carried by many nurseries that’s known to be dominating and invasive.

Root Sprouts

iStock_000043541380_LargeRoyal Empress Trees often reproduce with seeds but they also produce root sprouts. With sterile trees seeds are nothing to worry about. Root Sprouts can pop up with both sterile and non-sterile trees but they shouldn’t cause any concern. Root sprouts commonly known as water sprouts or suckers are small growths that grow from the root system of an existing tree near the trunk. In most cases suckers or root sprouts only grow a few inches away from the base of the existing tree.

These growths can occur on many different types of trees that are known as surculose trees. Root Sprouts are technically part of the same tree and they’re a nuisance that should be removed. Root sprouts will not turn into new trunks or limbs on the existing tree. They spring up like weeds from existing root stocks and steal energy and nutrients from the main trunk of the tree. In some cases a root sprout can kill the main trunk of a tree.

Tree stumps and trees that appear to be dead above the soil line can grow root sprouts or suckers as well, because their root stock under ground is still healthy and full of nutrition. After a forest fire surculose trees are often the first trees to return and repopulate the area, because the tree’s root systems have remained unharmed by the fire and can push out new growth.

If you have a tree that appears dead, it’s best to remove the suckers, and cut your tree back. It should recover. The number one way to remove a root sprout is to get a firm grasp on it and pull it upwards out of the ground in a twisting motion, similar to removing weeds.

Empress_Foliage (2)Again, root sprouts or suckers are nothing to be concerned about. If you spot one on any of your trees ranging from flowering, fruiting, or ever green trees simply remove them. They stay close to the trunk of an existing tree and won’t spread all over a wide area. Suckers may occur more frequently with trees that have more aggressive root systems.

Some suggest if you water your trees lightly and often instead of giving them a slow deep watering less frequently then the tree’s roots will stay close to the ground’s surface. Oftentimes roots grow down to look for water, but if it’s frequently provided close to the surface they’ll stay close. With roots closer to the ground’s surface root sprouts can pop up more easily. Trees will always benefit more from a slow deep watering every few days instead of receiving a little bit of water every day.

Royal Empress Tree Benefits

4Now that you know that our Royal Empress Trees are noninvasive and safe to plant let’s talk about how great of a tree they actually are. If you’ve heard that they’re invasive before, then you’ve probably also heard that they grow extremely fast. It’s one of their most talked about qualities. They grow about 6 to 10 feet a year and reach their mature heights of 40 to 50 feet tall very quickly. Royal Empress Trees get a lot of attention once planted, because before your neighbors know it you’ll have a massive tree in your yard that seemed like it was a newly planted little tree just yesterday.

They’re commonly used for shade trees because their thick canopy blocks the sun and creates a nice shaded area for people to sit in and enjoy. The shade can also provide heat relief for homes and lower AC bills. Furthermore, Royal Empress Trees lose their leaves in the fall letting sunlight through their branches when people need it to stay warm. Royal Empress Trees also make beautiful ornamental trees because in the spring they have hundreds of purple blooms that last for weeks. The flowers provide a sweet spring aroma similar to jasmines and gardenias to freshen up yards after winter.


Image Credit: Bloedel Reserve

Royal Empress Trees are low maintenance survivors. You can plant them and forget them. They’ll grow in full to partial sunlight and in a variety of different soils. However, they love sandy soil. You can also mix sand or a fine potting mix with your natural soil to make it loamier. Royal Empress Trees are recommended for growing zones 5 through 11, so they’re cold hardy and can beat the heat. They can withstand temperatures down to about negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only thing that bothers these trees is too much water. They’re very drought tolerant and like to stay dry. When selecting a planting location for your tree make sure it won’t sit in a low area of your yard that collects standing water or where a lot of run off passes by. Before you water your Royal Empress Tree make sure that the soil is dry down about 2 to 3 inches below the soil’s surface.

Fertilizer is a great treat for Royal Empress Trees. They can’t get enough of it. While they don’t require any fertilizer, you can give them a boost with an organic fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen twice a month during the growing season from early spring to early fall. Doing this will help your tree spring up even faster.

Plant your Tree and Watch it Grow Without Taking Over

Remember not all companies sell sterile Royal Empress Trees, and they aren’t considered to be invasive in every state. Also, some varieties like the Paulownia Elongata aren’t considered to be invasive. Take these things into consideration before purchasing a new tree. If you’re looking for a tough tree that will take off the Royal Empress Tree is for you. You won’t have to wait a lifetime for a tall shade tree, and it will give you a ton of fresh air and beautiful pink blooms. Don’t worry about it being invasive. While some Royal Empress Trees are considered to be invasive trees in a few states, ours aren’t. Our Royal Empress Trees are sterile, and will give you fast upwards growth, without taking over your neighborhood.

Shop for Royal Empress Trees Here.

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  • Dionna Rusling Smith

    Will root stimulator kill these trees when transplanting them? i bought one locally and it never grew. The nursery is saying it is because I used root stimulator and is refusing to warranty it.

    • AllisonTrees

      Root stimulator is generally good for young plants, and doesn’t cause harm them like fertilizer would. What did your tree look like? Did it turn black and wilt? Did it turn a petrified shade of grey or brown and dry out? Was your tree in a low area of the yard that collects a lot of standing water? I Answering these questions will help us determine the real culprit! For instant feed back call one of our experts at 888 – 504 – 200.

      • Dionna Rusling Smith

        Thank you for the reply. No it never did anything. It looked like it was going to put buds out but it never did. It’s not in a low area. We have had a lot of rain here in this area of Texas this year but my yard drains pretty well. It looks like it is the same color it has always been. I read on a blog to scrape the bark off and see if it is green underneath. It is green at the very base of the tree. Should I cut it to the ground and see if it comes back? That’s the only solution I can think of right now.

        • AllisonTrees

          Green is an excellent sign!! The tree is still alive. While cutting your tree back will act as a reset button, right now may not be the best time to cut it. If the hot summer Texas temperatures are setting in then it will be better to cut your tree back in the fall when the temperature starts to cool off. This way your tree won’t be stressed while regrowing in extreme heat. If your temperatures are currently in the 60s and will be for the next few weeks then go ahead and cut your tree to the ground.

          • Money

            Hi, just wondering about the roots of this tree- they’re huge and I can see them coming close to the house. Should I be worried?!

          • Rob

            Am also interested in this question. Planted my Empress tree last year, and it’s now about 8 feet tall. My house is built on concrete slab, no basement. Should I be concerned about possible root spread that might eventually disrupt the slab?

          • Rob

            Forgot to mention that I planted the tree about 12 feet from the house.

  • Lisa Ford

    My Royal Empress is now 2 feet tall and has developed a very crooked trunk about 1.5′ from the ground. Is there a way to encourage it to straighten out without cutting it back? We are having 100 degree temperatures in Texas right now and I don’t want to stress out the tree.

  • Voice In Detroit

    Anything that comes from China is invasive. Eventually it will take over and kill whatever native surrounding it infests.

    I had two of these growing in back back yard. I couldn’t dig them up, chop them to bits and throw them on a bon fire fast enough.

  • irmgard

    When is the Blooming Time ?

    • These are normally one of the first trees to bloom in the spring. Anywhere from Early March to mid-April.

  • jhl

    Are the empress tree roots shallow or deep?

    • Empress roots tend to be a bit more shallow that most trees. Keep them away from foundations and sidewalks. Plant at least 12-15 ft. away.

  • Louie Calaway

    Can anyone tell me if mistletoe is a problem for this tree? Thanks

  • Clinton

    How do these trees hold up in heavy snow? How about high winds? Also, it looks like their root system is shallow. How would they do on a hill?

  • Francis Debelo

    My Royal Empress tree was cut to the ground year before last and by summer of last year had grown to about 6′ in height. The tree lost all of its leaves and for winter and was a straight stick until about a month ago. The problem is that even though the bottom of the tree has begun to grow big beautiful stems and leaves , the top half of the tree is still bare. Is there anything I can do other than cut it all of the way back to the ground to get the top to continue to grow?

  • John Reist

    Can you grow this tree from cuttings and if so will they still be sterile?

  • John Reist

    Do you sell to Canada?