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How to Grow Paulownia

By Bridget Kelly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa), also known as princess tree, is a rugged, deciduous tree that grows to 60 feet in height. Native to China, paulownia thrives in many areas of the United States (hardy to USDA zone 5), including stream banks, forests and rocky cliffs. In some areas of the country it is considered an invasive pest. Paulownia flowers in May with fragrant, white blossoms, attracting pollinating insects. A short-lived tree with brittle bark, the paulownia has a life span of 70 years.

Mix equal parts of sand and peat moss. Moisten the mixture and place it in a plastic bag. Push the paulownia seed into the mixture until it is completely enveloped. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator until after the last frost in the spring.

Combine equal parts of sand and peat moss and pour it into the planting pot. Run water over the mixture, stirring it, until it is uniformly moist. Allow the pot to drain completely.

Push the paulownia seed into the soil until just the tip is above the soil and cover it with a 1/4-inch layer of moist sand. Place the pot in a well-lit area, but out of direct sun. The seed should germinate within one week.

Grow paulownia indoors, in a well-lit area, over its first winter. Near a window, but out of direct sun, is ideal. In the spring, after the last frost, transplant it into its permanent location.

Choose a planting site that has well-drained soil. A paulownia seedling can’t tolerate standing water. It also requires full sun.

Add a 3-inch layer of compost to the soil in the planting area and mix it to a depth of 12 inches.

Dig a planting hole that is the same depth and twice the width of the nursery pot in which the paulownia has been growing. Tip the seedling out of the pot, place the roots in the hole and backfill the hole with soil. Tamp the area around the base of the seedling with your hands to ensure the removal of air pockets.

Water the seedling until the water puddles. When the water drains, spread a 3-inch layer of mulch, 2 inches from the base of the paulownia, completely around the seedling, to 1 foot.


Things You Will Need

  • Sand
  • Peat moss
  • Paulownia seed
  • Plastic bag
  • Planting pot
  • Garden fork
  • Compost
  • Shovel

About the Author


Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.