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The Royal Empress Tree is native to China, named in honor of the daughter of a Russian tsar, Queen Anna Pavlovna of The Netherlands (1795–1865). The Empress Tree has been grown extensively in Japan for centuries as a source of valuable lumber. It is an age-old Japanese tradition to plant a tree when a daughter is born. When she is grown, the tree is harvested and a wedding chest is built for her from the lumber her tree yields.

Today, the Empress Tree is extensively grown for lumber around the world. Empress Trees, also known as Princess Trees or Royal Paulownias, are a gorgeous flowering tree in the Scrophulariaceae family. This striking tree produces conspicuous upright clusters of showy, pale violet, fragrant flowers that open in the spring before leafing out with large velvety soft-green heart-shaped leaves. This hardwood tree can reach approximately 10’-15’ the first year, and a mature height of 30’ – 60’.

The Empress Tree is incredibly easy to grow and is able to tolerate infertile and acid soils and drought conditions better than any other tree known to man. At maturity, the Empress Tree can absorb approximately 25 gallons of waste water per year; release about 13-15 lbs of oxygen per day and is able to remove almost 50 lbs of carbon dioxide each year. 

How to Plant the Empress Tree: Dig a hole that is shallow and broad - about three times the diameter of the root ball, but no deeper than the root ball. Most of the roots of a new tree develop in the top 12 inches of soil; digging a wider hole and loosening the surrounding soil allows growing roots to push through more easily. Don't plant too deeply.

The flare where the roots spread at the base of the trunk should be just above the soil level. It's better to plant a little high to allow for settling. Always lift the tree by root ball, not trunk. Before you fill the planting hole with soil, look from several directions to check that tree is straight.

For a container-grown tree, remove plastic pot as close to planting hole as possible to minimize root disturbance. With fiber containers, place tree in planting hole, then tear off upper rim of container and use a utility knife to make slashes at the sides to remove pot.

Inspect roots; if circling, gently tease apart or they will continue to make circling growth. If difficult to loosen by hand, make four cuts into root mass from the bottom up the sides with utility knife. This promotes growth into surrounding soil. Fill the hole about one third full and gently but firmly pack soil around the root ball to eliminate air pockets. Don't stomp on delicate roots. Water to moisten soil; then fill hole completely.

Water well after planting. If you don't get regular rainfall, continue to water newly planted tree thoroughly (an inch of water once a week), in the first season. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch to soil at tree base in a 3-foot circle. This helps conserve moisture, reduces competition from grass and weeds and encourages the homeowner to keep string trimmers away from trunk.