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Sapphire Dragon Tree

Paulownia kawakamii

Family: Scrophulariaceae (skrof-yoo-larr-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Paulownia (pa-LOH-nee-a) (Info)
Species: kawakamii (ka-wak-am-ee-eye) (Info)



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:

Mid Spring



Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Vincent, Alabama

Anthem, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Benton, Arkansas

Bell, California

Bostonia, California

Cloverdale, California

Grass Valley, California

Joshua Tree, California

Lower Lake, California

Palo Alto, California

Upland, California

Vacaville, California

Willits, California

Hialeah, Florida

Webster, Florida

Commerce, Georgia

Kingsland, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia

Plainfield, Illinois

La Cygne, Kansas

Severn, Maryland

Plainfield, New Jersey

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Conneaut, Ohio

Greenville, South Carolina (2 reports)

Cleveland, Tennessee

Cookeville, Tennessee

Wartburg, Tennessee

Corpus Christi, Texas

Denton, Texas

Georgetown, Texas

Keller, Texas

Leander, Texas

Odessa, Texas

Pittsburg, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Bellingham, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 27, 2015, srilaura from Benton, AR (Zone 7b) wrote:

Found one on each side of house with gargantuan leaves. Was told it was a Paulownia. I'd never seen pics with the giant leaves. Still unsure bc don't know why plants showed up now.


On Jun 27, 2015, jasonmistyb from Commerce, GA wrote:

Just planted so waiting on actual results. I just wanted to share the info I received. First I live in GA zone 7a, I contacted the University of GA Agricultural Dept.before planting and spoke with a professor who specializes in invasive trees and weeds. He educated me on the fact that these trees have been in North America as far back as the dinosaur days and there was scientific evidence to back it and there are native trees and plants far more invasive and harmful to the enviroment than the Empress Tree and the Empress was a very beneficial tree to have, also that in Zone 7a the trees seeds would have very little chance if any at all of reproducing naturally where I live. He stated he had 3 Empress trees in his yard and loved them. He also encouraged me to plant mine. He explained the tr... read more


On Nov 1, 2013, Mistletoenholly from Bell, CA wrote:

I live in Southern California. We had the tree planted to replace a diseased Dutch Elm. The first year it grew straight up...I had someone ask where the flower was (they thought it was a sun flower!) By year 2, I got big leaves and branches and by year 3, I had a tall, branched out, tree providing shade in my yard. I love the fast growth, spring flowers and large leaves. The only thing I don't like, no one else has mentioned. Every flower produces a heavy green sticky pod. It can weight the branch down to the point of breaking. Low hanging pods can get stuck in your hair. We haven't had trouble with the roots (it's over 15 years old now) nor have we had problems with the seeds. We have had a few suckers pop up but over all, I like my tree.


On Jul 14, 2013, pmirl from Vacaville, CA wrote:

This is a great tree for shade and a real attention getter when it blooms. We have had this tree going on 10 years (it is about 30 feet tall) and I have had to print an info sheet to hand out to the many people who come by to ask what it is. The only problem is if you plant it, do not plant it by your house foundation or by any concrete structure. We have a concrete planter box and the roots went under the box and raised one end up cracking the concrete from bottom to top.


On Nov 4, 2010, creativone from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

For those of you thinking it is so invasive.... There are areas of the country where it is not invasive. In Phoenix, those of us who have it, love this tree. I get people that pull over all the time and come up to my door asking what kind of tree it is.

It shades more tender plants in the summer and lets them have the less harsh sun in the winter. After the first year it takes so little water, even here in the desert, I water it only once a month in summer and less in winter.

Yes it is a little messy especially if you do not give it the nitrogen it needs, but you know what it is just what my compost needs. I feed it once every 3 months with high nitrogen fert., or chicken manure when I can get it.

TO those who asked about how high, read t... read more


On Sep 6, 2010, meryllee from Corpus Christi, TX wrote:

Just planted the empress about a month ago - has grown 5" so far. We want to have a "tree" not a bush or a pole. Is there special advice on pruning? Should I remove the leaves that spring out just above mature leaves? It has lots of leaves at the very top while the lower leaves are dying. Also, what kind of bug killer should I use - the old leaves were eaten. Obviously, I am a novice gardener.


On Sep 4, 2010, cara123 from Bradenton, FL wrote:

This is the first season growing of my eight foot Royal Empress tree that was planted in May.
I plucked the few suckers before leaving for six weeks. Now my beautiful big leaf tree has what looks like suckers with more suckers and tiny pea size buds (?) Do I pluck these?


On Aug 28, 2009, randoo from Conneaut, OH wrote:

We bought this tree last year and it grew from a 10 plant to 4 feet tall by October 2008. Since April of 2009 it has grown from 4 feet tall to 18 feet tall and it's only the end of August. To date it only has the large palm like leaves, but we are looking forward to the change it's supposed to make. We do not find this tree to be invasive in the least, and it has been a happy experience for us and our friends. It joins 4 young Silver Maples in our yard and all are growing great together. I have included a couple photos of this tree.


On Mar 3, 2009, Nick1 from Plainfield, NJ (Zone 6b) wrote:

I've had this plant in my front yard (Zone 6B) for a few years and have just had it identified as a Paulownia. I grew it from seeds that I was told were hollyhock, but when it grew so tall I became suspicious. I rather like the tree, but reading some of the negative posts I'm not so sure about that. How tall do they grow?


On Aug 2, 2008, greenvillegal from Greenville, SC wrote:

zone 7-8 Greenville, SC
You've GOT to be kidding me! You WANT this invasive tree from China? NO WAY! I have 2 on a natrual area hill and it takes over and is messy. They shade out non invasive trees and seed freely/ spread. It's on the National Forest Service or parks web site as the LEAST wanted tree! They tell you how to get rid of it! Not easy, I now find. Must cut trunk, drill holes, pour killer into it and on fresh cut. Mine sprouted anyway in just weeks! Am now repeating.
Yes, it's an impressive tree, but send it back to China with it's side-kick, Kudsu vine!


On Jun 26, 2008, LarissaH from Garland, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I'm in love!

(I need to find me a Dragon man, I tell ya.)

My 12" seedling was planted last fall in a full sun location per directions ( In the spring, when it started to "wake up" I mercilessly cut that baby flush to the ground and nervously waited. (Oh no...did I commit herbicide?!)

And...was I rewarded. From two tiny sprouts in April I chose the most hardy and removed the other. That teeny little sprout is now over 3 1/2 feet tall with leaves bigger than dinner plates a mere 2-3 months later, and there is no sign it's stopping.

The trunk is straight and strong, about the thickness of bamboo already. I feed it every 2-3 weeks with miracle grow and water it deep and long when we don't get enough rain.

... read more


On Mar 19, 2008, wildwoods from El Cajon, CA wrote:

The pictures of Paulownia trees with the extra large leaves are young trees in their first couple of years. After they reach their mature size the leaves start to get smaller and end up about hand sized.
In the deep south they are considered somewhat invasive, but most of the country does not have the right climate for them to become invasive.
There are very few trees that are as much fun to watch grow as the Empress tree. You can almost literally see them growing. It's very rewarding to plant a small tree and in 3-4 years have a nice 30-40 foot shade tree.
The flowers are beautiful with an intoxicating fragrance, and the best part is that Paulownias not only produce more oxygen and suck up more carbon than almost any other tree in the world, they are also becoming w... read more


On Jul 5, 2007, hyperzone from Saint Augustine, FL wrote:

I dont have one of these trees but, have been reading and find mixed reviews. Seems about equal as some say its a horrible tree and others say its great. Can someone answer this though: why in some pictures do I see gigantic 10"-14"leaves on this sucker and then in some others the leaves look 4"-6"? Some complain of insaine amounts of pruning and seedlings yet others say they dont have that problem... Whats the deal? Are there variations of this tree? Are they just crazy growers from the start but, calm down once they mature???


On Apr 8, 2007, Turken from Lower Lake, CA wrote:

I have one Paulowania Kawakamii tree. Grew to about 6.5 feet it's first year. It's in semi shade other wise I'm sure it would have been 10 feet plus tall. It is budding out with new growth right now. It is not invasive here. Great tree.


On Apr 22, 2005, Crimson from Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

I'm confused as well, I have ordered this tree several times... of all the many pictures I've seen, it's hard to imagine they are all the same tree, some have heart leaves, some have round, some have huge leaves, some have "normal" size leaves.... all say this is a fast grower but I've had 6 and all but this last has died within a month (the last won't make it either). Full sun, Miracle Grow potting soil, daily watering..... still they die, I give up!


On Mar 20, 2004, sandraking from Leander, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I live on a golf course and when I planted this tree so many people noticed it. Some actually stopped and knocked on my door to find out what it was. One guy asked the name of that "Jack and the Bean Stalk" tree
(it does grow several feet a year) another asked if it was a "giant Okra plant". Its been fun to have in my yard.


On Sep 1, 2003, seedeeone wrote:

The so-called "Empress Tree" is tree is a Royal Pain. It is messy, drops leaves all summer long and grows like a weed, (which as far as I am concerned, it is.)

Its only redeeming features are its shade and glorious flowering in the spring. It requires constant, major pruning, which is difficult for me because of its height. The roots are a major problem for my lawn, as they not only lie along the surface, but reach out under other parts of my garden and are very unsightly. The lawn around them is a disaster, unmowable, dry, basically just unsightly.

I live in hot desert climate (over 100 degrees for weeks at a time, very dry) at the north end of the Sacramento Valley and I do appreciate the shade from that tree, but that is as far as it goes. I'd like to g... read more


On Jan 23, 2003, Angelia from Glendale, AZ wrote:

Paulownia kawakamii is a fast-growing, deciduous tree to 30 feet tall. Originally from Taiwan and southern China, it has enormous heart-shaped 5 lobed leaves that are softly hairy on both surfaces.

The large round brown flower buds form in the fall and are held conspicuously on naked branches until they emerge just prior to the leaves in the spring. The pale lilac blue flowers are 1-2 inches wide in long terminal panicles. Plant in full sun in most any soil. Prune while young to desired form after which little attention is needed.