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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - June 22, 2009

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native. Why are my potted Royal Empress trees dying?
Answered by: Joe Marcus


I have purchased several Royal Empress trees over the past two years. Why won't they grow? Some sprouted leaves and then died while in the pots I planted them in. While others, that are 2 years old won't grow more than a foot the whole year. Help?!*


We know this is going to seem like a strange answer, but count yourself blessed.  Royal Empress tree, Paulownia tomentosa has far more bad habits than it has endearing attributes.  Above all, we think you should remove your Royal Empress trees and plant something less likely to cause you problems in the future.  Several previous questions and answers to Ask Mr. Smarty Plants deal with the consequences of growing this invasive species:

Invasive, non-native Paulownia

Information about Invasive Paulownia Tree

Dead-appearing Royal Paulownia trees in Manteno, IL

Fast growing, possibly invasive trees for South Carolina

If, after reading of the horrors of owning one of these trees you still want one, you might contact your county's Cooperative Extension Service agent for advice.  Growing trees in pots is tricky, especially in Colorado where the roots are very prone to freezing.  Perhaps that is the issue with your trees.


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Insects on non-native euonymus in Lake Orion MI
June 23, 2010 - I had a greenlane euonymus that had a few flies last year but was infested with thousands this year. We ripped it out, it was an 8 year old plant. Do you know why they are attracted to it now?
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Non-native acacias for Washington State
January 03, 2006 - Hello! I have been unable to find any sources for the seed of Prairie Acacia, Acacia angustissima var hirta. Var angustissima, from tropical America, is in cultivation, but I think it is tender to col...
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Pruning drought-stressed butterfly plants from Kerrville TX
August 22, 2011 - Due to the drought, our butterfly bushes have dead branches. Ordinarily we prune the dormant plants in winter, but can we cut back dead branches now?
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