Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree
Covered in large trusses of fragrant, lilac flowers in early spring.
This is a fast growing tree that reaches 25 tall at maturity. The leaves may be large which can lead to this tree being confused with Catalpa. In the wild it is a pioneer plant, eventually dying when it is shaded out by larger plants. In your garden it is likely to be the largest plant around and will live for many, many years. The flowers open before the leaves. The dry seed pods can be somewhat unsightly.
P. tomentosa is native to central and western China. Escapes in North America have thrived and it is now designated as invasive there.
Soil / Aspect:
It is tolerant of pollution and it is not fussy about soil type. The roots can survive wildfire. In the garden it is important to give this a site with plenty of light as a young plant. Flowers reliably in Karin’s Garden, where the flowers buds are not damaged by frost.
Once established this is a trouble free plant. Trees may be pollarded to promote the production of large leaves, though at the expense of the flowers.
By tradition in Japan, the tree is planted at the birth of a girl. When she is eligible for marriage the tree is cut down and carved into wooden articles for her dowry. Carving the wood of Paulownia is an art form in Japan.