What to Plant Instead of Empress Trees!

What to Plant Instead of Empress Trees!


The Royal Paulownia Tree or Royal Empress and its white-flowering hybrid the Super Select Arctic™ Royal Empress Tree, are big beautiful flowering shade trees that have been at the center of a debate for years. Simply because they are one of those trees that are great in some areas but can get into a bit of trouble in others.

So if you love the look of the big leaves, orchid-like blooms, and towering fast-growing form, but can’t have the Empress herself - Here are a few alternatives for you to consider!

Despite all their perks and their insanely fast-growing nature, it’s no wonder the Royal Empress Tree is a favorite. Paulownia elongata are not the invasive Paulownia tomentosa, their enormous root systems can still grow where they shouldn’t, especially when poorly situated. Plus, P. tomentosa can have seedlings and root sprouts come up everywhere.

Paulownia elongata has gotten a bad reputation because of their cousin and Nature Hills employs Plant Sentry™ to ensure we adhere to all State and Federal Agricultural Laws and not ship this Tree into areas where it will be any kind of an issue!

So if you are in one of those areas, or simply want something similar with fewer possible problems, check out these alternatives that also have great shade, fast growth, and incredible blooms!

Empress Tree Alternatives For Your Landscape!

1. Tulip Poplar Tree

tulip popular

The flowering Tulip Poplar isn’t a Tulip or a Poplar, but it’s all kinds of beautiful! Fast-growing and with incredible fall color, the Liriodendron tulipifera is hardy throughout USDA growing zones 4 to 9. The foliage has two lobes that make each look like a cat's silhouette and turn a brilliant, blaze-yellow in autumn.

Members of the Magnolia family, this is the perfect tree for lining a drive or walkway as the roots stay deep and the tree is not messy. You'll love the lowered cooling costs in summer!

  • Large Flowering Shade Tree
  • Mature Height 60 - 90 feet
  • Mature Spread 30 - 50 feet
  • Yellow-Green Tulip-Like Early-Spring Flowers
  • Great Fall Color
  • Pollinator/Bird-Friendly


2. D.D. Blanchard Southern Magnolia Tree

dd blanchard

Large, bi-color leaves (green on top and fuzzy brown below), fast growth, and big citrusy-smelling flowers, the broadleaf evergreen D.D. Blanchard Southern Magnolia Tree will amaze you all year round!

Impressive screens and specimens, Southern Magnolia trees are adaptable ornamentals that have majestic canopies and strong straight trunks with far-reaching strong branches.

  • Magnificent, Larger-Sized Broad-Leaved Evergreen Tree
  • Tight, Upright Pyramidal Growth
  • Mature Height 40 - 50 feet
  • Mature Spread 25 - 35 feet
  • Huge Cup-Shaped Flowers Smell Like Lemons in Spring
  • Large Glossy Leaves Have Rusty-Brown Undersides
  • Tolerant of Urban Pollutants


3. Burgundy Sweetgum Tree

burgandy sweetgum

The Burgundy Sweetgum (Liquidambar) features spring flower clusters that become persistent spikey seed balls that birds love! But standing back one will notice that the narrow Burgundy is a very balanced pyramidal tree that tapers down from a central leader. When space is limited, this modern variety is the right choice! The vibrant burgundy and purple fall color rounds out the season beautifully!

  • Unique Star-Shaped Leaves
  • Columnar Shade Tree Fits In Small Landscapes
  • Brilliant Burgundy/Purple Fall Foliage!
  • Mature Height 40 - 60 feet
  • Mature Spread 20 - 30 feet


4. Sycamore Trees

american sycamore

With big foliage and statuesque form, the Sycamore includes the native American Sycamore, Columbia, Bloodgood London Planetree, and the Exclamation!™ London Planetree. Growing tall and wide, these incredible shade trees are long-lived and have ornamental exfoliating bark that reveals multiple colors on the trunk and branches.

  • Extra Large Pointed, Lobed Foliage
  • Exfoliating Bark & Branches
  • Strong Branches & Limbs
  • Long-Lived Shade & Specimen
  • Round Ornamental Seedpods


5. Buckeye Trees

With a beautiful upright rounded form, the Ohio Buckeye Tree (Aesculus glabra) works as either a standout specimen or in a natural grouping. You'll be thrilled with the exceptional spring-flowering display. Also known as the Texas Buckeye, or Horse Chestnut, this is no "wimpy" tree. Everything from the corrugated leaves to the corky bark to the leathery, prickled nut husks looks strong!

  • Rounded Upright Canopy
  • Palmate Pointed Leaves
  • Mature Height 30 - 50 feet
  • Mature Spread 30 - 40 feet
  • Showy Upright Flower Panicles
  • Ornamental Wildlife-Friendly Nuts

Runner Ups

  • Horse Chestnut trees are similar to Buckeye Trees but with bigger, bolder blooms and showier palm-shaped leaves. Choose from Briotti Red or Fort McNair and enjoy their year-round ornamental beauty.
  • For another great alternative, the Northern Catalpa Tree features gorgeous flowers and big foliage for shade, pollinators, and vigorous growth!

Big Bold Alternatives

For big trees that are just as gorgeous as the Paulownia Empress Tree, without getting into any trouble, you have many options! Check out all the large-scale trees available at Nature Hills and accent your landscape big time!

Happy Planting!

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