What’s Eating My Empress Tree Leaves?

“I have two baby royal empress trees, something is eating at the leaves. Any tips on how I can kick start these for maxim growth each season?” Question from Lizzy of Ocala, Florida.

Answer: Empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is a fast-growing tree from China with lovely violet-purple flowers in spring. Surprisingly it does not have any serious known pests here in the United States, but there are a few that can cause limited damage. The only pests you may have to worry about when trees are at the young stage are slugs, snails, and possibly rabbits. Your damage looks like slug or snail damage, but it does not look bad. The new growth appears to be healthy and thriving. If you are really concerned, you can try putting down some of the organic slug control, Sluggo (follow manufacturer’s instructions). I would also check the bottom of the pots or pot edges for slugs, remove the pests on sight, and keep the plants in full sun. Once the trees are large enough, be sure to plant them in the yard.

Once your trees start to flower and set fruit, they will self-sow pretty aggressively. Be sure to remove any seedlings that pop up. This tree is listed as invasive in Florida and can really become a problem in your yard and beyond.

I hope that this information helps!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith



Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

Leave a Reply

Content Disclaimer:

This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.