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