Spring in the backyard, starring Paulownia ‘Powton Sapphire Dragon’

I have to admit I’m not really that fussed about big spring flower displays – my aim is to have happy plants in summer and autumn, when we spend a lot of time outside. But there are some plants that just go off like firecrackers in spring, and the paulownia is definitely the star of my back garden right now.

It was planted 5 years ago, at about 30cm tall. It shot up to its current size in 3 years, but pretty much stopped growing in the past couple of very dry years. But it has never browned off, lost leaves or struggled in the heat, even on 40+ degree days in the hot north-west of my garden. Apparently paulownias have tap roots as deep as their height, so it must be finding a bit of moisture somewhere down there. It’s also happily survived battering by storms and hot summer winds.

It sets flower buds in autumn, holds these during winter while it loses its leaves, and then bursts into flower at the end of September, putting on a glorious purple display until mid-November.

Here are a few photos from mid and late October.

10 thoughts on “Spring in the backyard, starring Paulownia ‘Powton Sapphire Dragon’

  1. Hi Deanna, we have not had a problem with the roots. We have a concrete slab and brick path nearby and neither of them have been affected by the roots at this stage (9 years). The main root of a Paulownia is a deep tap root. We had one sucker pop up where a root near the surface was damaged by digging, but we cut it off and it didn’t come back. We have a lawn area next to the tree and roots have not broken the surface or sent up suckers.

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  2. Thank your, Harlina, The ‘pod’ part came to me much later… (old age is a bummer) . I’ve had my tree over 20 years and the pods become soo heavy that the squirrel damaged branches break. Annnnd I surely don’t like the teeny tiny needle point drops of syrup it drops on my car late summer. : ( When it flowers, people stop to tell be of its beauty and I take a small branch of the flowers to my bowling league and they all go ga ga. Annd yes, the tree sounds like a firecracker when the pods break open… I bet the back yard tree must be 70 feet tall by now.. I just wish it kept its leaves during winter to act as a wind break for me here in Southern California……Thanks again, Harlina..

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  3. Hi Christine, I’m not sure which green things you mean (other than the leaves!)… Seed pods form after the flower petals drop off. They are bunches of hard pods that are retained on the tree and eventually split to release the seeds.

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  4. >Thanks Harlinah,It is encouraging to hear that it will come good. Last Christmas I was seriously thinking about ripping it out and replacing it.I am not so concerned about the scrappy growth phase as we are currently living away from Melbourne and are not planning to return until the end of 2012. I was mostly concerned about returning to Melbourne in a couple of years to a big feral mess.I am looking forward to moving back to Melbourne to a house with a 4 year old semi-mature dragon in the back corner of the garden and having my first bacon breakfast in the shade of my dragon.Scott

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  5. >Hi Scott,That sounds about right. After the first year (the following spring), ours had one bunch of flowers right on the top. In the second year it shot out side branches, which flowered the following spring – the tree was maybe 3 metres high at this stage. In the third year, these branches shot out their own side branches. It didn't grow much for a couple of years as it was so dry. It got a bit more water last year and is now maybe 4-5 metres high and 6-7 metres wide.

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  6. >Harlina, can you tell me about the growth of your Paulownia. I have one in the back yard of my house. It is in the South Eastern corner and is intended as a shade tree adjacent to our outdoor room in summer but as it is deciduous it will let light in in winter for sunny Sunday morning bacon breakfast.Last summer after its first year of growth it looked like a broad leaf noxious weed about 5 feet high. I hope it starts to look less like an over-sized weed and more like a little tree next season.Scott

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  7. >Thanks Melissa – I hope your baby tree does well this year. It's amazing how such a soft-looking tree from China can stand up to Australian conditions…

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  8. >my baby paulownia aims to be like this ..one day if it can get through this summer……i'm similiar to you in that i aim for summer colour but appreciate a few flashy spring ones …having said that- i'll cal back in ..enjoyed looking at your garden …very lovely ..beautiful kangaroo paw photos

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