How to Kill A Royal Empress Tree (Paulownia Tomentosa)

How to Kill A Royal Empress Tree

With a name like that, it’s no surprise that the Royal Empress Tree or Paulownia Tomentosa is a show-stopper. However, with how invasive it can be, it can wreak havoc on your garden if left to grow uncontrollably.

If you’re looking for the most effective ways to get rid of your royal empress tree, look no further! We’ve listed a few of the best methods here, so read on.

1. Cut Stump Technique

Cut Stump Technique
DifficultyHard ●●●●○
SpeedSlow-acting
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Glyphosate or picloram-based herbicide
• Dye
• Hatchet
• Heavy-duty plastic sheet

The cut stump treatment is a surefire way of killing your Royal Empress tree without having to worry about seed dispersal or sprouts growth.

But here’s the hitch: you’ve got to put a lot, and we mean A LOT, of elbow grease into this method. Otherwise, it’ll all go to waste. 

How To Do
1. Cut off all the foliage on your tree.
Use pruning shears or, if you’ve got the big guns, a chainsaw, to make the job quicker.
2. Now that you’ve got your tree bare, it’s time to cut off all of the branches.
To do this, we suggest mapping out where you want to make your first cut, which is typically a feet or two away from the end of the branch farthest from the stem of the tree.
Then, begin slicing through the branch starting from the bottom. However, don’t cut all the way through.
Instead, stop midway and then remove your chainsaw. Place your chainsaw above the branch, aligning it to the incision you made earlier, then resume cutting.
Repeat this until you’ve gotten rid of all of the branches on your Royal Empress tree. 
3. Now that you’re left with just the stem, stand a couple of feet away from the tree to be able to get a good look at the direction that it’s leaning towards.
The direction that your tree is leaning towards is likely where most of its weight is going. This is also the direction where your tree is most likely to fall.
In other words, if your tree is leaning towards the left, it’s likely that it’ll fall on its left side. If your tree is leaning to its right, it’ll most probably fall on its right side.
If you’re unsure of where your tree is leaning, you can always ask for a second opinion. 
4. After you’ve determined which side your tree is leaning towards, make a 70-degree angled cut downwards onto the base of this side. 
As mentioned earlier, if your tree is leaning to its left, make your angled cut on its left side so that it’ll fall that way.
5. Next, position your chainsaw perpendicular to the ground and facing the bottom of your 70-degree angled cut. After, begin slicing through the stem slowly to meet the initial cut.
You’ll notice that this forms a triangle-like shape that you can take out.
6. Now you can make your final move, cutting through the stem horizontally, exiting the opposite side from where you began.
In other words, if your tree is leaning on its left side and you made your triangle-like cut on its left side, your chainsaw should exit horizontally through the tree’s right side.
7. Move to a safer distance away from the tree as it begins to fall over.
To notify passersby, yell out “Timber!”.
8. Now that you’re left with just a stump, treat it immediately with a glyphosate-based herbicide.
9. Cover it with a heavy-duty plastic to protect it from the rain or wind.
10. After a couple of days, check on your Royal Empress tree to see how it’s been holding up. 
Depending on the size of your tree and potency of your herbicide, signs of decline could come as early as a few weeks. 
These will include:
• Discolored leaves that are usually yellow or brown
• Wilted, distorted, or curled leaves
• Sparse canopy
• Stopped growth
• Drooped branches
Don’t forget to inspect the herbicide treatment. If it seems like your tree has absorbed most of the herbicide, reapply as needed and don’t forget to cover it afterward.
11. Once your Royal Empress tree has died, you can either remove it yourself or hire an arborist. 

2. Foliar Spray Method

Foliar Spray Method
DifficultyEasy ●●○○○
SpeedFast-acting
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Backpack sprayer or spray bottle
• Systemic herbicide
• Dye (optional)

Among all of the methods on this list, the foliar spray technique is most probably the easiest one of the bunch. 

It’ll only be a tad laborious if your Royal Empress tree has a ton of foliage. Otherwise, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy here! 

How To Do
1. First, assemble your herbicide according to the label’s instructions.
When assembling, we suggest adding a couple drops of dye or colorant to easily identify which areas have already been treated.
2. Next, spray the topmost portion of your Royal Empress tree’s canopy.
Then, slowly move downwards and continue spraying in a line from left to right (or vice versa depending on which side you started spraying).
3. Afterward, keep a close eye on your tree for any indication that the herbicide has done its job.
You’ll want to look out for: 
• Discolored leaves that are usually yellow or brown
• Wilted, distorted, or curled leaves
• Sparse canopy
• Stopped growth
• Drooped branches
If your Royal Empress tree appears unfazed by the foliar spray, you’ll have to redo it again. This time, we suggest using a stronger herbicide.
4. Once your Royal Empress tree has died, you can either remove it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

3. Hack-and-Squirt 

Hack-and-Squirt 
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
SpeedSlow-acting
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Glyphosate or picloram-based herbicide
• Dye
• Hatchet
• Heavy-duty plastic sheet

The hack-and-squirt technique sounds just as fun as it sounds. Who doesn’t like hacking away at unwanted trees, right?

This method is quite self-explanatory as all you need to do is hack at an angle at your Royal Empress tree’s trunk and then squirt a generous amount of chemical herbicide.

How To Do
1. Ensure that your herbicide is ready to go.
We also recommend adding a colorant or dye to your herbicide to be able to easily identify areas that have already been treated. 
2. Using a sharp hatchet, make several 45-degree angled cuts all over the tree.
Like we said, your cuts will need to be at an angle so that it creates a tiny pocket that can hold the herbicide in place while the tree absorbs it.
3. Apply your chemical herbicide immediately after making the cut or hole.
4. After, cover it with a heavy-duty plastic to protect it from the wind or rain. 
They’ll need coverage because rainfall or windy weather can affect the potency of your herbicide. 
5. Afterward, keep a close eye on your tree for any indication that the herbicide has done its job.
You’ll want to look out for: 
• Discolored leaves that are usually yellow or brown
• Wilted, distorted, or curled leaves
• Sparse canopy
• Stopped growth
• Drooped branches
If your Royal Empress tree seems to be unaffected, you may want to redo the whole thing. This includes making deeper cuts or even using a stronger herbicide. 
6. Once your Royal Empress tree has died, you can either remove it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

4. Remove All Leaves

Remove All Leaves
Image: Oregon State Landscape Plants
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
SpeedSlow-acting
Things You Need• Pruning shears or chainsaw

Just as the title suggests, all you need to do is to remove all of your Royal Empress tree’s leaves. And we mean you’ve got to make your tree completely bald. 

This method entails constantly removing any new growth on your tree. Over time, your tree will struggle to survive without any leaves to photosynthesize. 

How To Do
1. Using pruning shears or a chain saw, chop away all of your tree’s foliage. 
You can start at the bottom-most leaves and branches from left to right (or right to left), then gradually make your way to the top of the canopy. 
2. Monitor your Royal Empress tree for any new growth. 
3. If you spot any new life growing from its branches, remove them immediately.
4. Consistently remove any new growth until your tree begins to show signs of decline. 
These will include:
• Discolored leaves that are usually yellow or brown
• Wilted, distorted, or curled leaves
• Sparse canopy
• Stopped growth
• Drooped branches
5. Once your Royal Empress tree has died, you can either remove it yourself or hire an arborist. 

5. Hire an Arborist

Hire an Arborist

The easy way out is, of course, simply hiring a professional to do the job. It’s quick, easy, and the best part is that you don’t need to lift a finger.

If you think about it, the only con to this method is having to shell out a couple of bucks. Other than that, you don’t need to do anything else.

In fact, we highly recommend hiring an arborist because they’re professionals. Thus, they know their stuff and can kill and remove a Royal Empress Tree in a jiffy. 

FAQs

How big does a Royal Empress tree grow?


In the right growing conditions, Royal Empress trees can grow to be as tall as 82 feet with leaves as big as 16 inches across. In fact, each year it gets about 15 feet taller.

Is the Royal Empress tree considered an invasive species?


The Royal Empress tree is widely deemed an invasive species because of its rapid growing habit, which endangers local plantlife. 

In the USA, the Royal Empress tree is invasive in Maine, Florida, and Texas, among other states.

How long does a Royal Empress tree live?


More often than not, a Royal Empress tree lives to be about 40 to 70 years old. Though in some rare cases, they can live to be 150 years old.

Can I grow Royal Empress trees in a pot?


You can grow your Royal Empress tree in a pot if you’d like to keep it at a manageable size.

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