Paulownia are planted primarily for timber production. The decoratively grained timber is soft and easy to work, but strong for its weight and does not easily warp or split. Paulownia timber air dries well, thus eliminating or reducing the expense of kiln drying. As it is a pale timber, plantation grown Paulownia can be stained to imitate a wide range of other timber types and can be used to replace tropical rainforest timbers. Uses include doors, window frames and other interior fittings as well as furniture and anywhere light but relatively strong and visually attractive timber panels are required, such as boats and aircraft.
Paulownia trees are also useful for various biomass applications, fodder, shade, protection for crops, prevention of land degradation through erosion or salinity, honey production during the spring and their outstanding value as a fast growing landscape and feature tree. They are also very effective as a sink for waste water with the ability to rapidly convert nutrient rich effluent into useful wood and biomass. Their fast growth and large leaf area also make Paulownia highly efficient in the sequestration of carbon, thus helping to combat global warming.
Paulownia have a natural distribution ranging from latitude 22° to 40° in China (tropical to cool temperate) with P. fortunei also extending into Vietnam and Laos. Paulownia tomentosa also grows in Korea and Japan. Paulownia taiwaniana, P. kawakamii and P. fortunei are indigenous to Taiwan.
The most important requirements to consider when choosing a site for Paulownia are very well draining soil, summer rainfall or availability of irrigation water, sunny aspect, ease of access for planting and harvesting and proximity to the target market or a port. The latter is not quite as important with Paulownia as with most timber trees as the light weight and high value of the timber makes longer distance transportation more viable.
The soil must be well drained because any more than three or four days of waterlogging is enough to cause fatal root rot – especially in winter when the trees are dormant. They perform best in deep soils with a water table at least 1.5m deep. Paulownia are tolerant of a wide range of pH from 5 to 8 and research comparing soil and foliage analysis on various soils indicate Paulownia can selectively absorb calcium and magnesium from the soil. Paulownia are indigenous to zones that receive summer rainfall, therefore in drier areas artificial irrigation is required.
TGG Headstarters™ can be planted almost all year round in tropical zones, avoiding the driest and wettest periods (although if irrigation is provided they can be planted during the dry). In other climates they can be planted from spring (after the last frost) to mid autumn, although it is usually best to avoid planting out in the hottest part of the year – if you must plant in hot weather the results are usually very good as long as you avoid planting during extremely hot or windy days, make sure the soil is moist before planting and water them in immediately after planting.