Raising Your Tulip Poplar

About this Tree

             This tree is a native Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). 

Michael Dirr describes the trees as

 “a very large and magnificent plant when fully grown and developed; some specimen are weak-wooded, although variation occurs among individuals. Leaves emerge folded in flag-like outline, mature to bright green in summer, changing to golden-yellow or yellow in fall, often superb during October and early November… Truly an aristocratic tree.” (Adapted from Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Dirr, fifth edition.)

 A Suitable Site

             Planting locations should be selected with the tree’s ultimate dimensions and needs in mind.  The Tulip Poplar grows rapidly to 70 to 90 foot in height, with a spread of 35-50 foot.  It prefers deep, moist, well-drained loam and adequate water. If restricted to narrow tree lawns, it may develop leaf scorch and suffer from drought.

 Observations from Audubon Park

Tulip poplar requires full sun or it will lean badly to seek sun and avoid competition.  It grows extremely fast, and with an excellent upright form and golden fall color.  Although it is a big tree, it has a narrow stance and crown, and can be grown in relatively tight quarters.  Of the fully mature trees in Audubon Park, it is generally one of the healthiest.  It tends to surface rooting and should be given a wide tree mulch area, without mulching over the flare.   Although it strongly prefers to be upright, it does need some structural pruning to keep competing leaders in place so that low branches don’t try to grow into leaders.  It is tolerant of moist sites, and is at its worse on steep slopes with less water.

 Once you notice tulip poplars, you will see them quite a bit, many in yards rather than on the easement. There is a very large tree in the side yard of 1309 (on Eagle Pass), and a younger big tree at 3127 Eagle Pass, next to the house.  There is a large tulip poplar which did not get timely structural pruning at 900 Audubon Parkway (the tree has a dominant side branch that makes the tree lopsided).  There is a spectacular tree at 1137 Dove Rd. on the inside of the sidewalk, and a nice young tree in a tight site in the yard of 1140 Dove Rd.  A tulip poplar planted in 2007 at 1218 Audubon Parkway is already over 35 foot tall and 6 in in diameter,

Mature Tulip Poplars in the Park:  To the right are two twin trees on Eagle Pass, and to the right a young tulip poplar in a relatively tight space on Dove Road.

There are several pairs of Tulip Poplars illustrated to show how quickly the tree roots and takes off.

On the left is the tree as it leafs out in 2010, and

on the right,  the tree in 2011, only one year later.


On the left, is the tree on Audubon Parkway (planted 2007) and the tree in 2011.

 The middle frame shows the strongly developed central trunk and leader in Winter 2012.