Tulip tree seed pod

Propagation Of Tulip Trees – How To Propagate A Tulip Tree

The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is an ornamental shade tree with a straight, tall trunk and tulip-shaped leaves. In backyards it grows up to 80 feet (24 m.) tall and 40 feet (12 m.) wide. If you have one tulip tree on your property, you can propagate more. Propagation of tulip trees is either done with tulip tree cuttings or by growing tulip tree from seeds. Read on for tips on tulip tree propagation.

Propagation of Tulip Trees from Seeds

Tulip trees grow flowers in the spring that produce fruit in the fall. The fruit is a grouping of samaras – winged seeds – in a cone-like structure. These winged seeds produce tulip trees in the wild. If you harvest the fruit in the fall, you can plant them and grow them into trees. This is one type of tulip tree propagation.

Pick the fruit after the samaras turn a beige color. If you wait too long, the seeds will separate for natural dispersal, making harvest more difficult.

If you want to start growing tulip tree from seeds, place the samaras in a dry area for a few days to help the seeds separate from the fruit. If you don’t want to plant them immediately, you can store the seeds in air tight containers in the refrigerator to use for tulip tree propagation down the road.

Also, when growing tulip tree from seeds, stratify the seeds for 60 to 90 days in a moist, cold place. After that, plant them in small containers.

How to Propagate a Tulip Tree from Cuttings

You can also grow tulip trees from tulip tree cuttings. You’ll want to take the tulip tree cuttings in the fall, selecting branches 18 inches or longer.

Cut the branch just outside of the swollen area where it attaches to the tree. Place the cutting in a bucket of water with rooting hormone added, per package directions.

When propagating a tulip tree from cuttings, line a bucket with burlap, then fill it with potting soil. Plunge the cut end of the cutting 8 inches deep in the soil. Cut the bottom out of a milk jug, then use it to cover the cutting. This holds in the humidity.

Place the bucket in a protected area that gets sun. The cutting should get roots within a month, and be ready for planting in spring.

What Does a Tulip Tree Look Like?

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of John Talbot

Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, is a tall deciduous tree that naturally is found in the woodlands of the southeastern United States. The four-lobed leaves are its distinguishing feature as are the tulip-like orange and pale, yellowish-green flowers that appear in late spring.

Form and Size

The Tulip tree is a large tree with a massive trunk. At maturity it can grow 70 to 100 feet tall with an irregular but architecturally interesting branch structure. Overall the trees are shaped like a rounded pyramid when young and attain an upright, oval shape in the leaf canopy when older.


Bright green in color, the leaves of a tulip tree are arranged alternately on the stems and branches. Each leaf blade is 5 to 8 inches long and wide and has four pointed lobes. The leaf has a tulip-like shape in some people’s view. In autumn the leaves turn shades of yellow and gold. The foliage is absent in winter.


In late spring, branch tips can display small, 2 to 3 inch flowers that resemble tulips. The petals are yellow-green with the flower center orange.


The flowers become large, tear-drop shaped fruits at the ends of branches that are yellow-green in color. As the fruits ripen in early autumn, they split open to release seeds. The fruits dry to brown in color and persist on the tree branches after the foliage drops away in autumn.


The tulip tree’s bark on its large trunk is colored light grayish brown. It is corky and is in vertical to slightly wavering vertical furrows. In the bottom of the furrows the bark has an even lighter gray tone.

About Tulip Trees: Tips On Growing And Caring For A Tulip Tree

Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) live up to their name with spectacular spring blooms that resemble the flowers. The tulip poplar tree is not a poplar tree and not related to tulip flowers but is actually a member of the Magnolia family. The plant isn’t suitable for every landscape, as it can exceed 120 feet (36.5 m.) in height, but it is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9. Considerations on where to plant tulip trees should also take into account the rapid growth and brittle branches of this native tree. Read on for information on how to grow and care for tulip trees.

About Tulip Trees

Look upward in April to June in parts of the east and southeast parts of the United States. During these months in the spring, the tulip poplar tree will be in full bloom with yellowish green to orange cupped fragrant flowers, 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6 cm.) in diameter covering the plant. The plant is attractive to numerous pollinating insects and birds. The leaves are also tulip shaped and can get up to 8 inches (20 cm.) long.

Tulip poplar trees are deciduous and will lose their leaves in winter, but first you get a spectacular color display of brilliant golden foliage. An interesting fact about tulip trees is that it is the host plant for tiger and spicebush swallowtail butterflies.

Where to Plant Tulip Trees

Tulip trees prefer full sun locations with rich moist soil that drains well. The plant starts out in a pyramid shape but matures to an arching dome except where limited sun is available. In low light situations the branches can get skinny and weak.

The plant has a fleshy root system that doesn’t extend far out from the plant, so well worked soil is essential at planting. The tree tolerates drought poorly, so make sure it has access to water or give it supplemental irrigation in summer and early fall. The soil pH should be moderate to acidic.

Make sure the tree will have ample space in the area you choose since it will become very tall and branch out up to 40 feet (12 m.).

How to Grow and Care for Tulip Trees

Caring for a tulip tree is relatively easy. Fertilize in early spring and watch for pests and disease. Stake young trees early on and train to one straight leader.

Due to the rapid growth of this tree, pruning is essential. It poses a competitive challenge to other trees in the nearby area and the brittle branches pose a possible hazard to passersby. Prune out dead and weak growth in late winter to early spring and do a thorough thinning every few years.

Don’t allow the plants to dry out, but don’t overwater either.

Unfortunately, this tree is a victim to several canker diseases and poplar weevils. Combat the weevils with horticultural oil and the canker with an appropriate fungicide.

When does this bloom?

Where does this bloom?
Common in low woods and coves.

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly known as the American Tulip Tree or Tulip Poplar is native to eastern North America and can be found all the way from southern Ontario to central Florida and Louisiana. It can grow to be more than 50 m in height when found in forests of the Appalachian Mountains. This tree is a very valuable timber tree because often it will grow up to 25-30 m with no additional limbs. It is a fast-growing tree but does not possess the typical downfall characteristics of others in that species.It is not a weak wood and does not have the short lifespan often seen in fast-growing species.The flowering period for most of the southern United States begins in April. Those trees towards the northen end begin to flower in June. The flowers are pale green or yellow,with a small exception for white, with an orange band on the tepals. Thes flowers have been known to yield large quantities of nectar. The American Tulip Tree is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Most American Tulip Trees, especially the younger ones, are intolerant of prolonged sumbersion in water.There has been an ecotype noticed in the southeastern United States which is relatively flood-tolerant. This ecotype is recognized by its blunt-lobed leaves, which may have a red tint. Botanists in sections of east-central Florida near Orlando have spotted an ecotype with similar-looking leaves but which flowers much earlier than the traditional plants. This ecotype seems to have the best ability to tolerate very wet conditions. It grows short pencil-like root structures similar to those produced by other swamp trees in warm climates. Some American Tulip Trees have been known to retain their leaves all year unless struck by a hard frost.


This species is a major honey plant in the eastern United States. It produces a dark reddish, fairly strong honey. The soft, fine-grained wood of the Tulip Trees is misleadingly known as “poplar” in the U.S., but is sold abroad as “American Tulipwood”. It is very widely used when a cheap, easy-to-work and stable wood is needed.

The sapwood is usually a creamy off-white color. The heartwood is typically a pale green but can take on streaks of red, purple, or even black depending on what the soil conditions the tree was grown in.

It is the wood of choice for use in organs, due to its ability to take a fine, smooth, precisely-cut finish and effectively seal against pipes and valves. It is also commonly used for siding clapboards. The wood of the American Tulip Tree may be compared in texture, strength, and softness to that of white pine. Other uses for this wood can be interior finish of houses, siding, panels of carriages, coffin boxes, pattern timber, and wooden ware.


Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Scientific Name: Liriodendron tulipifera
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Magnoliaceae – Magnolia family
Life Cycle: Perennial

The tuliptree is one of the tallest eastern American hardwoods, and one of the tallest trees found in the park. It can often be identified from a distance because of its very straight, tapering, light-colored and evenly furrowed trunk which, on mature trees, is usually free of branches for a considerable distance from the ground. Up close, it is even easier to recognize, with its distinctive leaf shape which would be hard to mistake for that of any other tree. The large, hairless, glossy, alternate, simple leaves of the tuliptree are four-pointed, with an indented summit that makes it look as if the tip has been cut off. In mid- to late May or early June, after its leaves are developed, the tuliptree blooms, with prominent, colorful tulip-like flowers, from which the tree gets its fanciful name. The flowers have 6 yellowish-green and orange petals and three large sepals at their base. They produce a good amount of nectar and are pollinated by bees. The fruit, in the form of a narrow winged seed (samara) 1-2 inches long, is clustered in 2-3 inch cone-shaped structures which persist on the branches through the summer and into the fall. They are dispersed by wind.

The tuliptree is found in nearly every state east of the

Mississippi River , from southern New England to northern Florida , and is widely distributed throughout the park. It is most commonly found in the rich soil of bottomlands, on gentle mountain slopes, or near streams, but not on dry, rocky slopes. The tuliptree is often a dominant species in mature forest communities within the park. It grows best in a deep, rich, slightly acidic soil, and requires plenty of direct sunlight, as it is shade intolerant.

Common names:
Common names include tuliptree, tulip poplar, yellow poplar, whitewood. Although it is commonly referred to as a tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera is not closely related to the true poplars, nor is it related to the ornamental flowers we call tulips. It is a member of the Magnoliaceae family, along the many flowering trees of the genus Magnolia.

Other Facts:
The tuliptree is a particularly valuable tree for lumber because of its tall, straight trunk and wood that is soft, lightweight, straight-grained, resistant to splitting, and easily worked. Native Americans and early pioneers frequently hollowed out a single log to make a long dugout canoe, giving it the common name “canoe tree” in some regions.. Sold commercially as “yellow poplar,” it is used for furniture, musical instruments, interior finishes, shingles, boats, plywood, fuel, and various small objects.

The root of the tuliptree can be used as a lemon-like flavoring agent in spruce beer. The bark contains ‘tulipiferine,’ which is said to have powerful effects on the heart and nervous system. Tea made from the bark has historically been used to make an aromatic stimulant tonic, which is said to be beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism, chronic gastric and intestinal diseases, dysentery, coughs, and hysteria. Externally, the tea is used as a wash and a poultice on wounds and boils. The raw green bark can be chewed for its purported aphrodisiac effects, and the root bark and seeds have been used to expel worms from the body.

References and Links:

Grimm, William Carey. 2002. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Stakepole Books,

Mechanicsburg , Pennsylvania . pp 191-194.

Petrides, George A. 1988. A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (The Peterson Field Guide Series # 11). Houghton Mifflin Company,

Boston , Massachusetts . pp 121-122.

Further information can be found:

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Report U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Germplasm Resource Information Network database which is sponsored by the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

PLANTS National Database, a website supported by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

How to Grow Tulip Trees, Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip Trees, or sometimes called Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar is a large stately deciduous tree. It can reach heights of 150 feet or even more. Although it is sometimes called “poplar” and it’s lumber resembles poplar wood, it is a member of the Magnolia family. USDA Plant Fact Sheet on Tulip trees, pdf file

You often hear of old houses being trimmed with “gum wood”, this is often tulip tree lumber stained brown. The lumber is commercially important and used for the frame of furniture, base for veneer, musical instruments, cabinetry and any place where an easily worked stable wood is required, particularly when strength is not critical. The wood is relatively inexpensive and tends to be quite bland looking so it is not used where appearance is important.

Because it is not so strong and is not particularly rot resistant, it was not used a great deal for boat building. An exception to this was it’s use in dugout canoes where it’s ease of working, stability, and the availability of large pieces are an asset.

Why Grow Tulip Trees rather than other trees

Tulip trees are handsome!

With their large shiny leaves and pleasant pyramidal shape it quickly looks nice and fills up a empty space with green. It’s a lovely tree.

The photo is of a 7 year old plant. It is about 15 + feet high already and provides usable shade in the summer.

In the spring the yellow orange flowers add some colour and in the fall the tree turns a rich golden yellow.

Tulip Trees Grow Fast

This series of photos shows my little Tulip Tree at age 2 to 7. It is in good soil and I’ve kept it watered. It has grown from a little seedling to a 15 plus high tree in 5 years.

Being a fast growing and eventually large tree, means you have to think about where you are going to put it. It will want space to grow and you don’t want to be in a position of having to cut it down only a few years after you put it in because it has overgrown it’s welcome.

Trees are often planted as privacy fences. This is a very good use for a fast growing tree but be prepared to cut down some of the trees if you plant them close together at first. Stay away from power lines.

Because they grow so quickly, tulip trees are sometimes used to reforest an area. When planted with other trees in a mixed planting, it will grow faster than many other species and will shade and slow down its neighbours. Be ready to go in and thin the Tulip trees to give the other trees a chance. This is sometimes done in order to get a wood crop from the culled trees, leaving the remaining trees as a forested area.

Eventually the tulip trees will flower and produce seeds

At age 7, at the end of June, my tree produced it’s first flowers. You can see a flower bud in the first photo, upper left corner. These flowers attracted the usual pollinators and hummingbirds, after a few days the petals fell off and the seed pod was left behind.

Many cultivars have been developed and Arnold is one of these. Unlike the regular tulip tree which grows as in a pyramidal shape, Arnold grows in a columnar shape and makes a tall narrow tree. Like the regular tulip tree it grows quickly and produces the characteristic tulip shaped flowers, but it takes up a lot less space on the ground. It grows as tall though.Backyard Gardener page on Tulip tree is very complete.

The photo is of a tree I planted this spring. It is flowering although the flowers are not very conspicuous. I estimate it’s about 5 years old.

There are many people selling seeds, here are some Amazon links for some who are getting better reviews.

In the US: 15 TULIP POPLAR TREE Yellow Flower Liriodendron Tulipifera Whitewood Seeds

In Canada:Tulip Tree Seeds in Canada

In the UK: Tree Seeds Online – Liriodendron Tulipifera- Tulip Tree 25 Seeds – 1 Packs

Small trees are easier to start with: Small tulip tree Seedling

Large Carpenter bee making it’s way into the tulip flower.

There are quite a lot of seeds in the seed pod but not many germinate. I’ve bought 2 sets of 12 seeds and of these only 1 actually came up. It’s hard to say if the seeds were too old or otherwise badly handled, or for that matter if I did something wrong, but it is not an enthusiastic germinator. According to the USDA, squirrels and birds including cardinals and finches like to eat the seeds.

Seed pods at the end of October are quite dry and starting to open and drop seeds.

Tulip trees are quite pest free

According to the USDA “Tulip poplar is unusually free from insects and disease. The yellow-poplar weevil, nectria canker, and fusarium canker are three of the more important enemies of this species.” Many moths and butterflies will eat the leaves, including the gorgeous yellow Swallowtail caterpillar. I can’t speak from experience because I have not had trouble from either of my 2 Tulip Trees.

Deer are said to like to nibble on them but my deer pass right by them on their way to the maple and particularly to the poor cedars that provide fresh greens throughout the winter.

This past winter I wrapped the hedge in burlap and it fared much better. These 3 guys show clearly how high the deer like to browse. I left them open because I like deer around. They can be greedy though.

In the fall the tulip trees turn a rich golden colour and keep their leaves for quite a long time. My tree still has most of its colour even after the hickories and walnuts around have gone bare. The tulip tree seems to be content having a walnut tree nearby. They are a bit more than 50 feet from each other.

In September I noticed a new bird in the neighbourhood. I think it’s a gnatcatcher of some kind. It was checking out the underside of the leaves. When I looked I found a few aphids so I guess that is what it was eating.

Best Conditions to Grow Tulip trees

First it’s no good planting tulip trees if you are in the North. They can tolerate zones 4 to 9 but I think that might be stretching it a bit. In Canada it is native to Southern Ontario on the south shore of Lake Huron, the north shore of Lake Erie, and the Niagara Peninsula, in the Carolinian forest. They can be found as far north as Toronto but they are not very common there.

their website gives information on various species and where individual trees can be found, it lists a few individual tulip trees in Toronto Parks.

Tulip trees like nice rich well drained deep soil with regular watering. They can tolerate some drought and some swampy conditions.

Before you plant your trees prepare your soil as much as you can. This is particularly true for Tulip trees. Since my bedrock is only about 3 feet down at that spot and from a foot down it’s mostly varying size rocks, I dug down as far as I could go and used a pick and shovel to get as deep a hole as I could. It took me the better part of a day to make a good hole. I also mounded my soil for a 4 feet circle before planting the tree. I filled the hole with lovely rich sandy loam. Every year since I planted my little tree, I’ve added a wider ring of topsoil. Don’t pile up soil high against the trunk to make a volcano shaped mound, this will damage your tree. It doesn’t like to be buried.

Without sunshine your tree will not do well. He likes a full sun location if he can get it.

How to get a tree

In Southern Ontario, although they are an attractive native tree, they are not readily available. They are quite rare in the wild as well. They make good lumber and have been harvested heavily. I’m not sure what the problem is but they tend to be expensive, if you can find them. I’ve gotten both of my trees at The Mill Greenhouse, Dominion Road, in Fort Erie Ontario.

They are easier to come by in the US. Here is an Amazon supplier: 1 Tulip Poplar Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) 3 to 4 feet Tall

Growing tulip trees from seeds.

Lots of places will sell you Tulip Tree seeds. The trees produce quite a lot of seeds in the pointy seed pods. The seeds called samaras, have a wing and is like maple trees get picked up by the wind. The spiky seed pod is left behind on the tree after the seeds have distributed.

It’s no use trying to plant seeds in the spring without first giving it a cold treatment. In order to germinate tulip tree seeds need 60 to 90 days of moist cold stratification, simulating winter.

I put my seeds in a handful of damp soil, and placed this in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for the winter. Don’t ask about my fridge!

In the spring I potted the seeds and put them outside. Of the 20 or so seeds I planted in 2 trials, I only got one plant to germinate. It took over 6 weeks to germinate so don’t give up.

They are notoriously tricky to grow from seed so don’t give up and plant a lot of seeds. It would help to get seeds from several sources and in the fall when they are freshest.

This fall I will try again but instead of putting the seeds in the refrigerator, I will plant them in larger pots, put wire mesh over them to keep the mice and squirrels out, and leave them outside in a protected spot and see if that works better. To be continued…

Taking Softwood Cuttings

I’ve tried several times to take softwood cuttings without much success. So it is not a very successful method in my experience. In this last trial, I used a branch I had broken while mowing around the tree. It’s quite brittle and can be damaged by rough handling or by ice accumulation.

Softwood cuttings

I took my broken branch and cut it in pieces so that at the top I had a leaf or 2 and at the bottom I had cut just below a node, I removed the leaf that was at the bottom node and dipped the end in rooting hormone. Once you buy a jar it will last you a lifetime!

After cutting the larger leaves in half I planted my sticks in moist soil and put the pots in a shady damp area. I watered and misted regularly so it never dried up.

I’ve had the cuttings sitting in the soil for about 2 months now and it looks like of the 8 I took, only 2 seem to have taken. They are not very enthusiastic rooters but it looks like a possible way of reproducing the tree.

I think one of the problems is that they like quite a lot of light, but when a cutting is in bright sunshine it dries out too quickly to root. Maybe an automatic misting system would work well.

The method that is recommended is to take a cutting in the fall rather than spring. I’ll try this come fall.

I expect that air layering would work well. Maybe just putting a low branch with a nick and rooting hormone under the soil while still attached to the tree.

Small Print

This information is for general knowledge and entertainment. They reflect my experience in Southern Ontario.

email: Christine

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