Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Tulip Poplar, Tulip Tree, Tuliptree, Tulip Magnolia

Tulip Poplar, Tulip Tree, Tuliptree, Tulip Magnolia

Liriodendron tulipifera

Full sun; medium moisture level; prefers rich organic soils but tolerates sandy, sandy loams, and clay soils; pH adaptable but prefers slightly acid pH.

70-90 feet height by 35-50 feet spread; lime and orange colored, cup-shaped flowers in early summer; seeds are tan-brown, winged, woody samaras, 2 inches long, in clusters in late summer.

Growth Rate: Medium to fast, especially on fertile soil, reaching 30-40 feet in 15 years.

Maintenance: Infrequent disease and insect problems although aphids are common. Aphids can build up in large numbers, leaving heavy deposits of honeydew on lower leaves and anything under the tree, such as cars and pavement. A black sooty growth sometimes occurs on the honeydew, adding to the mess below. This sticky layer does no permanent harm to the tree but can be annoying depending on what objects are being coated below the tree. In a naturalized setting this outcome should pose no problem.

This species does not adapt well to fall planting because the root system takes several months to adapt after planting and/or because it is unusually susceptible to winter damage.  It is best saved for spring planting.  However, you can often justify the risk by finding exceptional bargains in the fall when many garden centers are motivated to reduce their stock.

Propagation: Seed germination code C(60-90) at 41 degrees F. Moderately easy from seed.

Native Region: Statewide

This canopy tree is not a poplar but actually in the Magnolia family and is one of the most beautiful and one of the tallest trees in eastern North America, reaching 120 feet. It has 5 key good points – rapid growth, pyramidal form with a straight trunk, resistance to insect and disease damage, unusual leaves and attractive flowers, and good yellow autumn color. Flowers are the size of a garden tulip but develop far up in the canopy so not usually seen. Occurs naturally in low, rich woods and on streambanks. Exacting in its soil and moisture requirements — moderate moisture, well drained, loose textured soil, and not excessively wet or dry. Dry summer weather can cause physiological damage and tree may drop its leaves. Its large size makes it unsuitable for many sites. Should not be placed in confined beds or near pavement.   Prone to wind and ice damage. Cultivars available.

Attracts birds, bees, and butterflies. Larval host for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Tulip Tree Silk moth. Special value to honey bees. Seeds are food for squirrels.


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