Tulip Poplar Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tips

Updated on March 19, 2018
By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The tulip poplar is also known as the tulip tree or the yellow poplar. It is a hardwood tree that's native to most of the eastern United States. It is not a true poplar tree but instead is a member of the magnolia tree family.

In some regions of the United States, tulip poplars can reach heights of 160 feet and higher. There have been records of tulip poplar trees reaching heights of up to 190 feet. Yet most of them will, on average, reach heights of 70 to 100 feet. The tulip poplar is also a quick-growing tree. A plus for the tulip poplar is that it tends to live longer than other fast-growing trees. It's also a hardwood, which many fast-growing trees are not. The trees flourish best in low shade/full sun with well-drained soil. Young tulip poplars are vulnerable to damage from vines of wild grapes. The vines can weigh the tree down. They can also decrease the amount of sunlight that reaches the young tulip poplars. Poison ivy and other vines pose the same threat to damaging the tree.

The flowers of a tulip poplar tree tend to show in the spring in southern regions of the United States. While, in more northern regions, they bloom later in spring in June. The trees begin to show their first blooms when the tree is within ten to fifteen years of its age. The colors of the tree's flowers can be a pale green or yellow. The coloring may be dependent on the temperature of the region and many other factors. There have also been occurrences of the flowers on a tulip poplar tree being white in color. This is a rare occurrence though and is not uniform across the tree's blooms. The flowers also have an orange colored segment. The appearance of the flowers is where the tree gets its name since their petals resemble tulips. The amount of nectar produced can be around a tablespoon per flower and it is why the tree is popular with beekeepers. The nectar is also popular because it also contributes to the rich and strong flavor of poplar honey.

Use as a Raw Material

The tulip poplar is also popular as a lower-cost and strong wood for furniture, flooring, and many other uses. Another popular use is as siding. In the past, it was also used as an alternative to siding made from white pine wood. It is a low-cost alternative in many respects for consumer use and applications. The tulip poplar was also used in the building of houses, cabins, and barns, as beams. This was due to its strength and resistance to termites.

By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Medicinal and Dietary Uses

Historic Uses

The bark of a tulip poplar, when boiled in water, was used as a medicinal tea for treating typhoid and malaria. It was used as an alternative to quinine. The inner bark was useful in treating rheumatism and arthritis. This was also a common use of the bark of many trees within the magnolia family. The tea from the bark, when boiled down, is also useful as a cough syrup. The flowers of the tulip poplar have been used, when prepared, as an ointment for soothing skin and to aid in the healing of burns.






The oldest living tulip poplar tree, at present, is the Queens Giant in New York City. It is believed to be between 350 and 400 years old. Its age may be up to 450 years old. It is also 133.8 feet in height when it was last measured in 2005.


Tulip Poplar from the University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) from the University of Minnesota

Liriodendron tulipifera from the Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

Questions & Answers

  • Can tulip poplars grow in calcareous soils?

    Tulips poplars may not grow in calcareous soils due to their intolerance for chalky soils and soils that are rich in lime

  • I planted a tulip poplar in Houston, The leaves come out looking good and then start to look variegated. A local nursery told me that they thought the tree was hungry and recommended an all-purpose dry organic fertilizer. I've been feeding the trees and still get the variegated leaves which in the past year have developed black spots and fallen off, Can tell me what to do to help my tree? Each spring the leaves come out looking like the tree we had in my childhood backyard in Memphis, TN.

    It's possible that your catalpa is being affected by a fungus and the continued use of 10-10-10 fertilizer will help the tree fight the effects of any disease. The page at https://plantdiseasehandbook.tamu.edu/landscaping/... gives more insight into diseases that catalpas are susceptible to.

    For what's causing the damage to your tree's leaves, you may want to inquire about fungicides that are suited for treating your catalpa tree (if needed).

  • I have one growing right next to my house, it has grown fast and is about 20 feet tall now. I fear it's too close to the house. Any advice on how to move it if the roots are deep?

    Unless you have a lot of experience with moving large trees, and the correct equipment, it's not something that should be attempted. It would be best to contact a professional company to inspect the tree and move it if needed. An idea of what goes into the process of moving a large tree can be read at https://www.deeproot.com/blog/blog-entries/the-rea...

  • I have a two-year-old tulip poplar that I transplanted this past summer. Unfortunately, a deer bit the top 3 inches off of it. Will it still be ok, or should I start with a new tree?

    It should be fine just as long as the tree still has some branches and its height is still well above the ground.

    If you haven't, you can also build a protective cage around the tree to prevent deer from causing more damage to the tree. A good video with instructions on building one is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHK735aa66s.

  • I live in Atlanta, and my Tulip Poplar is losing leaves already. Is this normal?

    Sometimes a little bit of leaf loss is normal. Mainly because of stress due to possible drought conditions and the recent heat.

    There are some tips for caring for your tulip poplar during these hot days of summer at https://www.houzz.com/discussions/1675952/tulip-po...

© 2017 Ron Noble


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    • Zeph1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Noble 

      10 months ago

      In autumn, after the leaves have already fallen off the tree, is the best time. Here's a useful guide on pruning your tulip poplar: https://www.hawkslandscape.com/tulip-tree-pruning-...

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      we have tulip tree planted from a sapling 2 years ago in southern Ontario, Canada. it is growing quite aggressively. Looks like a 4' tall bush. Should some of the leaves be trimmed off and if so, when is the best time?

    • Zeph1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Noble 

      13 months ago

      Yes, it is possible to pollard a tulip poplar. The article at https://www.thespruce.com/pollarding-trees-what-it... covers the subject.

    • profile image

      Amy Bond 

      13 months ago

      I have a tulip popular growing close to my house can i trim it and keep it small around 15 feet?


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