How to Grow Poplar Trees


Poplar trees (populus) are common throughout the United States because of their fast-growing ability and hardy survival among most USDA zones. Growing in hardiness zones 2 to 10, Poplar trees offer a shelter belt to roadways and shade trees and barriers to yards. This tree requires plenty of room to spread, growing to more than 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The root systems can damage foundations and drainage systems, so planting is recommended at least 25 feet from buildings. Spring planting is optimal, with preparations beginning in the fall.

How to Grow Poplar Trees

Step 1

Prepare the soil for planting. Spray the site with a broad-spectrum contact herbicide in late summer or early fall to remove vegetation and weeds from the area. Rototill or plow the area once the herbicide has been effective in killing the excess vegetation.

Step 2

Apply 1 inch of lime to the soil using a walk behind spreader. Fill the spreader with lime and open the controls to half-open. Walk in paths across the site to spread the lime evenly. Rototill the lime into the soil. If planting an existing young tree, proceed to Step 4; otherwise proceed to Step 3.

Step 3

Plant trees in the spring, following the site preparations of the fall. Dig a hole 10 inches deep for root cuttings. Place the root cutting into the hole, with the buds facing up, and cover with soil. Firm the soil around the small branch emerging from the soil. Allow only 1 inch of the cutting to remain above the soil. Plant additional trees 20 feet apart. Continue to Step 5.

Step 4

Submerge the root ball in water for two days before a spring planting. Dig a hole 18 inches deep to accommodate the root system of the young tree. Place the root ball into the hole and cover with soil, firming the soil around the trunk of the tree. Plant additional trees 20 feet apart.

Step 5

Water the area well. Cover the entire area in mulch to prevent weeds from developing. Monitor the site carefully for weeds until the trees reach 2 years of age. Discontinue weed-control products at this time. The trees can maintain themselves at this age. Continue to monitor the tree for insect problems and treat accordingly.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear a dust mask when spreading lime.

Things You'll Need

  • Weed control
  • Rototiller
  • Pointed shovel
  • Measuring tape
  • Water
  • Mulch


  • Michigan State University: Grow Your Own Firewood
  • Sustainable Farming Fund: Growing Poplar and Willow Trees on Farms
  • North Dakota State University: Poplars
Keywords: poplar tree, yellow tree, populus tree