How to Propagate a Tulip Poplar


Tulip poplars are graceful, stately trees that can grow to majestic heights of 150 feet. Bright orange-yellow flowers that resemble tulips bloom high on the tree, and the distinctive waxy leaves turn bright gold in autumn. To propagate a tulip poplar, take hardwood cuttings from a healthy tree in late fall or winter, when the tree will be in its dormant stage. Cuttings taken early in the day will be healthy and well-hydrated.

Step 1

Clean pruning shears by wiping them with rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part water combined with nine parts household bleach.

Step 2

Use the pruning shears to cut a long, upright stem from the middle of the tulip poplar, or from a stem that is near the ground. Avoid stems that are higher on the tree. The cutting should be at least the diameter of a pencil, but no bigger than your little finger.

Step 3

Divide the long stem into shorter pieces, each with a minimum of three to four leaf nodes. A leaf node is where a bud of leaf is about to emerge from the tree. In order to accomplish this, the pieces will be about 6 to 8 inches long.

Step 4

Cut the lower end of each cutting at a 45-degree angle, and leave the upper end with a straight cut. It's crucial that the cutting be planted with the lower end down, and this will remind you which end is which.

Step 5

Fill 1-gallon planting containers with one part perlite and one part peat moss that has been dampened with a spray bottle. Dip each cutting in rooting hormone and plant them, one or two cuttings to a container, with about one-third to one-half of the lower stem under the soil level. Be sure there are at least one or two leaf nodes under the soil.

Step 6

Spray the soil again, and cover the container with a piece of clear plastic. Put the cutting in a warm, light place but out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy.

Step 7

Check after a month to see if the cuttings have developed roots. This can be determined by tugging lightly on a cutting, and if it offers resistance, it has likely rooted. You can also check for roots coming through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

Step 8

Plant the cuttings outdoors when the weather warms in the spring. By this time, the cuttings will have a healthy root system.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Rubbing alcohol or household bleach
  • 1-gallon planting container
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • Spray bottle
  • Rooting hormone
  • Clear plastic


  • Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • Techniques of Tree and Shrub Propagation by Hardwood Stem Cuttings
  • Liriodendron tulipifera L.
Keywords: tulip poplar, hardwood cutting, rooting hormone

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.