Among the largest of the poplar trees native to the United States is the eastern cottonwood, a species capable of growing to 100 feet high with a massive trunk. You may not have room on your acreage for this tree, but other poplar tree options are available. These include species introduced from Europe and Asia that are a more reasonable size for landscaping purposes.
Opt for such species of poplar as the column-shaped Lombardy poplar, a tree from Europe and western portions of Asia. This tree grows between 30 and 60 feet tall but is only about 10 feet in width. Consider the white poplar, which has a maximum height of about 80 feet but is significantly smaller in some of its cultivars, with many in the 50-foot range. Bolleana poplar is a cultivar that "reaches 60 to 100 feet in height with a 40- to 50-foot spread and makes a nice shade tree, although it is considered short-lived," according to the U.S. Forest Service's website.
Notice that the leaves of most native poplars have a wide base, toothed edges and taper to a point. Look at the leaves of Lombardy poplar and you will see they have a triangular shape, with some having a contour like a diamond. White poplar leaves possess lobes and have wavy edges. Lombardy poplar leaves are a bright green, while those of the white poplar are blue-green on top with silvery-white undersides.
Use a Lombardy poplar as a screen or as a wind-breaker--plant multiple trees in a series. Use white poplars as a shade tree or a specimen tree to attract attention, as their size makes them more suitable for this function. Choose a Simon poplar, which hails from China, as an ornamental. At about 40 feet, it will not overwhelm an area. Plant Eastern cottonwoods if you have a large open landscape that includes a pond or stream. Place the trees close to the water.
Transplant white poplars into spots where the trees will receive full sun. This species grows best in a setting with moist loam but it has no preference for soil acidity. White poplar tolerates salt, allowing for coastal plantings. Dig up the suckers that develop from the roots and transplant them around your home. Situate Lombardy poplars in full sun, as well, in a place with moist soil. Both trees can withstand dry weather for extended periods.
Pick the Majestic cultivar of Lombardy poplar for a hardy and fast growing tree. Select Italica if you want a Lombardy poplar that will rapidly grow to as high as 50 feet, but be aware that this species is susceptible to tree diseases, according to the University of Connecticut Plant Database website. Choose Globosa for a white poplar cultivar that often grows no larger than a shrub. Opt for Siouxland, a hybrid of Eastern cottonwood, if you have the space for a 70-foot tall poplar.