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Cottonwood Planting Tips

By Sarah Morse ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cottonwoods can grow more than 100 feet tall.
wintersaat image by Michael Stüning from Fotolia.com

The term "cottonwood" refers to a number of closely related trees found in the United States. The name comes from the seeds that the trees release, which are encased with a white material that looks like tufts of cotton. Cottonwoods grow very tall very quickly when provided with the right conditions.


Propagation of the cottonwood can occur through planting seeds or rooting cuttings. Viable seeds come from the fertilization of a tree from a tree of the opposite sex. Cuttings can come either from young shoots or roots. You must root both seeds and cuttings indoors in cooler regions, attending to them until they are strong and large enough to plant outdoors.

Site Selection

The cottonwood is hardy to USDA Zone 2, which means it can survive in almost any climate in the United States. It needs full sun and well-drained loamy or sandy soil. The tree does best in soils with a pH between 4.5 and 8.0. To provide the tree with sufficient moisture, plant it in moist but not flooded soils.


Planting in the early spring right after the danger of frost passes provides the best opportunity for the cottonwood to take root. Cultivate the soil before planting, clearing it of competing plants and weeds. Dig a hole and plant the tree so that the top of the root ball is even with soil level.

General Care

Caring for the cottonwood once planted takes little time. The tree requires sufficient water, especially before it establishes itself in the soil. Keep the soil around the tree moist, but not soaked. Cottonwoods need no fertilization to thrive. The excess nutrients only encourage sucker growth, which is more susceptible to disease.


About the Author


Sarah Morse has been a writer since 2009, covering environmental topics, gardening and technology. She holds a bachelor's degree in English language and literature, a master's degree in English and a master's degree in information science.