There are 27 species of Populus trees found in North America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the habitats of these trees can vary widely, there are two trees that are most often referred to as simply "poplar" trees, according to North Dakota State University. This first, Populus tremuloides, is the most common species of Populus found in North America. It is often called quaking aspen. The second is the hybrid poplar tree (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra).
The habitat of Populus trees is very large. They can be found in every part of North America, including the northernmost regions of Canada and Alaska. The only place that has no Populus trees is Hawaii. P. tremuloides is found all over Canada and in most of America save the southeastern corner. Hybrid poplars are found in all continental states, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, although they will not grow in the southernmost part of Florida.
Poplar trees vary in their levels of cold-hardiness. The quaking aspen (P. tremuloides) can tolerate cold temperatures better than any other member of the Populus family. These trees will grow even in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone 1, which is defined as areas that receive winter temperatures of 50 degrees F below zero. Hybrid poplars grow in zones 3 through 9. The eastern cottonwood (P. deltoide) grows in USDA zones 2 through 9, but is not found in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon or Hawaii.
Soil and Water
All Populus trees love very moist, wet soils. They can grow in all types of soil, even sandy and clay soils, as long as the soil is kept continually moist. Poplar trees are often found growing in areas that are prone to flooding, or along lake beds. Poplar trees will start to dry in drought conditions, so if you live in a hot, dry climate, you will probably need to give the tree supplemental watering in order to keep the soil moist and the tree healthy.
Light and Space
All poplar trees are fast growing. They need plenty of space to spread out, and prefer to grow in areas that receive a full day's worth of sunlight. The roots are shallow and can uproot sidewalks, decks and driveways. They can also interfere with underground pipes, so make sure your tree has room to spread out below ground as well as above.
The immediate habitat around your poplar tree must be taken into consideration before you plant one. These trees have a tendency to be very susceptible to diseases and fatal insect infestations, according to North Dakota State University. Branches can snap off even in mild windstorms, posing a possible hazard to people and property. Poplar trees also are known to form suckers (vertical growths from shallow roots), which can destroy a lawn if not mowed down.