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.
Clean pruning shears by wiping them with rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part water combined with nine parts household bleach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plant the cuttings outdoors when the weather warms in the spring. By this time, the cuttings will have a healthy root system.