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How to Plant a Tulip Tree

By Barbara Raskauskas ; Updated September 21, 2017

Indiana claims the tulip tree (liriodendron tulipifera) as their state tree. Capable of reaching heights in excess of 100 feet, each spring the majestic tulip tree produces three inch tall yellow-green tulip-shaped blooms. The tulip tree, a member of the magnolia family, has large leaves that turn yellow and drop in early fall. The tree produces small, cone-shaped seed pods. Combining its width potential of up to 50 feet with its height potential, the tulip tree will make an excellent shade tree in your landscape. The tulip tree is also known as tulip magnolia, tulip poplar and yellow poplar.

Choose a sunny, well-drained location. The location should be at least 30 feet from any structure to avoid branches of the mature tree hanging over the structure where broken branches or falling leaves could cause damage. Have the area checked for underground utilities, like power or cable lines.

Measure the height of rootball from the base to the widest portion; and measure the maximum width of the rootball. Use a tape measure or the handle of the shovel to gauge the width.

Dig the hole one and a half times as deep as the height measurement and twice as wide as the width measurement to loosen the soil. Back fill the hole so the highest part of the side of rootball will end up at ground level. There may be a raised portion of the rootball around the trunk area; that part should end up above ground.

Place the tulip tree in the hole by carrying or rolling the rootball. Avoid picking the tree up by the trunk because the weight of the rootball could damage it. Turn the rootball so the favored portion of the tree is facing outward. Also ensure that the tree is upright by looking at it from all sides.

Return enough dirt to the hole to fill it halfway. If the tree was in a burlap wrap, pull the burlap down the sides. Water around the rootball, which will force out air pockets as it provides moisture to the base of the tulip tree.

Complete backfilling the hole. Water slowly and thoroughly. Unless there is a saturating rainfall, water the newly planted tulip tree about every 10 days from spring to fall.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch if desired.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Tape measure
  • Mulch (optional)

About the Author


Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.