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How to Transplant a Tulip Tree

The tulip tree is a genus in the magnolia family of trees. It is commonly known as tulip poplar or canoe poplar, owing to its tall straight trunk and lightweight timber. At maturity, tulip trees can reach over 100 feet tall with 80-foot spread. Though famous for its lumber, the tree is actually named for its summer flowers which resemble pale yellow tulips with a lower horizontal stripe of orange at the throat. Tulip trees thrive in full sun and moist, nutrient-rich, lightly acidic soil that is deep enough to support the large tree's roots over a long life.

Water your tulip tree deeply several days before transplanting to ensure that the roots do not dry out and stress on the tree is reduced.

Select a planting location that has a full sun exposure, rich soil and plenty of room to accommodate the tulip tree at maturity, allowing 80 feet of distance from buildings, utility poles and wires.

Carefully excavate around the root ball of your tulip tree, being careful not to nick the shallow and soft spongy roots. What you use to excavate depends on the size of your tulip tree: A shovel is sufficient for smaller trees, while larger trees may require heavy-duty equipment such as a backhoe. Begin digging out at the drip line of the tree. For very large mature tulip trees, this may be 8 feet or more from the trunk. Dig down and under the tree to free the root ball.

Prepare a planting hole twice the width of the excavated root ball and at least as deep. Amend the soil with multiple pounds of aged manure and compost to enrich the soil.

Set the tulip tree down in the hole and adjust the tree so that its most pleasing aspect is turned to the angle most commonly viewed. Back fill the amended soil around the roots, filling up halfway and then tamping the soil gently before filling the rest of the soil in.

Create a watering moat out of the excess soil out at the drip line. Flood the moat with water and allow all of the water to percolate down into the soil before filling the moat a second time. Water deeply once a week until the tree is established and throwing new growth.

Mulch around the base of the tulip tree with a 2-inch thick layer of shredded bark, leaf mold or cocoa bean hulls to held moisture to the soil and insulate the roots.

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