Japanese tulip trees are often confused with poplars, also commonly called tulip trees because of the shape of their flowers. The Japanese tulip tree is actually a member of the Magnolia family and is commonly called a saucer Magnolia. Its botanical name is Magnolia x soulangiana and it is sometimes referred to simply as “Soulangiana.” Japanese tulip tree Magnolias grow 15 to 25 feet tall with a nearly equal spread of its canopy. The tulip-shaped flowers vary in color from pink to pinkish-purple.
Japanese tulip trees need to grow in a site that is in full sun with good air movement. The soil should be deep, friable and well-drained. These trees grow best in soil that is on the acid side of the pH scale.
Mulch the soil beneath the canopy of your Japanese tulip tree from the trunk out to the drip line of the leaves. Use shredded pine bark or peat moss, which will help maintain the soil on the acid side of the pH scale as it breaks down. Because of their shallow root systems, do not try to maintain a lawn beneath their canopy.
Water if natural rainfall is sparse. Japanese saucer magnolia should receive at least an inch of rainfall per week. Provide this for them manually, if necessary. Place a hose about a foot away from the trunk, with the water slowly trickling out. Allow the hose to water the tree for two to three hours until the soil is saturated two to three feet below the surface. Once the tree is well-established, supplemental watering will only be necessary in times of extreme drought.
Fertilize Japanese tulip trees in spring by driving fertilizer spikes into the ground within the tree's drip line following the fertilizer manufacturer's recommended application rates.
Prune Japanese tulip trees in mid spring after the flowers have faded. Remove any dead or diseased branches, as well as any branches that are crowding or growing across another. They maintain their shape naturally and pruning to shape is not necessary usually.