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How to Grow Tulip Poplar Trees From Cuttings

Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. She has a green thumb and always plants a variety of items for harvesting during gardening season.

This article breaks down the process of growing a tulip poplar tree from cuttings.

This article breaks down the process of growing a tulip poplar tree from cuttings.

Can You Grow a Tree From a Cutting?

Have you ever wondered how to grow a tree? Where do you start? Is it hard to have a successfully rooted tree growing from cuttings? Can you grow a tree from a cutting? The answer is yes.

There are so many questions when growing any plant for the first time, trees are no different. Despite thorough research, I must admit that I did not find a lot of straightforward easy-to-follow information on the subject. I like simple instructions and straightforward information with do-it-yourself guides.

My family loves growing plants of all kinds. You name it, we have tried to grow it. For the most part, I inspire plants to grow. Some plants seem effortless, while others are labor-intensive.

I wanted to add shade to our house. The house sits in a large clearing and in full sun all day. This old house has no central air, so over the years, we add plants around it to help keep it cooler. This year, I am planning on adding more tulip poplar trees. The tulip poplar is a fast-growing tree and provides needed shade in a shorter time than other trees. They are also flowering trees and get pretty "tulips" on them.

We already have one very large tulip poplar growing now. So it was an easy task for me to take cuttings from it to get started. I figured it would be a good idea to share my experience with DIY tree-starting. It is simple and easy—even a kid could do it.

Regardless of your reason for wanting to know how to grow tulip poplars from cuttings, this is the article for you.

4 Simple Steps for Growing a Tree From Cuttings

  1. Gather cuttings.
  2. Put cuttings in water.
  3. Allow cuttings to root.
  4. Plant rooted cuttings.
Pruning shears are the only tool needed to start a tree from cuttings.

Pruning shears are the only tool needed to start a tree from cuttings.

1. Gathering Cuttings for Growing

What is a cutting? It is exactly as it sounds like—a cutting from an existing tree.

Taking a cutting is an easy task. No, you are not chopping firewood here—please put away the chainsaws and axes.

Tools Needed

  • Pruning Shears

Choose your intended target (the tree you want to duplicate) and cut a small limb. You only need a small pair of pruning shears. In this case, I wanted to take cuttings from our tulip poplar tree.

The most important thing is to ensure each cutting has two nodes. Nodes are spots where leaves or branches can form later if left to grow. Without nodes, you may likely not motivate anything to happen in the later steps of growing your tulip poplar.

Don't take a large limb though. You only need a small limb not more than about an inch in diameter. If it is longer and you intend to propagate more than one, you can cut it down into 4–6 inch sections. Remember, each section still should have two nodes if you are cutting a larger limb into usable portions.

Remember to make sure your cutting has at least two nodes.

Remember to make sure your cutting has at least two nodes.

2. Put Cuttings in Water

Now what? Put them in water. That's right, it's that simple—just add water. About three inches of water will do, so just eyeball it and ensure nodes are underwater.

Can You Root a Tulip Poplar Tree?

To be somewhat more detailed, use a clear container—I use glass canning jars. If you have a leftover clear vase from last year's Mother's Day flowers, that will work as well. This allows for the much-needed light they will soak up. This also lets me watch out for root development and how the water looks. It is not necessary to change the water out. The only time you would change the water out is if you see it is murky at all.

Place cuttings in clear jars with three inches of water.

Place cuttings in clear jars with three inches of water.

Don't Add Anything Other Than Water

Now let's touch on something important, a little disclaimer if you will. Do not add anything to your trees. When I said to add water, I mean only water. Do not use a rooting compound, and do not use any plant foods or growth boosters. Leave it alone and don't even change the water unless it looks murky or you cannot see through it.

These tree cuttings—or sprouting sticks as we call them at home—are delicate. I mean, we did just rob the parent tree of a limb after all. So as much as you would not want to add salt to a wound, do not add any unneeded chemicals to the jars. Doing so can shock the cuttings, and the results could be less than desirable.

Nature is amazing, and all it takes is water. I do have well water, and it works great. If you have city water, you can fill a container with water 24 hours prior to using it and let it sit. This allows chlorine and fluoride to dissipate, though it is not necessary. Assuming you made sure to get cuttings with nodes, you should have no issues getting these sticks to sprout.

Do not add any unneeded chemicals to the jars. Doing so can shock the cuttings, and the results could be less than desirable. Water is all you need.

3. Allow Cuttings to Root

The next step is no more exciting than the previous. Set your cuttings in a window or somewhere that they will get a touch of sunshine. Look at you now! On your way to growing your own special trees!

I could drudge on with all the different factors on what can impact the waiting time. But honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if you saw roots beginning within the first few days. Mine went very fast. By day two, I was seeing little white shoots poking about. By week's end, I was taking some out to add to another jar to avoid overcrowding. Our weather took a cool turn, and I did not want to begin planting yet. We had a late-season cold front come in, so thankfully I kept the little darlings in their window for longer.

4. How to Plant Rooted Cuttings

Now that you have roots, you can do one of two things here. You can baby these tulip poplar trees by planting them in pots for the first year, or you can take them straight to the yard and plant them in the ground. Here is where the process gets somewhat more labor-intensive.

Tips for Planting

  • Loosen the soil.
  • Work in peat moss, manure, or plain potting soil.
  • Water daily.
  • Mulch if desired.

Do Not

  • Do not use Miracle-Gro or enriched soils.
  • Do not fertilize.

Using any form of Miracle-Gro or similar enriched-type potting soils will end badly. The compounds are too rich for new roots.

Have you ever heard the old adage: "Dig a $200 hole for a $20 tree." This case is no different, except we are planting cuttings. Maybe a $20 hole for a free cutting would be a more suitable phrase. Plant the proper side up too.

Dig a Hole

You need loose soil 3–4 inches deep, but not just in the area where the current roots will be. Plan ahead for them to extend. The roots will take off once planted. These roots need space.

Compacted dirt can be problematic during the early stages of rooting. Allow another 3–4 inches of circumference to the outside of the largest length of roots. If you like, you can mix in peat moss (I did) or manure and plain (no-additive) potting soil. This will allow the roots to extend through the soil as they grow.


If you are not prepared to water these daily, abort now. These need ample water for the first three to four weeks as they become established. If you are beginning in the summer heat, consider pot planting in partial sun. Summer heat can burn them up fast if they are dried out for even a minimal amount of time. So, water frequently or wait until the peak heat months have passed for your area.

Trim Long Roots or Top-Growth

If the roots and top-growth lost all control while in water, you can trim them down. If you so choose, you can trim the top growth completely. This allows the cutting to focus on building the root system. I trimmed back a few of my roots, as they had grown too long to figure out how to get them properly planted without digging a huge hole.


Mulching is helpful to hold water in for the thirsty trees, as well as shading the soil from the sun. No expensive mulches are required, however. Instead, consider yard clippings or even hay. This is not a required step, but you may find you have healthier plants when mulching.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Cynthia Hoover


Elizabeth O on July 08, 2020:

I've been gardening for many years and learned a lot from my mom who was an avid Gardener too. I enjoyed reading your post.

Elizabeth O

Louise on July 08, 2020:

I had absolutely no idea you could do this! I'll have to give it a go :)

Louise x

Joester on July 07, 2020:

And here I was, giving my seeds cold treatment in the fridge. Let's see if this alternative works.

Marta on July 07, 2020:

This was intresting to learn. Did not know that.

Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on July 06, 2020:

Yes, you can grow many trees and plants from a simple cutting using this method. Just be sure to always change the water if it gets murky at all and leave then in the sun or partial sun depending on the plants.

Ramil Hinolan on July 06, 2020:

Wow, I dont know that big trees can also be propagated using the trees' cutting. i might start making our green garden soon.

Sam on July 06, 2020:

Oh wow...thanks for sharing. I had no idea one could do this...;)