How to Grow Tulip Poplar Trees From Cuttings

Updated on April 30, 2020
Cynthia Hoover profile image

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

This article will break down the process of growing a tulip poplar tree from cuttings.
This article will break down the process of growing a tulip poplar tree from cuttings. | Source

Have you ever wondered how to grow a tree? Where do you start? Is it hard to have a successful rooting growing a tree from cuttings? Could you grow a tree from a cutting? The answer is yes. There are so many questions people ask themselves when growing any plant for the first time, trees included. I always research and must admit that I did not find a lot of straightforward easy-to-follow information on the subject. I like simple instructions and 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. They are a fast-growing tree and provide needed shade in a shorter time than other trees. They are also a flowering tree and get pretty "tulips" on them.

We have one very large tulip poplar growing now. So it this was an easy task for me to take cuttings and get those started. Since I was doing this DIY tree starting, I figured it would be a good idea to share my experience. It is simple, easy, and even a kid could do it. Regardless of the reasons why you landed here wanting to know how to grow tulip poplars from cuttings, this is the article for you.

Gathering Cuttings for Growing

Do you find yourself wondering what a cutting is? 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 fire wood here—put away the chainsaws and axes.

Tools Needed

  • Pruning Shears

The most important part here is that you want each cutting to have 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.

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.

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.

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What to Do With Your Tree Cuttings

I bet you are asking yourself: "Now what? What do I do with all these little sticks now?" The answer is actually the easiest step ever. You put them in water. That's right, easy as pie: just add them in water. About 3 inches of water will do, so just eyeball it and ensure nodes are under water.

To be somewhat more detailed, you want a clear container—I use glass canning jars. If you have a leftover clear vase from last years Mother's Day flowers or similar, 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.

The next step is no more exciting than the previous. Sit 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.


Don't Add Anything But Water

Now let's touch on something important, a little disclaimer if you will. Do not add anything to your trees. When I said 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 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.

How to Plant Your Cuttings

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

The Don'ts

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

The Dos

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

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.

Digging 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 a 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.

Trimming 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 lengthy 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.

Are you excited to take cuttings of your favorite trees to grow?

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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


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    • profile image

      Elizabeth O 

      25 hours ago

      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

    • profile image


      27 hours ago

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

      Louise x

    • profile image


      37 hours ago

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

    • profile image


      40 hours ago

      This was intresting to learn. Did not know that.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Hoover 

      2 days ago from Newton, West Virginia

      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.

    • profile image

      Ramil Hinolan 

      2 days ago

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

    • profile image


      3 days ago

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


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