If you’re looking for a fast-growing, disease resistant tree, consider growing tulip trees. Not only do they provide a beautiful green shade canopy, they also produce some beautiful, tulip-shaped blooms in the springtime.
Tulip Trees as Specimens
The tulip tree has been favored as a specimen tree by parks and zoos for decades. It grows quickly and while young, has a pyramid shape. In the fall, the leaves turn a yellow color, which adds interest when other trees have already lost their leaves.
In the springtime, the tree will bloom, seemingly all at once. The tulip-shaped flowers range in color from a pale pink to pastel yellow. This is when the tree most resembles a magnolia, which is its relative.
The Liriodendron tulipfera is best known as the “tulip tree.” However, it is also known by a variety of other names including canoewood, whitewood, tulip magnolia and yellow poplar.
While the tulip tree is often referred to as tulip poplar, it isn’t a true poplar. It is related instead to the magnolia tree. A related species is the Lirodendron chinense—a small, Chinese variety. A few of the widely known cultivars are as follows:
- L. tulipifera Aureomarginatum
- L. tulipifera Fastigiatum
- L. tulipifera Glen Gold
- L. tulipifera Mediopictum
There are other cultivars, including many hybrids. Check your local nursery or gardening center for the latest varieties available.
Diseases and Pests
The tulip tree is resistant to most diseases. It has few pests, except for aphids, Tiger Swallow Tail butterfly larvae, tulip tree scale, Columbian timber beetle, rootcollar borer and the yellow poplar weevil.
It is susceptible to several forms of fungi, canker and root rot diseases. These diseases are often due to humid conditions and drought, which do not usually occur in the forests of eastern North America.
Where to Grow Tulip Trees
The tulip tree can be planted with success in USDA hardiness zones 4-9. The tulip tree favors slightly acidic soil that is coarse to medium and slightly moist. If you have a stand of pine trees, the tulip tree could be planted nearby because of the acid soil.
The tree needs full sun to grow, and will quickly eclipse smaller trees planted nearby. For this reason, plant them 10-15 feet away from other trees. It can grow in any area, from hillsides to flat areas due to its wide-spreading root system.
Because of this, it is not advisable to plant it near a pool, home or septic system. In addition, it is not advisable to plant it near streets because it is not resistant to pollutants and limbs frequently break when covered in ice.
Height and Lifespan
The tulip tree species Liriodendron tulipfera can grow to incredible heights, often in excess of 150 feet tall. Tulip trees are a very long-lived tree, often spanning two or more centuries. Thomas Jefferson grew one such tulip tree at Monticello, which finally succumbed to a root rot disease in 2008.
Tulip Tree Uses
Aside from being a landscape tree for those with very large backyards or for the small farmer, the trees are grown for their lumber. The wood is used in a variety of applications, usually where it won’t come into contact with water, as it is susceptible to fungus and rot. The wood is also valued for use as veneer.
The trees need to be harvested every 10-12 years, depending on consistent growing conditions. Thinning may be needed after a stand of trees is established. It is difficult, if not impossible, to burn down the trees to clear them, as their bark is very resistant to fire after the trees are approximately 3 years of age.
Gardening Tools to Help You Plant Tulip Bulbs with Ease
Planting tulip bulbs, or any small bulb for that matter, does not need to be a hard, backbreaking job. All you need is a few simple tools that will make planting your garden bulbs easy as pie.
A trowel is a small hand-held shovel that is beneficial for planting tulip bulbs in small areas. Since you will probably be on your hands and knees a lot, a trowel will be easier and more efficient for this size of flower bed. You need a trowel that can dig to about six inches.
Garden Fork or Spade
A garden fork or a spade will come in handy for tilling the soil, so to speak. You can use these types of tools on small to medium flower beds with ease.
Dig up the soil to about 6 inches deep and that should give you plenty of depth to plant your tulip bulbs. Once the soil is loosened, someone can follow behind you with a tool called dibber.
The Dibber might be one of the best tools EVER for a bulb gardener to own. Most Dibbers have a T-shaped handle that has a pointed end, which pokes holes into the ground so bulbs can be inserted without much effort on your part.
To plant your tulip bulbs using a dibber, you insert the pointed end into the tilled soil, twist back a forth to make a nice hole, and remove the tool from the soil. What you now have is a hole the perfect size and shape in which to insert your bulb, pointed side up. Cover the hole with soil and you are done. How nice, right?
Planting tulip bulbs or small bulbs of any kind will be a snap if you have the right tools. If you can only get one tool, I say go for the dibber.
Your tulip garden will look like it took major work, when in fact, using a trowel, spade, garden fork and the dibber, made your planting job practically effortless or at least more enjoyable.
Storing Tulip Bulbs for Winter
Bulb growing season is over and it is time to store your delicate bulbs for the winter. Storing tulip bulbs, or any bulbs for that matter is not all that hard, but it must be done a certain way so that you have healthy bulbs come spring time. Here are a few tips on storing your flower bulbs for the winter.
Preparing The Bulbs For Storage
One thing to remember when caring for and storing delicate bulbs is that there should not be any moisture on them because it causes rot. I cannot stress enough that when you remove them from the ground, gently brush off the dirt. Never use water.
You may not have a completely moisture-free bulb when you dig it up, but adding any extra liquid is asking for disaster, so take care to gentle brush off the remaining dirt before storing.
When you store bulbs, you must place them in a container that can breathe. If you have bulbs that are in plastic that you haven’t planted yet, you should remove the plastic wrapping before storing.
Once you have your bulbs brushed clean or you have removed new bulbs from their packaging, it is time to store them. There is nothing fancy about storing bulbs. You can use a cardboard box which works really well.
Place one layer of bulbs in the bottom of the cardboard box. It is very important that the bulbs are spaced far enough apart so they cannot touch each other, they need breathing room.
Place newspaper over the first layer and then add another layer of bulbs. I would leave the last top layer covered in newspaper as well. You can leave the box open or you can close it up.
Where To Store Them
You should store your bulbs in a cool dry place. Remember, moisture is a no-no when it comes to storing your bulbs. You can put them in your basement if it is not damp, or you can just put them on the top shelf of a closet in your house. Check on the bulbs at least once a month and remove any bulb that is rotting or feels mushy.
Spring Blooming Bulbs
You can store spring blooming bulbs in the garage if you have the room. You can also store them in your refrigerator.
Bulbs that bloom in the spring, and tulip bulbs are one of those, they need 6 to 8 weeks of cold in order for them to bloom. If you keep them in your fridge, they will be ready to go come spring planting time.