poplar trees

Growing Poplar Trees: Care And Information

Poplar trees are popular among homeowners because of their large stature, numerous varieties, and quick growth. Trees in general are known to increase the value of a property, and the rapid growth of poplar trees give homeowners the opportunity for a quick return on their investment. These trees are solid and easy to grow. In this article, we’ll be talking about how to properly care for a poplar tree.

Growing Poplar Trees

Growing poplar trees is overall pretty easy, but they do require some specific care. Knowing the facts about these trees will help you select the right tree and the right spot to plant it. Let’s dig right in!

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  • Latin name: Populus
  • Other names: Cottonwoods, Aspens, Balsam Poplars
  • Native to: North America, Europe
  • Invasiveness: Somewhat
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water: Best in water rich areas
  • Soil: Sandy, light clay, loam, and humus soils are acceptable
  • Hardiness zone: 4-9
  • When to plant: Spring or Fall
  • Spacing: 4-6 feet apart
  • Plant height: 50-165 feet
  • Bloom period: April to June
  • Fall Foliage: Yellow, orange
  • Time to maturity: 11 years
  • Container friendly: No
  • Fertilizer: 10-10-10
  • Toxicity: Not considered toxic
  • Deer resistant: Usually
  • Pest resistant: No

The term ‘poplar’ encompasses 35 different species of trees, including cottonwoods and aspens. These trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere, but not every type of poplar is native to the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere, so research your variety and plant with care. Poplar trees are considered somewhat invasive, as many of them grow quickly and are able to sprout new trees from its root system.

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These trees require full sun but can do okay in partial shade. They are thirsty plants, often doing best in wetter environments near lakes and rivers, but you can simulate that environment with frequent watering, especially while the trees are young. They are not picky about their soil and can be planted in growing zones 4-9, with some variation between poplar types. A simple 10-10-10 fertilizer can be administered to a young tree three to four times between April and July.

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Poplars are a good wind break tree and can be planted in rows just 4 feet apart. If planting multiple rows, set each row apart by 6 feet. Poplar trees cannot be easily grown in containers due to their size. Depending on the type of poplar tree you’ve planted, it can grow to between 50 and 165 feet.

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The age at which a poplar tree is full grown varies from variety to variety, but in general, they should mature within 10-20 years. Poplar trees are not considered to be toxic but produce nothing edible to humans, cats, or dogs. They are usually ignored by deer and have an unfortunate weakness to pests that may cause problems down the road.

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Water

Poplar trees can be commonly seen growing around sources of water, like lakes, rivers, streams and creeks. They are thirsty trees, but even if you live in a somewhat dry area, a little bit of extra watering will go a long way, especially while the tree is young. Water liberally for the first few years of life.

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Sunlight

When it comes to sunlight, poplar trees can be a little bit tricky and picky. Some varieties can do okay when planted in partial shade, but for the most part, these trees want full sun – at least 6 hours of direct sun every single day. If you have shade,

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Soil

This tree isn’t picky when it comes to soil. It’s much more picky about water and sunlight needs. You can plant a poplar tree in a wide variety of soils, including sandy, loamy, light clay, and humus soils.

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Fertilizing

Poplar trees can benefit from being provided a simple 10-10-10 fertilizer three to four times between the months of April and July, especially while the tree is young. An adult tree likely won’t need any additional fertilizer, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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Invasiveness

Some varieties of poplar trees can be mildly invasive due to their rapid growth and reproduction, so research the varieties that are native and suitable for your area. Some poplar trees are able to send up new trees through its root system, creating groves of the tree. Pando, the world’s heaviest organism, is a Populus tremuloides, or quaking aspen, that is actually a clonal colony of one male tree. It occupies a space of 108 acres and is believed to have one massive underground root system.

If you plant a single quaking aspen, you won’t likely wind up with a Pando on your hands, but it does demonstrate clearly how one poplar tree can become many if you aren’t careful.

Growing Poplar Trees in containers

Poplar trees are simply not suitable for long-term growth in a container. You can of course try, but the roots will be exposed to damage from cold winter weather, and the sheer size of the tree will eventually render the pot an unstable medium in which to grow it. It is advised that you not attempt to grow this tree in a container, but instead find a suitable location in the ground to grow it.

Common problems

Poplar trees are usually ignored by deer, so we can consider this tree deer resistant. Unfortunately, they are prone to a number of pests and diseases. They can fall victim to different cankers, blights, and the fungus rust. Poplar canker disease is the most common disease affecting poplar trees.

Propagating Poplar Trees

Poplar trees can be reproduced easy via cuttings. Select a one-year-old step and take a cutting that includes 8 to 10 segments. A segment is clearly indicated by a node which either currently or formerly hosted a leaf. Poplars produce their own rooting hormone, so a well selected series of branches should eventually begin to grow roots and can be replanted during the following spring or fall.

Uses for Poplar Trees

Commercially, poplar trees are popular for manufacturing paper or hardwood products, like pallets and plywood. For the hobby grower, poplar trees are most often selected for their rapid growth, windbreaking, and shade. Individuals with a larger property may choose to grow the fastest growing varieties of this tree for firewood purposes, as a poplar can be cut down for firewood between 7 and 10 years after planting.

History of Poplar Trees

Poplar trees have a storied history, particularly in Europe. Their Latin name, Populus, was given because the trees were frequently planted around ancient Roman meeting places. In Ancient Greco-Roman mythology, poplar trees were associated with a peaceful afterlife and were commonly planted to remember loved ones who have passed away. This tradition can still be celebrated today.

In Greek mythology, it is said that a White Poplar was consecrated to Herculues after his defeat of Cacus. Hercules is said to have crowned himself with branches of a White Poplar tree to commemorate his victory.

To ancient Celts, the poplar tree was associated with vision, transformation, and victory. Alternatively, it signified conquest, endurance, and unflappability.

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Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an environmental advocate currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys experiencing the outdoors, raising chickens and ducks, and reading about current environmental issues. Despite slight colorblindness, his favorite color is green.
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