How to Trim Tulip Trees

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Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are members of the poplar family and are easy-care trees once established. Pruning is vital to the proper shape for the tree and to deal with over-hanging limbs later in the tree’s life. Pruning is otherwise unnecessary, unless your goal is to keep the tree in an unnatural shape or much smaller than its natural growth. Pruning may also be warranted if the tree has damaged, diseased or dead limbs.

Difficulty:
Moderately Easy

Instructions

Things You’ll Need
  • Hand pruners
  • Pruning saw
    1. Prune a newly planted tulip tree by removing any broken limbs or limbs growing at angles that are not correct for the tree. Shape the tulip tree in to an oblong or pyramidal form, and thin young branches so there is plenty of space between them for future growth. Remove the less dominant branch if two branches are growing tightly together.
    2. Shape a newly established tree in its second year by removing major scaffold branches that are fewer than 18 inches apart. Leave the central leader untouched. Continue shaping the tree as outlined in Step 1. If you prune with a heavy hand early in the tree’s life, it will give little trouble as it matures. Remove any branches that have the potential to be low or that are growing far below the other branches.
    3. Pruning an adult tulip tree requires a careful touch. Prune in the winter to avoid destroying developing flowers. Prune dead wood, diseased branches, and any branches that hang too low. Shaping is no longer necessary, but the lowest branches should be high enough not to interfere with traffic or structures, or injure people who may walk under the tree.

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