The Q&A Archives: Topping Poplars

Question: I would like to top out my ten year old screening type hybrid poplar trees. We have heavy clay soil in our area and I was wondering if the trees could take it? They have reached a tall, spindley height of about 40 feet plus. We purchased the trees from your company and were happy to watch them grow so fast, but after a few years they started to develop cotton and it's been blowing around every July since. I thought they weren't supposed to do that. Any comments on this? Also I sent a previous question that was not answered to my knowledge. I need to know what type of screen planting I can plant under Black Walnut trees. Sandy Uyttenhove Blissfield, MI

Answer: If your trees are 40 feet tall, I'd call an arborist to consult about topping them. It can be done, but poplars are short lived trees and they probably are getting towards the end of their lives and ultimate height they will grow. Topping may envigorate them for awhile. Also, since they grow so fast, the topping will have to be done every few years to keep the growth in check. I'm not familiar with the cultivar of poplar you're growing, but all that I know of form the white, cottony seed masses in spring. I'm sorry we didn't answer your black walnut question. Below are some plants that can be successfully grown under black walnuts and perhaps meet your requirements: red cedar; crabapple; hawthorn; black raspberry; 'Exbury' azaleas and honeysuckle.

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