The Q&A Archives: Poplar Trees

Question: My last question...I promise but you are the first online person I have found to talk to...I am planting a poplar because I was told it is fast growing and I want shade soon. (NOTHING in my backyard). Are there any special instructions I need to plant this tree? Is now ok to plant?<br>

Answer: Now is an OK time to plant, really you can plant a tree anytime as long as the ground is not frozen. I generally plant in the spring and fall because in my area they have time to establish themselves before a lot of heat or cold. You are in USDA zone 9, so you really don't need to worry about a lot of cold. A few temperature points to keep in mind...don't plant on days that are really windy or hot. Both of these conditions are detrimental to tender roots. The less time your new tree is exposed to the air the better. You mention you are planting a poplar, is it a Lombardy? You mention you want shade soon, and you'll get it, but if it is a Lombardy are you aware of just how tall these trees get? Around 50 feet. These trees are subject to limb breakage during winds so be aware of that also. Since it is going to get so tall and, because of the limbs breaking easily I would not plant it near my home if I were you. Now, tree planting 101. The hole for the tree should be dug larger than the spread and depth of the roots (I have always been told to dig a $20.00 hole for a $10.00 tree). Take the dirt you remove from the hole and work organic matter into it (compost, leaf mould, composted cow manure) and set it aside. If your tree is in acontainer, gently remove it by wiggling, never pull it out by the trunk. You may need to cut the nursery pot off. After removing take your fingers and loosen the roots a bit, don't worry, you won't hurt the tree. If the tree is balled and burlapped (B&B), simply remove the twine and the burlap. Some gardeners leave it on, I don't like to. Shovel at least 4" of the modified soil back into the hole, place the tree on that soil so it is setting at the same depth it was in its former location. Spread roots out over the mound of soil, backfill using the modified soil until the hole is 2/3 full. Gently tamp down soil around roots with your hands. Add water, quite a bit, this is to eliminate any air pockets that can damage the roots. Complete filling the hole with the modified soil to insure thorough contact with roots, pat gently with your hands. Do not mound soil at the base of the tree. Create a small trench around the diameter of the tree, water again, filling in that trench with water. It is a good idea to mulch (something like cypress mulch) around the base of the plant, a layer about 3-4" thick. Once again, do not mound the mulch up at the base of the tree (you probably see a lot of newly planted trees with little "volcanoes" of mulch at the base, this is incorrect and damaging to the tree). Mulching helps the soil to hold moisture, keeps the roots cooler, and keeps grass and weeds away from your tree. It also protects against people getting to close with weedeaters or lawn mowers. You may ask what about staking? I don't do it. I have never done it, I was trained not to do it. If you feel more comfortable staking your trees and aren't sure how to do it, feel free to post another question via the website and I would be happy to tell you. Your tree will grow best if thoroughly watered at least once a weak during the first 2 growing seasons. Insufficient watering is a major cause of new plantings failing.

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