The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens

Tulip Tree in August


(Okay, so I missed July but it was much the same.) For those of you who do not regularly follow my blog, I am following a tree with Loose and Leafy. My tree is a young Tulip Tree who this year, after three winters, began to wilt. I asked the advice of my cooperative extension and we came to the conclusion that the tree may have been planted too deeply, not suffering from verticillium wilt. (It came to me as a very young sapling – twig, really – swaddled in Myrtle so it is possible it was planted too deeply.) So, I dug around the base of the Tulip Tree and removed some of the Myrtle. What I found was a twisted trunk – as if the tree tried to grow out from underneath the Myrtle, and a lot of suckering at its base. I followed some of this “twisting” to make sure I wasn’t dealing with a girdling root and I think not. So, I removed the suckers, let the bare soil breathe for a few days around the tree, and then mulched. The tree proceeded to lose its upper leaves and now looks like this …


The original leader seems to have died along with the two main side branches, but all still seems flexible so I’m hesitant to cut it back. It could be this tree suffered cold damage like many of my other shrubs and died back? Only the leader and side branches did leaf out in the spring, unlike my other shrubs whose branches remained bare.

The Tulip Tree is growing from the base again and this time I am letting it go as the original stems are not in leaf. I suppose it is possible it will grow a new leader? I think it is young enough to grow this way and still remain structurally sound so I am leaving it alone to do its thing. If the original leader becomes brittle I will cut it back as far as I can. The new growth looks healthy.


Those big leaves, gorgeous.


What do you tree followers think? Cut my losses, plant something new? Tulip Trees grow extremely tall so structure is important.

Hang in there with the Tulip Tree? Wait another year? I’m listening and value your opinions.

Author: Kathy Sturr

Artist, master gardener, plant-based chef. Florida's Nature Coast / Indian River Lakes, NY

11 thoughts on “Tulip Tree in August

  1. I’ve no advice to offer I’m afraid. I just want to wish your tree well!

  2. Kathy, I am not answering your question from a scientific/arborist point of view, but from a very sentimental naturalist point of view. I vote for giving your little one a chance. If it ends up that is it *not* tall and straight, it may end up with extra charm. But what do it know! Best of luck.

  3. Come on, poor little tree, give it a chance. It’ s doing its best.

  4. I am thinking give it until this time next year. If it does come back great, if it does not then plant another…I love those leaves. I lost 4 small trees…fringe tree, 2 eastern redbuds and a serviceberry. I would like to replace the serviceberry.

    • Good plan Donna! Seems you’ve had a hard time with trees. Bummer.

      I’d love to get a serviceberry for my yard. They grow wild in the woods here. I’d like to have one that I can see and watch all the time.

    • Oh Donna, that’s heartbreaking! My Serviceberry seems to struggle (as well as the ones planted in TI Park), but I think they just take awhile to dig in. I would love a Redbud! (But out of room.) I think I will wait until next year. I’ll see if the leader buds out again and if not I’ll see how it does if I cut the old leader way back. Patience … the garden also teaches us patience, eh?

  5. The light coming through the leaf makes one’s heart jolt. As for whether to leave it . . . Tulip trees take a lot of space and are beautiful too. If, after time, it seems to be growing distorted, maybe it’s better to give up early and try again rather than wait till it’s big and ugly before it has to go. Good luck little tree!

  6. Don’t give up..hang in there…:-) It sure is a pretty little tree:-)

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