There’s something magical about standing in the shade of a majestic tree and having to lean your head completely back and squint to see the top. I’m still awed by trees that stretch nearly 100 feet into the sky. In today’s market, many plants are being touted as perfect for small spaces. But the tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) needs a large swath of land to live up to its potential.

This grand hardwood grows from 60 feet up to 90 feet high in the landscape, although they have been known to grow up to 150 feet high in a forest setting. As it ages, the tuliptree bark changes from smooth to deeply furrowed. It features a pyramidal crown which becomes more conical with age.

The four-lobed, bright green leaves measure up to 8 inches across. Fall color ranges from gold to orange to copper.

Photo by Jean-Pol Grandmont

In the spring, it bears cup-shaped yellow flowers with an orange band at the base of each petal. The flowers are lovely, but not necessarily conspicuous, sometimes partially hidden behind the leaves. The flowers are followed by cone-shaped brown fruits with winged seeds.

Why grow Liriodendron tulipifera?

  • It’s a fast-growing tree, and its large size creates a commanding presence in the landscape.
  • The flowers are a nice touch in spring.
  • It’s a source of wildlife food.