En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - October 02, 2009

From: Cincinnati, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Transplant shock in tulip tree in Cincinnati
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I planted a tulip tree sapling (3 feet tall at the time of planting) in May of this year and it sprouted! Unfortunately, I believe the top portion (nearly 2 feet) did not make it (the sapling only sprouted new growth near the bottom and the top is gray and brittle). Should I cut the top part off? If so, when (spring or fall)? Also, how close do I cut near the new growth? Thanks!


Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) is a beautiful landscape tree which can grow to 150 ft. tall and is native to the Cincinnati area, so you made a good choice. It will be a while before it gets up to that 150 ft. and what you need to be doing now is training it to be a nice straight tree. Read this article by John Ball and Aaron Kiesz from the South Dakota Forestry Publication The Basics of Tree Pruning.  The part you should be interested in is the first part on"Training Young Trees." That segment of the article goes on to mention controlling root sprouts, again, to encourage the tree to grow up straight and strong. In your case, you are saving the root sprout because the main branch has died. We suppose the roots made the decision on which part they wanted to sustain, and the sprout won. However, from now on, you must watch for, and remove quickly, any suckers that come up. You should probably cut as near to the new growth as you can without damaging the bark on the new growth. It can certainly be done now, before the trees go semi-dormant for the Winter. 


From the Image Gallery

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

More Trees Questions

Serviceberry for North Myrtle Beach, SC
February 19, 2009 - I'm looking to landscape a second home in North Myrtle Beach,SC and was wondering if the Serviceberry trees we love so much in the Buckeye State would also grow down here? Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

Canadian Marine West Coast Plants
December 15, 2011 - What type of plants are found in the Canadian marine west coast climate?
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for a small tree for cemetery in NH.
August 30, 2012 - I would like suggestions for picking a SMALL tree for a rural cemetery in Winchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Would the delicate Japanese Elm be suitable for the weather, etc?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Ilex x attenuata (Savannah holly)
July 31, 2014 - Is it hard to take a savannah holly out of my front yard? Do the roots grow down deep or are they more shallow? I can only take a 36-40 rootball circumference because of surrounding established shru...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center