My tulip tree won’t bloom

Asked July 28, 2019, 8:03 PM EDT

I have a tulip tree that we planted between 8 and 10 years ago. It was blooming when we planted it and it hasn’t since. How w can I get it to bloom. It also has some yellow leaves.

Wayne County Michigan chlorosis failure to flower

1 Response


This response to another client with yellowing and spotted tulip tree leaves is from MSU Horticulture Educator Robert Bricault-

“A tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipiferais, is a tree that does best in moist well drained soils. Tulip trees become stressed in the heat and dry conditions of summer in landscapes and will develop yellow leaves often with dark spots between the veins and many will fall during the later part of the summer. Many trees do this such as cottonwoods and birches since they cannot support the same leaves that the tree produced during moist conditions in spring.

Many tulip trees were having this problem after the very hot dry conditions of late July.”

Other stresses on the tree I can see from your pictures are:

The tree is planted too deep. The root collar, a.k.a. root flare, is not visible at the soil line. ( see picture of a root collar below). A certified arborist can excavate the root collar. This will allow more oxygen to reach the roots and encourages good root development. See page 15-16 here-

It would also help the tree to make a larger circle of mulch around it. Remove sod in a circle that extends out to the farthest reaching branches, or as close to that as you can. This helps in several ways- more water and oxygen will reach the root zone, less soil compaction will happen because mowers are not driving over those roots, and it is easier to mow around a larger diameter circle. Mulch no deeper than 4 inches with shredded or chipped wood, and do not let mulch touch the trunk.

Tulip trees prefer a slightly acid soil. Get a soil test to check if your soil pH is very high, which could also cause yellowing leaves.

Tulip trees prefer to be constantly moist. Give supplemental deep, slow watering during hot, dry times; and into fall if the autumn is dry, too.

Tulip trees do not bloom much when young. Most references state they need to be 15 years old to bloom. Young trees may bloom at the very top, where it is difficult to see the flowers. Stressed trees are much less likely to bloom. If your tree has not been watered during the last few droughty seasons, this stress could reduce flowering.

I would consult a certified arborist, a professional who has taken training in care, diseases, pests and passed certification tests. He/she will come on site and give a complete diagnosis and a plant care plan, and has the skill and special equipment to safely excavate the root collar and aerate the compacted soil in the root zone. Find certified arborists by zip code here—-

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