Thread: Hybrid Poplars only 4ft after 2 yrs?

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  1. #1

    Hybrid Poplars only 4ft after 2 yrs?

    I keep telling my husband, Poplars SHOULD grow at least 5 ft a year, but we are only getting 2ft per year.

    Was wondering if my Poplars and other plants are behaving normally...considering:

    I planted dormant bare root Hybrid Poplars (near end of planting season) in spring of 2007.

    2007 was dry and hot (lows in 70s, hi in 90s) .... had to water every 2-3 days.
    2008 is below normal (lows in 50s, hi in mid 70s) and soggy.

    We have (red) clay soil, so ground takes a while to drain.

    Pictures of my trees in May of 2007 & 2008

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: Hybrid Poplars only 4ft after 2 yrs?

    Growth estimates are once the trees have become established. This is generally quicker for smaller trees but it can take a few years.

  3. #3

    RE: Hybrid Poplars only 4ft after 2 yrs?

    Populus is my most favorite genus of trees, I think all poplars/cottonwoods/aspens are very beautiful with their glossy fluttering leaves and the nice surf sound they make in the wind.
    Once the roots are established they will normally grow on average sites 3 to 5 feet a year. But in moist bottomlands they can grow 6 to 8 feet a year and some even faster in perfect silty soil bottomlands by streams and creeks.

    If you want them to grow faster, first and most importantly, grass and weeds need to be controlled for them to establish roots fast. And I would recommend expanding the mulch area to 5 feet wide (10 feet even better) and make it 3 or 4 inches deep (never deeper) and (keep it off the trunk to prevent bark rot), making the mulch much wider allows more moisture and nutrients for the tree and not for the grass currently growing under and near the tree. Grass and weeds compete for water and nutrients.

    They are fairly drought tolerant but they can shed leaves if it gets too dry such as in a drought and they will grow much slower.
    They love high moisture because they are a riparian forest tree, but they don't like long extended flooding such as by a river. Clay holds good moisture for a pretty long time which is a plus for them, but they can have a hard time establishing good large roots in the hard clay if the soil not tilled or dug up in a wide area before planting.

    Poplars are very adaptable in every soil type, but grow their ultimate fastest speed in moist silty/sandy soils near streams in full sun.
    For them to grow very fast in clay the planting hole needs to be wide like 5 to 10 feet wide (tilling makes this much easier) this will allow the roots to establish and expand large and fast, so the above growth can grow much faster (if the roots are small then the top can't grow fast), you probably can't do anything about the tilled soil now since you already planted it unless you dug them up again in the winter when they are dormant if you wanted to, then till and replant. But this would cut it back some root size and could take it 1 extra year to establish back to their current root spread size if too much is cut when dug up.

    If you do most or all of the above you probably could get 4 to 5 feet (maybe more) of growth a year in the next years, after 2 to 3 more years of root establishment.

    Go here for proper planting and mulching of trees:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    RE: Hybrid Poplars only 4ft after 2 yrs?

    Hello from E Tn. I'm just north of Knoxville and have about all of the same types of trees here. You got these guys bare root last spring and they lived through last summer? You should be jumping up and down they are still alive. As to their growth rate. Please be patient. In clay bare root trees can take as long as 4 years to become root bound in the soil. Once they are and we have a wet summer don't get caught face down over the leader or you might lose an eye. And remember, watering in dry weather can not induce growth. Nothing but nothing can substitute a good rain.

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