How to Prune a Tulip Tree

Updated November 21, 2016

Tulip trees are popular for their extending branches that bestow large blossoms that resemble tulips. As a rapidly growing tree, tulip trees should be pruned each year to remove winter damage, fungal infections and to help maintain their shape. Choose a time in the winter when the tree is dormant. Tulip trees can suffer from pruning shock if pruned during their growing season. In addition, the tree can produce fewer blossoms if pruned too close to spring.

Cut off any damaged branches. To check if a tree branch is healthy and living, scrape the wood with a knife. Greenish white underneath the bark indicates a living branch. Brown or black means the branch is dead.

Make a 45-degree downward angled cut to a healthy outward-growing branch. Cut off any branches that are growing outside of the designated planting area. To cut off a branch, make a cut right next to the branch collar. The branch collar is the swelling that attaches the branch to the trunk.

Remove any competing leaders. Tulip trees generally will grow with one strong central leader (vertical growing shoot); however, if there are other competing leaders cut them off near the trunk.

Examine the tree for fungal infections. Fungal infections such as tree cankers caused by the fungus myxosporium create swellings on branches. To remove, dip your pruning tool in a mixture of 70 per cent denatured alcohol and 30 per cent water in between cuts to avoid spreading the disease.

Remove any low-growing branches from the tree. There should be no branches within 2m (about 6 1/2 feet) up the height of the tree.


Keep your pruning tools from making tears into the bark by sharpening them prior to pruning.


Remove any diseased branches, leaves or blossoms from underneath the tree. Fungal spores can continue to infect the tree if debris is left on the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Bypass shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Denatured alcohol
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