Q. I have been told that the pictured plant is a tulip tree. I planted it a couple of years ago and it is now about 6 feet tall. It looks more like a big bush with many stems coming out of the ground. How can I make it look more like a tree, and not a bush?

A. Thanks for sending a photo, it helps with plant identification because common names may apply to various species.

The plant pictured is a deciduous magnolia selection. These are hybrids of several Asian tree species and are understory spring bloomers. They are typically multi-trunked trees that mature up to 10 to 15 feet and enjoy partial shade.

A plant with many stems is very desirable as more stems result in more flowers. Beautiful, fragrant tulip, lily, or star-shaped, pink, purple, or white flowers appear in the spring, followed by fresh green leaves. Sometimes these are grafted trees and stems that emerge from below the graft may have entirely different blooms.

In August, the magnolia is already setting flower buds for next spring. Flowers sometimes emerge in the fall, due to variable weather. I recommend not pruning, especially in extremely hot weather. Only remove damaged stems or those crossed with other branches.

Feel free to share photos in the springtime when the magnolia is in bloom.

Suzzanne Chapman
Author: Suzzanne ChapmanEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Suzzanne Chapman is the botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens and promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..