Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Eastern Cottonwood
Populus deltoides

Family: Salicaceae (sal-i-KAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Populus (POP-yoo-lus) (Info)
Species: deltoides (del-TOY-deez) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 31 photos.
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10 positives
2 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive nlafrance3 On Mar 26, 2015, nlafrance3 from Edmonton, AB (Zone 4a) wrote:

Used as shelterbelts for farms in Alberta. They easily reach over 100 feet in southern Alberta and get close in northern Alberta. Hardy to at least zone 2a. Trees can grow huge trunks and have a very commanding appearance. Great for parks. Bad for front yards.

Positive plant_it On Jun 12, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Native to my area and gorgeous. I love when the cotton flies and it's "snowing in June". Their growth habit and crown structure are beautiful.

Negative Gardeningman On Apr 13, 2012, Gardeningman from Kingman, KS wrote:

There are thousands of large Cottonwood trees growing throughout Kansas. They are native to this state. These trees are nice to look at and provide great shade. I like the way the leaves rustle together when the wind blows through them, and I even like to watch the cotton blow from them; it looks like it is snowing. However, I have three negatives about this tree that far outweigh the positives. 1) They have weak wood. 2) The cotton may be nice to look at when it blows out of the tree, but it is very messy, especially on lakes and ponds. 3) I am very allergic to them. When the cotton is blowing, my nose is running.

Positive cool1234 On Aug 23, 2011, cool1234 from MacFarland, WI wrote:

Cottonwoods are one of my favorite trees because they grow to huge sizes plus there are a ton of big ones in McFarland WI.(Not Macfarland WI like they say.) It is a sorry sight to see one get cut down.

Positive killdawabbit On Sep 28, 2010, killdawabbit from Christiana, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have found 2 seedlings this year. No idea where they could have come from. They didn't come up in the best spots for them so I plan to move them to a better location this fall or next spring.
I'm glad to hear all the positive comments. I have always heard them called trash trees. I think they will be beautiful in the right location.

Positive wormfood On Dec 19, 2008, wormfood from Lecanto, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I think they'd make great Bonsai trees. I had a bunch of seeds sent to me last winter.

Positive Malus2006 On Oct 19, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Very fast growing for a tree species, this tree in the southern part of Minnesota are frequently the tallest tree around, towering above maple, oak, aspen, etc by tens of feet. The seeds which could rain like crazy during late spring/early summer loves exposed soil - burned area, gopher mounds, dried up temporary ponds are the site of massed seedlings thought they seem to be able to pop up once in a while in dense grasses. They hates the shade like crazy, so if you see one in the forest it meant that the area around it was once open enough to let a seedling reach good size in 5 years or less. They loves to be around water bodies and along the river banks even thought they will grow in dry hilly areas without a shrug. There are many giants in Minnesota that are about 2 to 3 feet in diameter, 4 is a possible common? but I didn't measure them so I use rough guesses.

Here's a story - there is a secret Coon Rapids have - it is home to two or three of the biggest tree in the entire city of Coon Rapids - I give them the nickname of the Triangles - because their locations is roughly equal to a triangle - the trees are massive - they have survived straight line winds that knocked down smaller cottonwoods and even medium age oaks around them and even a F0 tornado! And on separated years! The area where the trees are on is mixed wilderness/ backyard and difficult for the general public to enter - only a paved path that follow the nearby creek is accessable so only locals use the path. Thus, the secret. For one of the nearbly tree I can only haphazard a rough guess but I could say it will take three average adults holding hands to circle the tree. It could be less or more.

Positive mbhoakct76 On Apr 20, 2008, mbhoakct76 from Winsted, CT wrote:

a absolutely beautifull tree, most grow very large as ours towers over all the trees in the neighborhood. But its very messy and has large leaves that equal hours of fall clean up , it also drops tons of "flowers" which are quite ugly and clutter the lawn for weeks, and tons of branches to clean up throughout the summer and fall. It still gets a positive from me though because of its beauty and size.

Negative Nikkolb On Apr 7, 2008, Nikkolb from Smyrna, DE wrote:

I'm sorry to be the first negative comment, but I find this tree to be extremely messy, and not all that attractive. I have 4 mature cottonwoods on my property in Delaware, and I continually have to pick-up masses of twigs. It also develops unsightly suckers both on the branches and roots. We have many other trees on the property, and this one is definitely the ugly-duckling.

Positive Populusriver On Oct 11, 2007, Populusriver from (Zone 7b) wrote:

The majestic Eastern Cottonwood is my favorite tree. They have many great things I love about them such as the huge open crown they form as they get older, just a tiny breeze will set the leaves which have vertically flat petioles fluttering and brushing together that makes a distinctive whispering or a soft clattering sound like rain in a forest. Children who grew up on prairie farms always remember the sound of the cottonwoods through their windows on summer nights. Also the sight of the glossy leaves dancing in the wind on a hot summer day is amazing. I just love every sight of the Eastern Cottonwood, from the beautiful deltoid leaf shape (hence its species name), to the deep fissured vertical bark patterns, to the massive trunk and crown. Standing under the canopy of a massive 100 year old cottonwood in the fall is one of the most amazing things, and it can make you dizzy looking up at how high the limbs stretch. The massive open crown plus golden shimmering leaves in the fall are breathtaking and as the leaves dry out, they sound a lot like ocean surf as they become higher pitched. Another great thing about them is if you live next to a large lake or river and have a large old open crowned cottonwood tree, Bald eagles nearly always prefer to build their nest in a old cottonwood over any other tree.

When the pioneers crossed the Great Plains on the Santa Fe or the Oregon Trail, they often went for a long time without seeing any trees. The pioneers were always very glad to spot a Cottonwood in the distance, since it offered the possibility of wood and shade. It also represented the chance of finding water, since the Cottonwood grows well around water, plus the tiny brown seeds that are carried by the cottony or silky white fibers in the wind germinate around water or around high moisture locations.

The cottonwood usually reaches an age of 60 to 80 years old but many can reach 100 years old and even 200 or 300 years old in a few with good conditions and with superior genetics. They are one of the largest and tallest trees in eastern North America. Typically they grow 80 to over 100 feet tall but they can reach heights of 175 to 190 ft and obtain massive trunk diameters of over 7 ft wide in low moist forested locations.

They are the fastest growing tree in North America which they will normally grow on average sites 3 to 5 feet a year. But in moist bottom lands they can grow 6 to 8 feet a year and in perfect silty soil bottomlands by streams and creeks scientists have recorded heights of 13 feet at age 1, 43 ft at age 3, and more than 100 ft at age 9 on individual trees in the south. They are fairly drought tolerant once established but they will grow slower than one planted in a moist site. The wood is light and kind of on the weaker side and it is possible during a heavy thunderstorm they could drop a limb but they are stronger trees than most people think and most if not all can tolerate strong high winds if they have proper branch angles with strong branch collar formation. If you have a drought they can shed some leaves in the summer if not planted by a stream or in moist soil etc. because they try to conserve water by having less leaves to care for (like some other tree types do also). And you can have many free cottonless cottonwood trees by finding and getting cuttings in late winter from a local male cottonwood tree, which are the best to plant because they have no cottony seeds that the female cottonwood trees make. And of course all trees that can use lots of water such as willows and cottonwoods etc. need to be kept away from the septic system, also house foundations and walkways (This applies to most trees anyways). They can also drop a few twigs after a windy day but if you make a mulch circle around it you can rake all this stuff into it which will help the tree. But if none of this bothers a person I think the Eastern Cottonwood is one of the most beautiful and nicest trees to have.

"From the upper branches of the cottonwood trees overhead -- whose shimmering, tremulous leaves are hardly ever quiet, but if the wind stirs at all, rustle and quiver and sigh all day long -- comes now and then the soft melancholy cooing of the mourning dove, whose voice always seems far away." Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail

Positive broncbuster On Jul 26, 2007, broncbuster from Waxahachie, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I'm so happy to see that there are no negatives about this tree! All I here from the folks at the nursery is how cottonwoods are "junk" trees and that I should chop mine down. I will not chop my cottonwood down until the day it dies, and that may be a while yet. Right now it's only about 20' tall but 2 yrs ago, when we bought the house, it was only 12' tall so it's growing like a weed! I, too, love the sound that the wind makes blowing through the leaves, and I also love the tall majestic shape of a mature cottonwood. So, as long as I'm here that tree is safe!

Positive trois On Sep 3, 2005, trois from Santa Fe, TX (Zone 9b) wrote:

Dw and I have always liked Cottonwoods. We have planted several, all of which were health and held their leaves well. There are a couple just down the street from where I live that are about 70 feet tall, and stay lush until frost. This is a well watered area.
We especially like the "surf" sound they make when the wind blows.

Neutral frostweed On Dec 23, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I love the look of Cottonwoods, they are beautiful when they are at their best. However if there is a drought, as there often is, here in Texas, they will start shedding leaves in the middle of summer and it will be like fall, causing you to have to rake at most times of the year. Also, if you end up with a female tree, one that bears cotton, it will disperse the fluffy seed all over the neighborhood and it will look like snow, except that the snow will get sucked into air conditioners and make quite a mess. The males do not have that problem. All that being said, I think that if you don't mind those problems it is a lovely tree, and will be great to have if you have a lot of space and need some quick shade.
We had a beautiful one that I planted as a little seedling. It grew to about 50 feet in 15 years, but it shed leaves constantly in the summer and we had to have it removed because they blew over to our neighbors yard and they were very unhappy about it. Also ' I not knowing any better' planted it too close to the house.
To make matters worse, it broke my heart to cut it down, and it cost $500 to have it done. We did have it chipped and it kept us supplied with mulch for the whole year.

Neutral TREEHUGR On Dec 22, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Surprise! Another Florida native (upper lefthand side of state).

These prefer moist soils but tolerate drought and dry sites which would explain why there are so many large ones in the plains states.

I think the branch structure on large cottonwood is impressive in winter. You might agree.

They are related to poplars and willows. You can expect vigorous growth and really thirsty roots (looking for pipes).


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Morrilton, Arkansas
Winsted, Connecticut
Kissimmee, Florida
Hinsdale, Illinois
Valparaiso, Indiana
Denison, Iowa
Kingman, Kansas
Benton, Kentucky
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Buffalo, New York
Beach, North Dakota
Belfield, North Dakota
Medora, North Dakota
Columbus, Ohio
West Newton, Pennsylvania
Christiana, Tennessee
Arlington, Texas
Irving, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Waxahachie, Texas
Elmwood, Wisconsin
Mc Farland, Wisconsin

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