Is Poplar a Hardwood or a Softwood?

Poplar is a hardwood seen across the US and Canada. Specifically, it can be found in the eastern US, where it is counted among the best ten kinds of wood in the country. What makes it well-known can be related to how its sapwood, and heartwood feature a wide color variation. The variation in its color can range from light brown and black to dark green. Nonetheless, several woodworkers prefer a particular shade because they are very sensitive to its color variation.

More so, poplar can also be called “tulipwood” or “American tulipwood.” It remains one of the best-exported wood types in the United States. Besides, poplar is the substitute for some well-known hardwoods, including cottonwood, aspen, and magnolia.

So, is poplar a hardwood or softwood? In simple words, poplar is a hardwood but softer than several hardwoods. It is harder when compared to softwoods, and in terms of hardness, the wood falls towards the rear (bottom end) side of the hardness scale, having a Janka hardness test value of a 540 rating.

Is Poplar a Hardwood

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The strength of Poplar Wood

Poplar is a type of wood commonly used for making toys, cabinets, decorations, plywood, furniture, etc. It is a hardwood, but it’s easy to work with softwoods such as pine. With this, poplar is an ideal choice when it comes to interior designs.

Also, poplar is a cost-effective wood for woodworkers that need it for interior and exterior woodworking projects. Nonetheless, some of them usually ask if poplar wood is really strong.

Poplar is generally very strong. It features higher bending strength, compressive strength, and density when compared to most other woods. Due to its high strength, poplar is ideal for making picture frames, furniture, cabinets, and lots more.

It should be noted that even though poplar wood is stronger than any wood that falls under softwood, it is not stronger when compared to most hardwoods.

Moreover, one of the best ways to know how strong poplar wood is by focusing on its density, compressive strength, bending strength, stiffness, and hardness.

For the density of any wood, high density equals high strength. Specific gravity is a way to measure the density of such wood. The specific gravity in poplar wood is 0.42, higher than some hardwoods and all the softwoods.

Check the table below to see the high number of some basic factors of poplar wood, which makes poplar wood to be considered a string type of wood.

FactorStrength level
Bending strength10100psi
Compressive strength5540psi

 Poplar Wood Properties

Poplar wood properties make it ideal in several ways. It is preferred for interior and exterior woodworking projects in the wood product industry based on the following unique qualities:

  • Lightweight: Generally, poplar wood is very light. It isn’t naturally durable and not particularly hard. It isn’t subject to much shrinkage, and when dry, it remains stable.
  • User-friendly: Woodworkers find poplar wood easy to work with. This is because it is remarkably workable with hand and machine tools.
  • Cost-effective and wide application: Poplar wood is inexpensive, and it has a variety of uses. It’s a type of wood great for paper making, matches, clogs, manufacture of plywood, and baskets, packaging & fruit boxes.
  • Appearance: Typically, poplar is a pale wood. It’s an off-white streaked with green or yellow. More green or yellow streaks mean fairly more hardness or imply that the wood is much harder to stain. Besides, poplar is smooth and straight with minimal grain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are several questions that people frequently ask about poplar. Check below to see some of them with their succinct answers.

Is Poplar wood strong?

Yes, Poplar is a wood known for a high level of strength. It features higher compressive strength, bending strength, and density when compared with most other woods. Due to its high strength, poplar is preferred by numerous woodworkers for making picture frames, furniture, cabinets, etc.

Is tulip poplar a hardwood?

Yes, Tulip poplar is a hardwood. In fact, it is referred to as the tallest hardwood tree in North America. Besides, it is rated as the most valuable commercial species due to how its intolerance to shade produces an ideal, straight trunk with clear lumber and stifles lower branches.

Is black poplar a hardwood?

Yes, black poplar is a hardwood. However, it has low bending strength, low stiffness, and low shock resistance. Its crushing strength is on the medium level, and it’s rated poorly when it comes to steam bending. Nonetheless, it’s a wood that works well with power or hand tools.

Is white poplar a hardwood?

Yes, white poplar is a hardwood. Due to its good hardness, it is great for cabinets. It’s a pocket-friendly wood, and it’s capable of absorbing stains beautifully. Although poplar is hardwood, it’s relatively softer when compared to other hardwoods.

Is balsam poplar a hardwood?

Yes, the balsam is hardwood. Nevertheless, it is not as strong as some woods, such as aspen, due to how long it normally takes to dry. Balsam poplar with some poplar species can be used to make veneer, wafer board, particleboard, and plywood.

Is Rainbow Poplar a Hardwood?

Yes, rainbow poplar, as one of the different types of poplar wood, is a hardwood. It features different mineral stained colors ranging from red, black, green, dark purple, yellow, to blue– This explains why it’s called “Rainbow Poplar.”


Even though poplar wood is not as strong as several types of hardwood, it is still classified as a hardwood with an impressive strength level as far as density, bending strength; compressive strength, hardness, and stiffness are concerned. More so, it is not an uncommon wood in the United States. It’s a suitable option for those who can’t afford to fill their respective homes with expensive walnut, cherry, and oak. This implies that if you love solid wood, but your budget is limited, then furniture made from poplar will be an ideal choice. To make poplar furniture a bit classy, you can experiment on it with stains of different colors and textures. Also, you can add a smart wood veneer (for a good finish) if you like.

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