Sugar phosphates are important intermediates of central carbon metabolism in biological systems, with roles in glycolysis, the pentose–phosphate pathway, tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and many other biosynthesis pathways. Understanding central carbon metabolism requires a simple, robust and comprehensive analytical method. However, sugar phosphates are notoriously difficult to analyze by traditional reversed phase liquid chromatography. Here, we show a two-step derivatization of sugar phosphates by methoxylamine and propionic acid anhydride after chloroform/methanol (3:7) extraction from Populus leaf and developing wood that improves separation, identification and quantification of sugar phosphates by ultra high performance liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization–mass spectrometry... (UHPLC–ESI–MS). Standard curves of authentic sugar phosphates were generated for concentrations from pg to ng/μl with a correlation coefficient R2 > 0.99. The method showed high sensitivity and repeatability with relative standard deviation (RSD) < 20% based on repeated extraction, derivatization and detection. The analytical accuracy for Populus leaf extracts, determined by a two-level spiking approach of selected metabolites, was 79–107%. The results show the reliability of combined reversed phase liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry for sugar phosphate analysis and demonstrate the presence of two unknown sugar phosphates in Populus extracts.