6 Sycamore Tree Care Tips

The eastern or American sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, is found throughout the United States and in the southernmost part of the Canadian province of Ontario. A magnificent, long-lived tree, it can reach a heights of 75-100 feet. A sycamore will provide shade and enjoyment all year round for you and your family with effective management. Here are a wide range of tips on caring for and maintaining a sycamore tree.

Tip 1: Give Your Sycamore Plenty of Sunlight

When planting a sycamore sapling, find the sunniest spot in your yard for it. Sycamores grow rapidly and produce leaves profusely, making them a superb shade tree. Sycamores are fast growing and can grow up to 2 feet a year.

Tip 2: Give a Sycamore a Wide Root Radius

Sycamore tree roots spread aggressively through the soil. They are shallow and can break through lawn cover unexpectedly. The main roots of sycamores reach down about 30 inches into the soil. Plant a sycamore more than 12 feet away from other trees in your yard or on your street boulevard. If you take cuttings to grow more sycamore trees on your property, plant them far from each other, as the roots will compete for water and nutrition.

Tip 3: Keep Your Sycamore Well-Watered

Sycamore trees have a high susceptibility to drought, and can fall victim to insect pests when not watered regularly. In hot weather, water at the roots twice a week. Watch for signs the soil is drying out and water more often as needed.

Tip 4: Sycamores Soil Requirements

Sycamores prefer moist, well-drained, fertile soil. However, they are tolerant of many soil types and can grow in a wide range of soil pH.

TIP: Karen Thurber, our gardening expert, notes: "When planting your sycamore tree select a site in a naturalized area of your landscape. Sycamore trees can be messy. They have large leaves, berries and twigs that eventually drop to the ground."

Tip 5: Protect Sycamores from High Winds and Heavy Frost

Build up mulch in the fall to a depth of 2 inches, right out to the foliage edge, to protect the roots from harsh frosts. Young sycamores will not last through winters with temperatures colder than -34 F (-36 C), so if your winters are often colder than this, do not plant a sycamore in your landscape. Due to the drying effects of harsh winds, plant your sycamore near other trees, preferably evergreen conifers.

Tip 6: Prune Your Sycamore When Young

Help your sycamore build a strong framework of branches by pruning multiple leaders (large main branches that grow directly from the trunk). Develop a shape that has one or at most two main leaders, and trim back the multitude of branches that grow in the first 2 years from the leaders. Sycamores with a heavy canopy, and dense shade, can prevent lawn grass from growing under them. Prune a mature sycamore only to remove drooping branches, dead limbs, or branches suffering from diseases that can spread to the rest of the tree.