Caring for Your Sycamore Trees

How to Care for Your Sycamore Trees

Sycamore Trees are beautiful and regal. They can also grow to an intimidating size. If you are thinking of planting a sycamore tree on your property, this article will provide advice on how to care for them.

1) Site Selection

Sycamore trees are great shade providers, but they love the sun too. Pick a site that gets both consistent morning and afternoon Sycamores can grow to about 100 feet tall with a canopy diameter of 50 to 100 or more feet. Planting a sycamore is a big commitment!

2) Soil Preparation

The soil should be moist but well drained, as waterlogged soils will kill the roots. If your property is new, it’s best to have the soil tested for contaminants before you start planting.

3) Planting Procedure

Dig a hole twice as wide but just slightly shallower than the root ball of the sycamore tree. Dig some water retaining gels into the soil and let them settle for about an hour. Then place the tree into the hole, adjusting the roots according to the original soil line. Fill in with soil and pack it gently but firmly. For saplings, water thoroughly after planting and make sure you keep at least an inch of water in the soil around the root zone for two-three days; if rains are not adequate, water well.

4) Watering Needs

After planting your sycamore trees – be prepared to do a lot of watering! It’s especially important for young saplings until they get established (usually within one year). The tree will start actively growing when air temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit in early spring. During active growth, summer rainfall is typically sufficient to maintain growth without supplemental irrigation. After active growth ceases in late summer, or when rainfall declines during the fall, water mature trees for one month to establish a deep root system.

A huge sycamore tree grows near a river in a mountain forest on a sunny, autumn day close-up

5) Fertilizing

Fertilizer is usually only needed after planting to promote growth until the tree becomes established. After that it should be fertilized twice a year: once in early spring before active growth starts and again around mid-summer during active growth. Feed every other year if you apply nitrogen fertilizer three times a year (early spring, mid-spring and early fall). Soil tests can help determine the correct amounts of fertilizer required. An arborist may also recommend fertilizer and/or treatment if your tree is in distress for any reason.

6) Pruning Needs

Small saplings shouldn’t require pruning unless damaged by insects or disease. Mature sycamores typically have few problems.

7) Diseases and Pests

The most common diseases of sycamores are anthracnose, leaf spot, rusts and blights. Treatment for all except anthracnose is generally not required as healthy trees can usually resist infection. Anthracnose is the exception – infections are more severe on trees that are poorly nourished or stressed due to drought or other environmental factors. If detected early enough, fungicides may be used to control this disease; otherwise infected branches should be removed. Other pests such as bagworms, webworms and borers also occasionally attack sycamores but chemical treatments aren’t usually needed if you keep a regular schedule of inspections to monitor their activity.

8) Insect Problems

Two major insect problems of sycamores are the leafroller and the fall webworm. Both have a wide range of natural enemies so populations can be kept in check without pesticides, but you should monitor for them regularly!

9) Harvesting

In some areas, sycamore trees can live 150-200 years or more – they don’t begin to bear fruit until they’re about 25 years old. In order to produce seed crops regularly, most cultivars must be cross pollinated by another tree within several hundred yards. So if your planting is isolated from other trees, expect little or no fruit production. Sycamore trees produce achenes. While these are attractive to birds and other wonderful creatures, their fruit really is best left for the birds. Though some people love to use these achenes for crafts!

Fun Sycamore Facts:

  • Some people call sycamores Butterball trees due too their fuzzy round fruit.
  • It is said that Hippocrates taught medicine under a sycamore tree on the Island of Cos.
  • Ancient Egyptians used sycamore trees in the creation of both wood monuments and bases for artillery units.