Sycamore trees are widespread and robust trees that characterize the streetscape of large cities and parks in many places. Their idiosyncrasy to shed not only leaves but also bark slabs in autumn often meets with misunderstandings and incomprehension among many gardeners. The occurrence of the platanus can be proven well into the Cretaceous period and apart from the right location and the high space requirement, the tree can be cultivated easily and uncomplicated in your own garden.
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Location and soil
The lush and fast-growing giant trees can be 35 meters high and more. The plant, whose occurrence could be proven up to the Cretaceous period, needs a spacious open space to develop. Front and small ornamental gardens are therefore rather unsuitable for the Platanus. Depending on the variety, plane trees need a location in full sun. Places in the light penumbra are still accepted without damaging the growth or health of the plant. The tree is considered to be deep-rooted, which is why the soil must be deep and rich in humus. Also avoid areas with underground lines or pipes. Sycamore trees dominate where they are planted, but they show a high level of resistance to strong air pollution.
Watering and fertilizing
In the first two to three years after planting, you should regularly provide the plane tree with lime-free water in the hot summer months. Keep the substrate moist, but avoid waterlogging. A pouring rim makes your work easier. This consists of a slight bump in the ground, from the center of which the young tree protrudes. Keep the area weed-free and mulch it regularly so that the water can drain freely into the soil.
Once firmly rooted, older plane trees absorb important nutrients and moisture from deep inside the soil. However, a few years pass before the fast-growing trees can be completely left to their own devices. Work compost into the substrate in early spring and late summer. However, a further supply of nutrients, such as in the form of slow-release fertilizers, is not required.
The “common plane tree”, which is widespread in our country, is a hybrid plant, created from the cross between American and oriental plane trees. These trees, which are often planted in avenues and parks, are not capable of germination, even if they produce abundant fruits and seeds. Other varieties can be propagated from seeds without any problems, but cuttings have also proven to be good for the successful propagation of the Platanus.
Before you start growing, make sure that these are not seeds from hybrids. Sycamore trees are cold germs and must be stratified before sowing. Leave the seed pods on the tree as long as possible and then store the seeds in an open container outdoors until next spring. However, staying in the refrigerator for several weeks has also proven its worth. You can start sowing from the end of February. For this you need:
- Tall planters
- Lean substrate
- Lime-free water
The seeds are only lightly covered with soil, the location should be light to sunny. The first germ tips often appear within a few days. Plantations are deep-rooted, so separate the young plants as soon as they have reached a height of about 6 centimeters. In the first few weeks after germination in particular, plane trees are extremely sensitive and only a small percentage of the plants survive. Give the deep-rooted plants enough space to develop. Healthy and strong plane trees can be moved outdoors in early summer.
This type of propagation is also suitable for hybrids. The cuttings are cut in autumn, but before the onset of the first frost. The length of the cuttings depends on the distance and the number of leaf nodes and is between 15-30 centimeters. Choose a healthy, annual and well woody shoot for it. By next spring, the cuttings should be felled in poor substrate, preferably in sand. Only the top centimeters are allowed to protrude from the ground and all of the material must be stored in a moist, frost-free room.
It is planted at the beginning of March, before the plane tree begins to sprout. A special rooting powder accelerates the sprouting of the roots, so dip the lower end of the cuttings into the powder. The woods are completely buried up to a maximum of 5 centimeters in the earth, always keep the soil moderately moist. To increase the chances of success, you should cut several cuttings and plant them outdoors for rooting. Take into account a planting distance of about 10 centimeters.
If you can meet the space requirements of the plane tree in your own garden, nothing stands in the way of planting the tree. It is planted in warm spring, so that the plant has enough time to take root in the new location. Before you put the self-grown or purchased Platanus outdoors, you should prepare compost and pebbles for the substrate. The planting hole must be three times as wide and deep as the root ball of the plant. Loosen the bottom of the hole and put large amounts of compost in it.
Before backfilling the excavated earth, mix the material with the pebbles and compost. This not only ensures the supply of nutrients, but also loosens the soil with the added stones at the same time. The plane tree must be covered with substrate up to the upper edge of the roots. Press the soil firmly around the plant and water it sufficiently at the end. In the first two weeks, the roots of the plane tree are not able to draw moisture from the soil independently and in sufficient quantities. It is therefore important to water the ornamental plant more frequently with lime-free water during this time.
The lush trees are extremely cut-resistant and can easily tolerate some beginners’ mistakes. While dead and diseased branches can be removed all year round, the clearing and training cuts should only be made at certain times of the year. The “maple-leaved plane” in particular can easily be “raised” to become a standard trunk. For this purpose, the lower side branches near the trunk are removed at the beginning of summer, but without damaging the branch collar. Make sure that the main shoots are never cut, so as not to destroy the crown structure of the plane tree.
The important clearing cut takes place during the vegetation break, which is between October and February. Care and disruptive branches are cut so that the remaining shoots cannot hinder each other’s growth. Use sharp tools for the cut and disinfect them before and after work. This will reduce the transmission of pathogens to other garden plants. As long as the cut edges on the trunk are clean and smooth, you do not need to apply any special wound closure agents. Depending on the height of the tree, you should also not do without the help of an additional person.
Sycamore hybrids are extremely robust and hardy. Only young plants need a protective layer of bark mulch, brushwood or compost in the first two years. With these slowly decomposing materials, you also offer the ornamental tree an important supply of nutrients for the coming spring. In autumn, the tree not only sheds its dead leaves, but also a large part of its bark. This gives the plane a frame-like appearance and is the typical distinguishing feature of these trees. The rotting process of the leaves and bark of the tree is tedious. If possible, do not dispose of these materials on your own compost.
Diseases and pests
Two aggressive fungal pathogens often occur in the fast and lush growing trees, which, if left untreated, lead to the death of the branches and leaves.
The leaf tan is first recognizable by uneven, jagged discoloration on the leaf veins and along the main veins. The fungal pathogen is responsible for premature leaf fall. Consistently removing all infected shoots and leaves from the plane tree to contain the disease. Use effective fungicides from specialist retailers and water the plane tree regularly with a broth made from field horsetail from a young age.
If a noticeably large number of older branches of the plane tree die off, this is a sign of massaria disease. This fungal pathogen has only been widespread in Germany for a few years and mainly affects older plane trees. Check your trees regularly and remove pink to black discolored branches. The cut parts of the plant should not be disposed of with the compost in order to curb the spread of the fungal pathogen. Chemical agents against the massaria are not yet available from specialist retailers, and no effective, preventive measures can be taken. However, an infestation with the fungal pathogen does not lead to the death of the entire plane tree.
Oriental plane trees are hardly widespread in our latitudes. This may be due to the fact that this plant has little to oppose multiple-digit sub-zero temperatures. However, the following types are often available from specialist retailers:
- Umbrella plane – The name of this platanus variety is no coincidence, because the crown of the tree is reminiscent of an umbrella. To support this shape, the trees are often shaped at a young age. With a regular cut back and a framework, the plane tree slowly reaches its characteristic crown. Umbrella tarpaulins are complex to cut and should be shaped every year.
- Maple-leaved plane tree – This variety, also known as the common or bastard plane tree, characterizes the streetscape in many places and is also often found in avenues and parks. The Platanus variety owes its name to its foliage, which has a striking resemblance to the leaves of the real maple. The maple-leaved plane tree is a hybrid and can only be propagated using cuttings.
Sycamore trees are undemanding trees that defy even the air pollution in large cities without any problems. In order to cultivate the giant tree in your own garden, however, you should be able to meet the space requirements of the Platanus. Because the deep-rooted plants can reach a height of over 35 meters over the years and dominate their location as a solitary plant.