Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) are big trees, growing from 60 to 100 feet tall. Although most have trunks that are 2 to 4 feet in diameter, don’t be surprised if yours grows to 15 feet, which it might do if planted near a perennial water source. The American sycamore thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4b through 9a. Take softwood cuttings of the tree in May, June or July, depending on region.
1 Disinfect the pruning shears by placing them in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 3 parts of water and allowing them to soak for 5 minutes. Rinse the shears in clean water, and allow them to air dry before using.
2 Choose a stem that snaps when you bend it. If it bends without snapping, it’s not ready; and if you are unable to bend it, it is hardwood and won't root well. Cut the softwood stem from the sycamore tree at a 45-degree angle. Immediately cut the other end straight across so that you have a 4- to 6-inch piece of stem.
3 Combine equal parts of sand and peat moss, and moisten the mixture completely. Peat moss can be challenging to moisten so you may have to stir the mixture to ensure that it is evenly moist. Fill a planting pot, with holes in the bottom for drainage, with the mixture to within 1/2 inch of the rim.
4 Cut off all the leaves with the exception of three or four at the tip of the cutting – the end that you cut straight across. Use sharp scissors to cut these leaves in half. Insert the slanted end of the cutting into the planting medium so that at least two nodes are buried. The nodes are the bumps on the stem where the leaves were.
5 Place the cutting in an area that is out of direct sun but not completely shaded. Keep the planting medium moist, using water from a misting bottle to spray the cutting two to three times a day. The cutting should root within six to eight weeks.
Items you will need
- Pruning shears
- Household bleach
- Peat moss
- Planting container
- Spray bottle
- Hardwood cuttings taken in winter are only suitable in climates similar to those in England. Softwood cuttings root best in the United States.
- Fairfax County Public Schools: American Sycamore
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Platanus Occidentalis
- The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation; Michael A. Dirr and Charles W. Heuser, Jr.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfecting Pruning Tools
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images