When to Plant Mexican Sycamore.  Are They Messy?

The Mexican sycamore (Platanus Mexicana) is native to Mexico and Central America, but it is available worldwide in temperate climates. It is a kind of sycamore tree. The Mexican sycamore grows up to 50 feet tall with a spread of 30 feet. It gets planted as a street tree in southern California cities, where it is often the first tree to lose its leaves in the fall and then leafs out again early in spring. In its native habitat, the Mexican sycamore needs summer water but survives on winter rainfall only once established. The Mexican sycamore came into the United States in 1835 by William Lobb, a famous plant collector for Veitch Nursery in England, which later developed the hybrid London Plane Tree.

Let’s answer your questions about the tree in this post.


What Does a Mexican Sycamore Tree Look Like?

The Mexican sycamore is an evergreen tree that can grow to heights over 100 feet tall with a width of 50 feet. It has a thick trunk that is often gnarled, and its bark is grayish in color and peels as it ages.

Its leaves are large with rounded lobes that resemble maple leaves. It produces showy blooms of yellowish-green on female trees and white on male trees, which emerge in spring and don’t bloom until early summer. The fruit is a round brown ball that grows up to 1 inch wide and releases seeds when the husk splits open. The larger the fruit, the more seeds it contains.

When to Plant Mexican Sycamore

The best time to plant a tree is in the fall or early spring. Late fall is best for planting it because transplant shock can occur if the soil is too warm. In southern states, spring planting is best.

Planting the Mexican Sycamore

Mexican sycamore trees are beautiful additions to any yard, but they can be tricky to plant. The tree needs a lot of water and sunlight to grow properly, so make sure you have the right spot picked out before planting. Keep in mind that Mexican sycamores can grow to be more than 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide, so make sure the tree will fit in your yard.

Mexican sycamores can grow up to 40 feet tall and need a lot of sun and water to thrive. To plant the tree, dig a hole that is three times as wide as the root ball but not quite as deep as the root ball is tall. Put plenty of water in the hole before adding the soil and plant the tree so that it leans slightly towards the sunlight for maximum exposure to the sun’s rays.

How Long Do Mexican Sycamore Trees Live?

The lifespan of a Mexican sycamore tree varies. Some Mexican sycamores live less than 20 years, while others grow to be more than 200 years old. The older Mexican sycamores get protection or have grown in areas with little human activity. 1

The number of years a Mexican sycamore tree lives varies depending on the location and climate. In more humid climates, Mexican sycamores are likely to be shorter-lived because of fungal decay and insects that damage their roots and leaves.

Mexican sycamore trees are found in the Southwest region of the United States and can grow up to 25 meters tall with a trunk that can be up to 2 meters in diameter.

They have broad leaves that can grow up to 8 inches long and 5 inches wide, but most only reach 5 to 6 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. The bark of this tree is a brownish-gray color with dark gray or black streaks on it and they have a smooth texture that peels off easily with a fingernail.

Mexican Sycamore Size

Mexican sycamores grow fast to about 70 feet tall and 50 to 70 feet wide. Their trunks grow up to 6 feet (2 m). The size of these trees makes them ideal shade trees for large properties, such as parks or golf courses, but they are also suitable for home landscapes where there is plenty of room.

If you have enough room and need to fill it, this tree is a good choice. The tree can grow up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide. If you do not have that much space but still want to plant it, the tree can get pruned to keep it to a smaller size.

Mexican Sycamore Tree Care

Here are some ways to care for the Mexican sycamore.

  • Reduce Soil Acidity
  • Less Pruning
  • Application of Fertilizer

Reduce Soil Acidity

Sycamores like slight acidity soil; apply lime if your soil is too acidic. Work the lime into the top 3 inches of soil at least 1 foot from the tree’s base. Keep away fertilizers containing insecticides and fungicides from the tree.

Soil acidity is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Acidic soils are high in hydrogen ions which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and make it harder for plants to grow. The easiest way to reduce soil acidity is by adding organic materials such as compost or animal manure which provide food for microorganisms in the soil that help break down hydrogen ions into less harmful substances. Chemical agents are sometimes used but are not always necessary and have side effects such as increased salinity in the soil which may impact water quality.

Less Pruning

Mature sycamores need very little pruning. Pruning may invite disease. The best time to prune branches is when they are still young and flexible. Use a sharp saw to make clean cuts at an angle outside the branch collar at the tree’s trunk if you need to prune an old limb. Leave no stubs or damage to the primary trunk of your tree.

The downside to less pruning is that trees are more susceptible to disease and insect infestations because their bark is not as tough. The downside to more pruning is that a tree can become over-pruned and have its shape changed or weakened by the process of trimming. The most ideal time for pruning a tree is in the late winter or early spring before buds begin to open.

Application of Fertilizer

Fertilize established sycamore trees in early spring before the season’s new growth begins. Apply fertilizer at least 10 feet away from the tree’s base.

It is important to properly fertilize trees to get the best results. The most commonly recommended application is twice a year, in early spring and late fall. Fertilizers are designed to provide trees with the nutrients necessary for strong growth and flowering in the springtime and healthy fruit production in the summer and autumn.

There are many different types of fertilizer available on the market, including slow-release fertilizer pellets that can be applied around the base of the tree without disturbing its root system or soluble liquid fertilizer that can be watered into the soil at ground level.

How Fast Do Mexican Sycamore Trees Grow?

Mexican sycamore trees have a rapid growth rate. The trees can grow up to 70 feet tall, with equal or greater spread. These trees are full-sized when they reach about 35 to 40 feet tall.

They are best for locations with plenty of room, but they also work well as street trees or in small yards if they are well-maintained.

Here are two factors that help with its growth rate.

  • Climate
  • Soil


Mexican sycamore trees grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, depending on the variety. These trees prefer warm environments with mild winters and hot summers. They will tolerate temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but they often suffer leaf damage at these temperatures.


Mexican sycamore trees do not need a specific soil type. Also, they will tolerate most soil conditions except highly alkaline or acidic soils. Mexican sycamores like a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0, while they will grow in more acidic or alkaline soils. The tree’s roots need space, so choose a location with deep, fertile soil that drains fast. It helps prevent root rot and other diseases caused by too much soil moisture.

How Do You Grow a Mexican Sycamore?

Here is how to grow a small Mexican sycamore using these steps.

  • Site Preparation
  • Planting Mexican Sycamore Trees
  • After Care

Site Preparation

Mexican Sycamore trees need enough sun exposure to thrive. They are not suitable for planting near sidewalks or driveways as their roots will cause damage. Do not plant them under power lines, and they do not tolerate salt spray well.

Dig a hole twice the width of the tree’s root ball, with a depth equal to the root ball’s height. Remove any rocks, weeds, or other debris from the hole.

Planting Mexican Sycamore Trees

Place the tree into the hole so that it is upright and straight. Use a level to make sure it is plumb from all sides. Backfill around the tree’s base with soil until it reaches ground level. Tamp down using your hands or feet to end any air pockets.

After Care

Keep watering but do not overdo it. If growing one away from water, make sure you provide regular watering during dry spells.

The AfterCare of Cut-Down Trees

After a tree is cut down or falls due to storm damage, it needs special attention to help it recover and become healthy again. For the tree to grow back stronger than before, it needs the proper care to nurture the roots and soil. The type of care will depend on the age and condition of the tree when it was cut down or felled by storm damage.

Here are some general guidelines for caring for trees after cutting:

  • Sweep and dispose of sawdust and debris.
  • Keep the trunk moist by spraying it with a hose or filling a bucket with water and placing it next to the tree.
  • Remove any nearby weeds that may be competing with your tree for water and nutrients.
  • Continue to provide care until there are no more leaves left on the tree.

Do Mexican Sycamore Trees lose Their Leaves?

Yes, they lose their leaves. Mexican sycamores lose their old leaves throughout the year as new growth pushes out the old leaves. Sycamore trees are deciduous. They lose their leaves every year during a specific season when cold weather approaches. The timing is variable depending on the weather conditions that year.

Are Mexican Sycamore Trees Messy?

Mexican sycamores drop large amounts of litter throughout the year, including dead leaves, twigs, bark, and seed balls. It is messy and may be dangerous to people walking or playing beneath the tree and gets worst when it includes seed balls or limbs knocked loose by wind or other factors. Allergies also may be an issue.

Mexican sycamore and American sycamore are related. Learn about  American sycamore facts.

Citations Used in this Article

  1. Mexican Sycamore – Platanus Mexicana – UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (ufl.edu)