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A large and majestic tree, the Western sycamore grows with a twisting trunk and branch habit, 40-80 ft. tall, 30-50 ft. wide. Foliage is comprised of large flattened leaves with deeply cut lobes resembling the shape of a hand. Leaves turn pale brown and orange by the end of summer. Bark peels and flakes off to reveal interesting mottled colors of white, tan and cream beneath.

To many people, the Western sycamore is one of the signature species of Inland Empire landscapes and gardens. Young plants grow very quickly; older specimens can attain a unique and sculptural stature. Since the Western sycamore naturally grows in riparian habitats the best growth from this species occurs with regular moisture throughout the year. Prolonged summer heat in combination with extended periods of drought stress causes leaf damage and stem dieback.

Old specimens of Western sycamore are often celebrated as heritage trees due to their size and character. Sometimes several trees are planted together to form a multi-trunk landscape feature. Large specimens of Western sycamore generate large volumes of leaf litter that can completely cover understory plantings.

Water Needs

The Western sycamore is well adapted to all parts of the Inland Empire where it can be sustained with normal winter rainfall and moderate amounts of summer water. Regular deep watering is recommended from spring through fall; this will help maintain good foliage character. It should be noted there are several winter months marked by an asterisk (*) when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water depending upon exposure conditions and size.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Moderate Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 3

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 2x to 3x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 2x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 2" to 3" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 2" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3"

Range of supplemental summer water: 9"-16"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-15"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Tree, Native
Foliage Character: Winter deciduous
Habit: Upright, Sprawling, Open, Multi-trunk
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 40 ft. - 80 ft.
Width: 30 ft. - 50 ft.
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Foliage Color: Medium green, Seasonal orange, Seasonal gold
Flower Color: Insignificant
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Moist soil, Loam, Deep soil, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Frost, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Specimen, Shade Tree, Residential spaces, Parks and open space, Grouped, Commercial spaces, Background plant, Attracts butterflies


Mature Western Sycamore specimens can be awe-inspiring, but this is not a low maintenance tree. Make sure the chosen site has the room to accommodate the mature size of the tree. Heavy leaf drop in the fall and periodic leaf drop throughout the year usually needs to be cleaned up, even if the leaves are being kept on site to use as mulch. Leaves have a fuzz that irritates the skin for many people, and will cause eye and lung irritation. Wear long sleeves, gloves, a dust mask, and eye protection when handling leaves, especially dry leaves (S). Plan to prune as needed when young to establish good long term form as either a single or multi trunk tree. Prune out suckers (vigorous branches that grow from the base of the tree) as soon as they occur, any time of the year. Main pruning should be done in winter when dormant (D).



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