How to Plant an American Sycamore from Seeds


An American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is a large shade tree with a broad rounded canopy. It is a fast-growing tree that grows 100 feet tall, and 90 feet wide. The attractive grayish-green bark peels off to reveal patches of white wood underneath. Spiky ball-shaped fruits contain thousands of tiny winged seeds that are released in the fall. American Sycamores grow best in full sun in rich, moist soil. They will also grow in wet compacted soil.

Planting Seeds Inside

Step 1

Collect seeds from an American sycamore tree in the fall and keep in a cool dry place until the spring. You can also buy seeds from a reliable supplier. American Sycamore seeds should be planted in the spring after the predicted date of the last frost.

Step 2

Fill a 1-gallon pot with rich organic potting soil to within 1 inch of the rim. Use a pencil or small dowel to make three to five holes a quarter-inch deep in the surface of the soil. Place a seed in each hole and lightly cover with soil.

Step 3

Water the soil thoroughly with a watering can or water hose. Keep soil evenly moist during germination.

Step 4

Keep the pot in a shaded location for the first month; then move the pot to a location in full sun.

Step 5

Choose the strongest seedling in each pot and remove the others when the seedlings are 6 inches tall.

Step 6

Plant the tree in the ground in the fall if the root system is fully established. Remove the tree from the pot and check the size of the root ball. It should be a dense mass that is almost as big as the pot. If it is not, repot the tree in the pot and wait until the spring to plant the tree in the ground.

Planting Seeds Outside

Step 1

Collect or buy seeds to be planted in the spring.

Step 2

Use a hoe and a rake to remove grass, weeds, roots and rocks from the area where you want to plant the seeds. Use the hoe to break up the soil about 6 inches deep. Use the rake to smooth out the area. Space planting areas at least 100 feet apart.

Step 3

Make three to five holes a quarter-inch deep about 2 inches apart in the prepared soil. Place a seed in each hole and lightly cover with soil.

Step 4

Water thoroughly. Keep the soil evenly moist until the seedlings are 6 inches tall. Choose the strongest seedling and remove the others.

Step 5

Water the tree regularly for the first year. Then reduce watering to an as-needed basis.

Things You'll Need

  • Potting soil
  • 1-gallon pot
  • Pencil or dowel
  • Watering can or water hose
  • Hoe
  • Rake


  • Natural Resources Conservation Service: American Sycamore
  • University of Florida: Platanus occidentalis
  • East Tennessee State University: Sycamore

Who Can Help

  • USDA Forestry Service: Sycamore
Keywords: plant American sycamore seeds, plant Platanus occidentalis seeds, plant sycamore seeds

About this Author

Melody Lee worked as a newspaper reporter, copywriter and editor for 5 years. In addition, she has edited magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design and is a Florida master gardener. She has more than 25 years of gardening experience, which includes working at nurseries and greenhouses.