Pronounciation: PLA-ten-us hiss-PAN-i-ka
Landscape Use: Deciduous shade tree, large streets or avenues, parks. Not for use in narrow street medians of sidewalk planter strips.
Form & Character: Upright, rounded and regular, regal, mesic. London plane tree form is magnified during winter when deciduous.
Growth Habit: Woody perennial deciduous tree of moderate vigor to 40 to 80 feet tall with nearly equal spread, though generally smaller in Phoenix because of heat stress.
Foliage/texture: "Maple-like" in shape, highly pubescent to tomentose large leaves that are are 3-5 lobed (mostly 3), lobes 1/3 as long as blade, foliage often prematurely senesces in Phoenix. Tree trunk mostly smooth and white to cream colored and blotched, a nice winter accent even in Phoenix; medium coarse texture.
Flowers & fruits: Flowers are formed on axillary meristems, visually insignificant; fruit mostly in pairs, bristly and rounded, litter on ground is hard on bare feet - OOuch!!
Seasonal color: Golden brown early fall color is subtle. Winter trunk effect, quite white in color, is also of interest. Fall foliar color more pronounced in temperate northern climates.
Temperature: Very hardy of winter cold, but damaged (foliar and trunk scald) by summer temperatures above 110oF. Summer heat stress injury is most certain when yahoot uncertified arborists give this tree a 'California haircut', sometimes also referred to as 'Lion's tailing'. Avoid this bogus tree pruning practice, always hire only ISA Certified Arborists for proper tree care, and save a tree!
Light: Full sun
Watering: London plane tree looks best with regular frequent irrigations that will in some years sustain leaf canopy through late summer into fall.
Pruning: Elevate canopy base, train vigorously as standard when young to avoid making large pruning cuts when tree matures. After transplanting, allow numerous small, short spur branches to grow on the lower trunks of immature trees for first few years in order to enhance trunk caliper and protect trunk from sunscald. Remove these spur branches as the tree's overarching and spreading canopy begins to consistently shade the tree's main trunk. As the tree matures, raise the crown very slowly in order to allow the canopy to shade the trunk and branches from the scorching desert summer sun.
Propagation: Softwood or hardwood cuttings
Disease and pests: In Phoenix disease and pest problems are minor. Otherwise, spider mites, scale, anthracnose, and powdery mildew are more common problems when London plane trees are grown in more humid climates such as along the Pacific coast.
Additional comments: London plane tree withstands urban conditions of reflected heat, smog, and dust better than most deciduous trees and as such deserves a place in Phoenix in open green settings such as parks and greenspaces. London plane tree is one of five taxa of sycamore that are used in Phoenix urban landscapes; the other are P. wrightii (Arizona sycamore), P. racemosa (California sycamore), P. mexicana (Mexican sycamore), and P. occidentalis (American sycamore). On balance, London plane tree is a better choice for Phoenix greenscapes than Platanus occidentalis, but is not as good a choice as either P. wrightii or P. mexicana.