The koala's favorite meal is eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea), which you may be familiar with. In its native Australia, this evergreen tree can reach a height of 60 feet or more, but it usually stays under 6–10 feet tall in home gardens. It has to peel reddish-brown bark on the smaller branches.
When injured, the leaves have a silvery to blue-green tint and emit the plant's unique menthol-like aroma. The optimal time to grow eucalyptus trees is in the spring. They grow at a rapid rate, gaining many feet every year. It's crucial to remember that eucalyptus bark, leaves, and sap are poisonous to humans and pets.
Eucalyptus Planting Instructions
When Should You Plant?
Start eucalyptus seeds indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the predicted last frost date in your location in the spring. If you have a nursery plant, transplant it into the garden once the risk of frost has passed in the spring.
Choosing a Planting Location
Choose a planting location that receives plenty of sunlight and has well-drained soil. Also, make sure there's enough room for the tree to grow to its full height and spread. Make sure there are no neighboring trees or plants that will shade a young eucalyptus plant. When given enough light, this plant can be cultivated in pots as well as inside.
Support, Depth, and Spacing
If you're going to plant several eucalyptus trees, make sure they're at least 8 feet apart. Plant them at the same depth as they were when they were in the nursery pot. Staking or other support structures are usually not required for these trees to flourish.
Plant Care for Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus prefers bright sunshine, so plant it somewhere in your yard where it will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Indoor eucalyptus plants should also be placed near a light window, especially one facing south.
Eucalyptus may grow in a variety of soil types, but it prefers well-drained soil. Use a potting mix that drains effectively for container plants. It's great if the soil pH is slightly acidic to neutral.
Once planted, Eucalyptus can tolerate some drought. It does not like to be left dry for lengthy periods, and if it is, it may drop leaves or branches. When you can stick your finger into the soil and feel dryness at your fingertip, it's time to water. If there hasn't been any rain, this usually equates to weekly watering, especially for container plants.
Humidity and Temperature
Eucalyptus prefers temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as a moderate level of humidity. It will perish if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees for an extended period. If you're growing your plant in a container, move it indoors if the weather turns cold.
If you're growing your plant in the ground, you won't need to fertilize it very often. Container plants, on the other hand, will deplete their nutrients more quickly. So, treat them with a low-nitrogen houseplant fertilizer throughout the growing season, as directed on the label.
There are hundreds of eucalyptus species in addition to Eucalyptus cinerea. They are as follows:
- Eucalyptus globulus, also known as blue gum, has smooth bark and is adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions.
- Eucalyptus gunnii, also known as cider gum, is a cold-tolerant eucalyptus that outperforms most other eucalyptus species.
- Eucalyptus platypus, also known as moort, is a hardy species that can withstand heavy soils, cold, and drought.
Eucalyptus can be harvested for a variety of purposes in addition to its obvious beauty. Harvesting mature leaves and branches should be done later in the growing season. Snip the leaves off with pruners or by hand if you only want the leaves.
Dry them on a paper towel or a drying screen in a cool, out-of-the-way location. Please wait until the leaves are slightly leathery or crispy before storing them in tightly sealed glass jars. The dried leaves can be used to flavor teas and other beverages.
If you want to use the branches for crafts, glycerin is one of the best ways to preserve them. Simply prune off a branch length that suits your needs. Then, select a container large enough to accommodate your entire eucalyptus branch. Mix one part glycerin with two parts boiling water in a separate container and set aside to cool.
Fill the large container halfway with the cooled liquid, then insert the cut end of the eucalyptus branch until it's standing in about 3 inches of liquid. Keep the container cool and dark, and check the branch once a week. To keep it at the optimal level, add more liquid as needed.
The drying time for the branch can range from two to six weeks. The leaves will change color from green to purple or silver, becoming soft and smooth. After the branch has dried, take it out of the container and hang it upside-down for two to three days before using it.
Eucalyptus in Pots: How to Grow It
Outside of their hardiness zones, eucalyptus plants are frequently grown in containers. This allows gardeners to bring their plants indoors to protect them from the cold. Because of their rapid growth rate, many gardeners treat container eucalyptus plants as annuals, starting with new plants each year. As a result, they can be kept as houseplants or on balconies and decks.
The roots of these plants don't like to be disturbed. To avoid having to re-pot, it's best to start with a large container. A 5-gallon container is sufficient. While unglazed clay is ideal for allowing excess moisture to evaporate through its walls, a plastic container that is easier to move around might be preferable. Make sure that any container has plenty of drainage holes and that you use an excellent fast-draining potting mix.
Eucalyptus trees don't require much pruning. To keep the plant looking attractive, you can prune overgrown, broken, or misshapen branches. Summer is the best time to prune, but avoid doing so when it's incredibly humid.
The most common way to grow eucalyptus trees is from purchased seeds or nursery plants. Trees in the home garden rarely flower and produce their seeds. Cuttings can also be used to propagate them, though this is not always successful.
However, this is a low-cost and convenient way to get a new plant, especially since eucalyptus can be difficult to find in garden centers. Cuttings are best taken when a tree is between two and twelve months old; rooting mature stems is difficult. Take your cuttings in the late summer if possible. Here's how to do it:
- Mix three parts composted tree bark to one part perlite in a small pot. Apply a slow-release fertilizer according to the label's instructions for the pot's size. The growing medium should be moistened.
- Cut a stem about 5 inches long with four to eight leaves with sterile pruning sheers. Just above a leaf node, cut.
- Remove the lower half of the cutting's leaves.
- Dip the cut end of the stem in a rooting hormone, then plant it in the growing medium almost to the level of the leaves.
- Keep the container in a room with a temperature of around 70 degrees and bright, indirect light. Maintain a light moisture level in the soil.
- It should take about a month for roots to form. You can then move the new plant to a brighter location and gradually space out waterings. Bring it outside for longer periods once the weather is warm enough before planting it in the garden.
How to Plant Eucalyptus Seeds
Before planting, the seeds must be chilled in the refrigerator for two months. Sow them indoors in late winter, 10 to 12 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. To avoid disturbing the roots, use a seed-starting mix in peat pots that you'll eventually be able to plant directly into the soil. Seeds should be sown directly on top of the growing medium, with only a thin layer of soil covering them.
Place the pots in a warm location with indirect bright light, and mist the growing medium to keep it moist but not soggy. In two to three weeks, the seeds should germinate. The seedlings are ready to go outside when they reach a height of about 6 inches.
If you're growing a eucalyptus plant in a container outside of its hardiness zone, you'll need to bring it inside for the winter. Allow your plant to be protected from frost, which can harm or kill the foliage. For the winter, keep it near your brightest window, preferably a southern-facing one. Do not fertilize the plant, and reduce the amount of water you give it.
There aren't many pests or disease problems with Eucalyptus. However, eucalyptus long-horned borers are occasionally seen, especially on stressed plants. Infestation symptoms include holes in the bark, oozing sap, and discolored foliage. Insecticides are ineffective against borers, so remove the infected area of the plant as soon as possible.s