Eucalyptus is actually a whole genus of plants which encompasses more than 700 different species which can grow as trees or additionally shrubs. They are in fact native to Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The most common variety of eucalyptus is blue gum or Eucalyptus globulus. Eucalyptus plants are subsequently important as they make up the majority of a koala’s diet, but they are also grown all over the world for their fresh, minty scent and medicinal applications for example. We are going to cover every part of eucalyptus plant care in this guide!
Table Of Contents
- How to Care for a Potted Eucalyptus?
- How to Propagate Eucalyptus Plants?
- What Are Some Common Issues?
- What Is a Quick Overview Of Eucalyptus?
- What Are Some Types of Eucalyptus to Grow Indoors?
How to Care for a Potted Eucalyptus?
|Whistle Stop Tour of Care Tips for a Eucalyptus
|Bright light, potentially some morning sun
|Allow the top third of soil to dry out between waterings
|Fertilize every other time you water according to the packet instructions
|Aim to keep the temperature above 10ºC or 50ºF
|Regular pruning will be needed to keep the plant in shape
|Done via seed or stem cuttings
|Mealybugs and Scale
Eucalyptus Is a Light Lover
This plant loves bright, indirect light. The trick is that you want to see light touching the plant but not so much that a distinctive shadow of the plant is cast. If the plant’s growth stays steady and the leaves stay clustered together then you’ll know if the plant has enough light for instance. That is to say if you see that the plant’s leaves are getting smaller and further apart or the plant is yellowing it’s likely the Eucalyptus needs more light. On the other hand too much light results in crispy leaves and sun scorch, avoiding more than two hours of direct light per day will help prevent this.
Another way to think about it is to ask yourself, could you easily read a book in this lighting? If it’s too dark to read then it’s too dark for the plant.
To know if your plant is getting too much or too little light there are a few key things to look for:
|Too much light
|Too little light
|Crispy, brown leaves
|Plant is turning yellow or brown
|New leaves are small and growth is slow
|Leaves curl in on themselves
|Variegation (if applicable) will be reduced
Water Regularly & Adjust According to Its Environment
Eucalyptus plants need watering roughly once a week. But as per usual it’s impossible to give an exact schedule of when to water. They are not particularly drought tolerant when grown indoors in pots but be careful as overwatering will lead to root rot. Established outdoor eucalyptus plants can be drought tolerant for instance. This is because a larger bed of soil will drain a lot slower than a pot of soil indoors which will dry out much faster.
My recommendation is to check the soil frequently, every couple of days or even once a week is enough, and when the soil is dry (or the top 2-3 inches are dry) then it’s time to water.
The most important thing is to understand how the environment your plant is in will affect the watering schedule you keep.
Here’s how to know when to decrease or increase watering based on the environment:
|Increase frequency of watering
|Decrease frequency of watering
|If the plant is potted in a small pot
|If the plant is more established
|In the summer
|In the winter
|When the plant is receiving a lot of light – there are two parts. Firstly the sunlight will dry out the soil by evaporating the water but also secondly when the plant is photosynthesizing at a great rate it will be using water up more quickly.
|If your home is humid for example(when the air has more moisture in it is harder for leaves to lose water so the plants uptake the water slower and need watering less often)
When the top 2-3 inches of the soil feel dry and your finger comes out of the soil clean (the wet soil sticks, the dry soil falls off) it’s time to water your plant. If you don’t want to use your finger just use a stick or similar for the same process. Alternatively you can use a moisture meter. Keep your moisture meter in the soil at all times. Also you can stick it in to test the moisture levels every week or so and when the soil is dry, give the plant a drink. However make sure to not have the moisture meter too deep in the soil or the plant will end up under-watered.
Some Tips on How to Water
First, remove the plant from its decorative pot so that any excess water can drain away when you do water, as stagnant water left behind will kill your plant. Additionally to give you and your plant the best shot, try planting in a terracotta pot. Terracotta is great because it will wick away excess moisture and also prevent root rot.
Importantly always avoid using cold water as it will shock the roots, use slightly warmer water in the winter and slightly cooler water in the summer but this should still be lukewarm/ room temperature and never very hot or very cold.
If you are trying to counteract having under-watered your plant consider bottom watering as it will as a result help to saturate the soil more evenly. Just fill a tray or the sink with some warm water and pop the plant in the water for around 20 minutes.
One extra pro tip: before watering your Eucalyptus, aerate the soil and break up any compacted chunks of soil. This helps with drainage and moisture retention.
Humidity Is Nice but NEVER Mist
Eucalyptus plants prefer to be in a climate with at least 40% humidity in fact. However it can tolerate drier conditions, bear this in mind around the winter time in particular where home heating systems will dry out the air and reduce the humidity levels.
I would also advise to never mist your plants. It is in fact not particularly beneficial but moreover it can lead to rot and pests. In order to raise the humidity in your home I would advise getting a humidifier or alternatively trying a DIY alternative for instance. You can also group plants together. They’ll also benefit from this because plants lose moisture through their leaves. Therefore placing them close together creates a humid microclimate for them. Similarly you can also use a shallow tray of pebbles with water under your plants to in turn boost the humidity.
Fertilizing a Eucalyptus Plant
Firstly use a balanced fertilizer (one which has similar levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) according to the packet instructions. The N-P-K ratio might look like 5-6-4 or similar. However avoid something like 3-8-2 or 9-2-4 where the levels of nutrients are very unbalanced.
You can also use either a slow-release fertilizer which needs to be applied once at the beginning of the period of active growth. Or alternatively a liquid, fast-release fertilizer which can be used when you water your plants for example.
I personally prefer using a liquid fertilizer because then I have more control over when to fertilize and how much to use. Furthermore I like the Houseplant Focus fertilizer because it contains the extra nutrients like iron and zinc which are needed for overall healthy plants.
Generally eucalyptus plants are not heavy feeders so I would opt for a less frequent fertilizer schedule, nevertheless once every two months is probably absolutely plenty.
How to Propagate Eucalyptus Plants?
You can propagate eucalyptus plants in a few different ways for example, seeds, stem cuttings, grafting or micropropagation. Generally, cuttings can be a difficult method to use but it is possible, and some species are more tolerant to this than others.
This is the method that most people tend to use when propagating eucalyptus plants. It’s easy because unlike many other plants the eucalyptus seeds are in fact ready to germinate immediately after the seed capsules open.
Around spring time when the capsules containing the seeds are matured they will then open up and you can harvest the eucalyptus seeds for example. They should then be sown in soil and placed in a shady location where they can germinate. Then after the seedlings have meanwhile grown into their own little plants you can pot them as individual plantlets.
Furthermore some types of eucalyptus produce seeds which require cold stratification – this means the seeds need to be chilled before they can start the germination process.
These varieties include:
- E. amygdalina
- E. coccifera
- E. dalrympleana
- E. debeuzevillei
- E. delegatensis
- E. dives
- E. elata
- E. fastigata
- E. glaucescens
- E. goniocalyx
- E. kybeanensis
- E. mitchelliana
- E. niphophila
- E. nitens
- E. pauciflora
- E. perriniana
- E. regnans
- E. stellulata
To cold stratify seeds at home is actually really easy! You firstly just need to mix a teaspoon of seeds with 2 tablespoons of sand or perlite. Then you dampen the whole mixture and literally just put it in the fridge for around 4-6 weeks. You won’t see any change in the seed’s appearance so just make sure to write down the date that you put them in the fridge so you know when it’s time to remove them.
Growing Eucalyptus from Cuttings
This method is generally considered to be the hardest way to propagate eucalyptus so that is to say if you try it and aren’t successful, don’t give up!
You’ll want to first choose some eucalyptus shoots that are about 4 inches (10cm) long and that are mature. The cutting you should have a few leaves but not too much new growth (the new growth is using energy that we want the plant to use for growing new roots). Then in June/July cut any of the cuttings you’re going to try and root, use a sharp, clean tool and next cut the stems at an angle. You should dip the ends of the stems in rooting hormone for around 30 seconds.
The next step is to actually plant the cutting. To do so you should initially fill the planter of your choice with some potting mix combined with perlite. Next create a generously sized hole for the cutting with your finger or with a stick. Then position the stem cutting into the soil and pat it in place. Water the cutting quite thoroughly until water is flowing from the drainage hole.
Finally, keep the cutting in a warm and humid environment and hopefully as a result after around 4-6 weeks the cutting will have rooted and will be ready to be replanted.
What Are Some Common Issues?
Curled, brown leaves with crispy edges – this is as a result of the plant getting too little water and/or too much sunlight. While eucalyptus are natural sun lovers, plants which are used to getting less sunlight will nevertheless suffer if exposed to more sun than they are used to.
Pests and diseases – importanly you’ll need to keep a careful eye out for scale, aphids, spider mites and mealybugs. If you have an issue with pests I always like to use neem oil diluted in warm soapy water as a topical treatment for instance.
Eucalyptus gall wasp – this pest is particularly prevalent in the south of England. But they are found in Australia, Africa, Europe, North America and Asia. They are hollow pinky brown bugs with a tiny grub and they cause heavy leaf fall. An infection of these is often identified by the swollen patches on the leaves for example.
Oedema – this is where the plant has waterlogged soil and therefore as a consequence the vessels burst or swell because the leaves are getting more water from the roots than they can overall transpire (lose through the stomata).
What Is a Quick Overview Of Eucalyptus?
|Flowering trees, shrubs or mallees
|Trees can reach sizes of over 300 feet, shrubs can be 30 feet tall
|Bright, indirect sun
|Most soil types are suitable
|Mildly alkaline pH range 4.5 – 7.5
|USDA zones 8 – 11
|Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines
|Safety around the house
|Toxic when ingested to humans and animals
What Are Some Types of Eucalyptus to Grow Indoors?
There’s in fact hundreds of types of eucalyptus, some of which are suitable for growing indoors however this is a pretty small selection.
Cider gum: cider gum, also known as the Eucalyptus gunnii is a more compact variety of the eucalyptus plant. Cultivars like Silver Drop can grow up to three feet tall and do really well as an indoor plant. This particular cultivar of the eucalyptus plant is a little more forgiving as well, because it can tolerate slightly wetter soils.
Silver dollar: silver dollar, or Eucalyptus cinerea are a beautiful type of eucalyptus to grow, and a fan favorite for many reasons. These plants have blue-green, coin shaped leaves which are lovely as a dried arrangement in the bathroom for scenting the room, or as foliage in an arrangement of cut-flowers. These plants can grow quite big so it is important to prune them regularly.
Alpine cider gum: this type of eucalyptus, Eucalyptus archeri is generally smaller than others, in the wild it only grows to about 40 feet, where many others can be up to 300 feet.
FAQ About Eucalyptus Plant Care
Can you keep eucalyptus indoors?
Of course you can. The larger varieties can be somewhat fussy and are fast growers, so I’d recommend above all you start with a smaller variety as an example.
How often should you water eucalyptus?
Water roughly once a week, but in fact it’s impossible to give an exact schedule of when to water. They aren’t drought tolerant when grown indoors in pots but be careful as overwatering will lead to root rot. Firstly check the soil frequently and if the top 2-3 inches are dry, then go ahead and water afterwards.
Is eucalyptus poisonous to dogs and cats?
Yes, importantly eucalyptus leaves are toxic when ingested to cats, dogs, and humans! Moreover the oils are especially dangerous to children and animals because the eucalyptus is a lot more concentrated.
Where does the name eucalyptus come from?
The name eucalyptus comes from the Ancient Greek words, eu and kalypto, which in fact translates to beautiful and conceal. It is indeed thought that this name refers to structures which cover the flower buds during development. The species I suggested as a great potted eucalyptus, the E. Gunnii is named after the South African botanist Ronald Campbell Gunn.
Are You Ready to Care for a Eucalyptus Plant?
On the proviso that your potted eucalyptus plant gets plenty of sunlight you can definitely grow a happy one indoors. Most importantly remember that you should be replicating their native sunny environment as much as possible – also especially if you want to try to propagate them for instance! Moreover use your eucalyptus in flower arrangements or alternatively dry them in a bunch to go in your bathroom or wardrobe if you want to get the most out of this houseplant!
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