Eucalyptus has a distinct, menthol-like fragrance and is a popular herb for home remedies. Native to Australia, it's commonly grown as an ornamental in the garden, though it can make a stunning indoor plant as well. Additionally, many crafters enjoy incorporating the dried leaves of the eucalyptus into their creations.
You may be most familiar with eucalyptus as the favorite food of Australia's koala. While Australia is where the tree is most plentiful, it will thrive fairly easily outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10. It is best planted in mid-spring or late fall and will grow quickly, often up to 2 feet in height each year.
|Botanical Name||Eucalyptus cinerea|
|Common Name||Eucalyptus, silver dollar tree, argyle apple|
|Mature Size||6 to 40 feet tall, 2 to 10 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 6.5 (slightly acidic to neutral)|
|Bloom Time||Rarely flowers|
|Hardiness Zones||8 to 10 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Watch Now: How To Grow and Use the Eucalyptus Plant
How to Plant Eucalyptus
In USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, eucalyptus can grow into trees of towering heights. For the home gardener, however, eucalyptus is more often grown as a potted shrub or plant. While the plant is highly adaptable to most soils, the main concern is to pay close attention to basic feeding, sunlight, and watering needs.
Eucalyptus is fairly free of any major pest or disease issues, though you may occasionally spot issues like eucalyptus long-horned borers, which can be treated by removing the infested area of the plant immediately (insecticides are not effective against borers).
Eucalyptus likes a lot of light, so settle your plant somewhere in your landscape that receives at least 8 to 10 hours of bright sunlight daily. Likewise, eucalyptus plants grown indoors should be kept near a window that gets plentiful sunlight.
Plant your eucalyptus in a soil mixture that is moist but well-draining. When potting your eucalyptus in containers outdoors (or indoors for that matter), it's important to choose vessels that have ample drainage holes at their base. If you're planting eucalyptus directly in your garden and have no plans of containing it, make sure the area can accommodate its eventual size.
Water your eucalyptus plant with some regularity. While it can be considered partially drought-tolerant once established, it really doesn't like to be left dry for long periods and may even begin to drop leaves or branches. A good rule of thumb is to test the dryness of the soil to a depth of about 4 inches; if it feels dry to the touch, it's time to water.
Temperature and Humidity
Eucalyptus prefers warm temperatures and humidity levels that mimic its natural Australian environment. If you're planting your eucalyptus in a container, make sure to bring the plant indoors if you're expecting prolonged temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it comes to humidity, what's in the natural environment should be enough for eucalyptus if it's being grown in the proper hardiness zones. Indoors, you can plan to mist the plant occasionally to maintain humid conditions or aim to grow it in a typically warm room of the house, such as the kitchen or bathroom.
If you're growing your plant outdoors in your landscape, chances are it won't need any additional fertilizer applications. That being said, eucalyptus that's being grown in containers (either indoors or outdoors) can benefit from an application of a balanced liquid fertilizer each spring.
Though there are more than 500 known species of eucalyptus, the types most commonly recommended for the home gardener include E. cinerea (silver dollar), E. globulus (globe eucalyptus), and E. gunnii (cider gum). Eucalyptus plants are considered evergreen, though they can lose their leaves, which begin as light green ovals and eventually take on a darker shade of green as the tree ages.
Harvesting, Drying, and Preserving Eucalyptus
Beyond its obvious beauty, eucalyptus also boasts edible and medicinal uses. Eucalyptus oil is harvested from the leaves, roots, and bark of the plant and is used for its antiseptic and astringent effect. Eucalyptus oil is often used for respiratory ailments as the flavoring in cough drops and in decongestant-type rubs. Beyond that, it can be used to flavor a cocktail or sweeten an evening cup of tea—it's even known to deter biting insects when used as an essential oil.
Eucalyptus leaves can be dried on the stem by hanging the branches upside down in a small bunch. You can also remove the leaves and place them on a paper towel or drying screen. With either method, allow the eucalyptus to air-dry until the leaves are slightly leathery or crispy, depending on the size. Once dry, store eucalyptus leaves in glass jars with a tightly sealed lid.
If you would like to use the branches for crafts, one of the best ways to preserve them is with glycerin. Choose a container that is large enough to hold your entire eucalyptus branch. In a separate container, mix one part glycerin with two parts boiling water, and allow it to cool. Pour some of the cooled liquid into the larger container, then insert the eucalyptus branches until they are standing in about 3 inches of liquid.
Keep the jar in a cool, dark place and inspect the plants weekly. Add more liquid as needed to keep it at the optimum level. It may take anywhere between one to eight weeks for all the leaves to change color. When they have, the process is complete. Remove the eucalyptus branches, pat them dry with a paper towel, and hang them upside down for two to three days before using.