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Garden plant of the moment: Eucalyptus 

Garden plant of the moment: Eucalyptus 

Evergreen foliage, gorgeous silvery leaves, and attractive peeling bark – three great reasons to love the eucalyptus. Native to Australia, this fast-growing evergreen tree looks great in any garden. 

 

Choosing your eucalyptus tree

Many eucalyptus species don’t like the cold, but two that do are Eucalyptus gunnii (cider gum) and Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. niphophila (snow gum). The cider gum grows fast, reaching an imposing 12m in height, so a better choice for small gardens is Eucalyptus gunnii AZURA, with the same silvery leaves but a more compact shape, growing into a bushy shrub around 2.5m high and wide. The snow gum is another relatively small eucalyptus tree, growing to around 5m high in 20 years. 

All eucalyptus trees produce clusters of small fluffy pink or white flowers in summer which are enormously popular with bees, and their cream and white peeling bark looks good all year round. They do best in well-drained soil in full sun.

 

Caring for your eucalyptus tree

Because eucalyptus trees grow so fast, there are a few tips to bear in mind when planting them:

  • Plant them when they’re small (ideally less than 1m/3.5ft tall), otherwise, they can become tall and leafy before their roots have established a firm base, leaving them top-heavy and unstable. 
  • Don’t enrich the soil with compost when planting, as this could promote leafy growth. 
  • Don’t stake the tree once you’ve planted it, as the roots will develop better if the tree is unsupported.
  • Water regularly in dry periods for the first 2-3 years after planting.

It’s possible to grow eucalyptus trees in pots for a short period. Here’s how:

  • Fill the pot with a mix of 70% loam-based compost (e.g. John Innes no 2 or 3) and 30% horticultural grit to improve drainage. 
  • Prune regularly during the growing season, and feed weekly with a high potash feed. 
  • Protect the pot in winter by wrapping it in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap.
  • Don’t plant out a eucalyptus in the ground once it’s been in a pot for a while, as the roots won’t be able to establish properly and you could end up with a large, unstable tree in your garden.

 

Pruning eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus trees should be pruned in late winter or early spring. To create a multi-stemmed shrub with lots of big silvery young leaves, cut back all stems to 5cm (2in) above ground level, or to the previous year’s stubs. This is called coppicing and works best on young plants.

If you’re not trying to keep your eucalyptus tree small, simply remove any side shoots and dead or crossing branches. Large trees can be pollarded to stop them getting too big, but this is a job best left to professional tree surgeons.

Pay us a visit and choose the tree that’s right for you. Our friendly staff will be happy to help!