No, the eucalyptus is not succulent. This genus consists of over 700 evergreen shrubs and trees that are native to parts of Southeast Asia and the Australian continent.
Some eucalyptus species can reach heights of up to 60 feet, but when they are kept in pots as houseplants, they can be maintained at a reasonable and manageable height of only a few feet tall.
These plants have reddish-brown bark that tends to peel off on the smaller branches, and bluish-green leaves that can look almost silvery.
One of the most distinct characteristics of eucalyptus is the menthol aroma it gives off when it is bruised.
In this article, we will discuss more about eucalyptus and how to grow it in your garden or your home. So, if you are planning on adding some eucalyptus to your collection or if you just want to learn more, then keep reading.
What is eucalyptus?
You are probably familiar with eucalyptus as an essential oil or as the favorite tree of the cuddly koala, but you have probably never encountered an actual eucalyptus in real life.
Eucalyptus plants belong to the Myrtaceae family, and there are over 700 different species of eucalyptus, ranging from shrubs to very tall trees.
Most of these 700 species are native to Australia and have become almost impervious to the wildfires that frequent Australian forests. These plants can be burned very badly after a wildfire, yet still survive and resprout as though nothing had happened.
They grow best in parts of the United States that have a similar climate to Australia. They have been known to grow well outdoors in California, but they will have difficulty growing in the Northern states because of the cold winters there. If you live in a place with very cold winters, you are better off growing this plant in a pot indoors.
Is eucalyptus a succulent?
No, eucalyptus plants are not succulents. Succulents are native to some of the driest areas in the world and are characterized by their ability to absorb and store water in their fleshy leaves and bodies for use in the event of drought.
Eucalyptus plants do not share this characteristic; they are actually evergreen shrubs and trees native to Australia and Southeast Asia.
They are similar to succulents in the sense that they do well in warmer weather and poorly in cold weather, but other than that they do not really share many similarities.
What are the most common types of eucalyptus to keep as houseplants?
The eucalyptus variety most commonly found in nurseries around the United States is the baby blue eucalyptus or Eucalyptus pulverulenta.
This is usually used in bouquets and flower arrangements, and it is able to retain its signature scent for a long time. Sprigs of baby blue eucalyptus can last a long time in the water because its leaves have a waxy coating that prevents them from drying out too quickly.
Other commonly-seen eucalyptus varieties in local nurseries are the lemon bush eucalyptus and the silver dollar eucalyptus.
The lemon bush eucalyptus has a lemony scent that you might appreciate, while the silver dollar eucalyptus resembles the baby blue to the point that, in the eyes of a novice, they might be quite difficult to tell apart.
How do I plant a eucalyptus?
Before planting a eucalyptus, you should know the correct time to do this. If you are going to grow the eucalyptus from seed, you should plant the seeds two-and-a-half to three months before the last frost in spring.
If you live in a place with very cold winters, you can do this in your nursery or greenhouse, but make sure to transplant your eucalyptus the moment the frost has passed in the spring.
Picking the correct spot to plant your eucalyptus is also important. Make sure the planting site is a spot with good drainage, and where the plant will get plenty of sunlight.
Make sure you leave enough space around each potential plant that they do not crowd each other. There should also be no shrubs or trees around where the seedlings are going to grow, because these would obstruct their light. If you are growing the plant indoors, make sure it gets sufficient light by placing it next to a window or using a grow light.
If you want to grow more than one eucalyptus tree, you should allow eight feet of space between them, and if the seedlings come from a nursery, make sure you plant them as deep as they were when they were growing in their original pot.
You should not need to place a stake or any other support next to the plant as it grows.
Eucalyptus plants like lots of bright light, which makes growing them indoors quite challenging. If you choose to grow your plant indoors, it is best to keep it in the sunniest spot in your house. If possible, it should get bright, direct sunlight outdoors for at least half a day. One upside of a eucalyptus that has become used to limited light is that it will be more tolerant of low light conditions than a plant that has grown outdoors all its life.
During the winter, when natural sunlight can be a bit scarce, you might have to get a grow light to help your plant out. Of course, natural light is still the best choice, but if it is not an option, artificial light will suffice.
Eucalyptus plants are able to tolerate longer periods without water than the typical houseplant. The only plants that can do better than eucalyptus in drought conditions are succulents like cacti.
The watering needs of eucalyptus growing in the ground, in an outdoor garden, will naturally be different from those of eucalyptus growing in a pot indoors.
Potted plants will lose moisture from their soil faster than those in garden beds, which means you will need to water them more frequently.
No matter where the plant is, however, you still need to allow the soil around its roots to dry out between waterings.
In the spring, you will likely not have to water a potted eucalyptus every day, but during the hottest days of summer, check the plant’s soil every day in case the intense heat and light dry out the soil more quickly.
Always take into account the weather, season, and climate where you live.
Do not underwater your eucalyptus, because this can cause the leaves to dry out and become pale and shriveled, and even watering it will not save the dried-out leaves. These leaves are dead and you can either wait for them to fall off the plant or pick them off yourself.
If the rest of the plant is still green and healthy, you can expect it to make a full recovery. Just make sure you pay more attention to its watering needs going forward so that it does not happen again.
Another thing to avoid is overwatering. This plant likes moist soil, but it should never be soggy or waterlogged. If your eucalyptus is constantly standing in soggy soil, the roots can drown and die and this can lead to root rot.
Root rot is when the roots that have died from overwatering become susceptible to opportunistic fungal or bacterial pathogens in the soil. These pathogens can make them rot in the roots more aggressively and cause them to spread faster to the rest of the plant. Soon the rot will reach the stems and leaves, and the plant can die.
To avoid overwatering, use a loose, well-draining potting mix for your plant. You can either use a potting mix or regular potting soil with fine moss or coco coir.
If you suspect root rot in your plant, you will need to repot it. Remove the plant from its old pot and wash off as much soil as you can from the roots. Be gentle while doing this, because the roots are very fragile in this state.
Inspect all of the roots and remove any that are brown or black, because those are rotten. Use a sterile knife or scissors to prune them off until only healthy, white roots remain.
Lay the plant on some dry paper towels to let the roots air-dry for a few hours.
Prepare a new pot for the plant by filling it with a well-draining potting mix and place the plant in the middle. Cover the roots with the rest of the potting mix and place the plant where it can get lots of bright, direct light for several hours a day.
Avoid both overwatering and underwatering by making sure you only water the plant when the top two inches of soil around the roots are dry to the touch.
Adjust the volume and frequency of watering according to changes in the weather, season and climate.
The eucalyptus is only hardy to zones 8-11, which means it does not do well in places that have harsh winters. Temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time can be dangerous for the plant, and it is imperative that you take it indoors when you expect low temperatures to persist.
The temporary spot to which you move the plant should still have lots of light and should not be too dry. Make sure you place it near a bright window, or if that option is unavailable, purchase a grow light for the plant. If the room is too dry, you might need to mist the plant every day to increase the humidity around it. You can also keep it near other plants that like humidity, so that together they create a microclimate around each other. Another option is a water pebble tray: place the pebble tray filled with water under the plant’s pot and, as the water evaporates from the tray, it will moisten the soil in the pot as well as the plant’s leaves.
If you can afford to, you can always buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
The best time to fertilize the plant is during its growing season in the spring. Do this every other week to keep your plant happy and healthy. Use a fertilizer high in potassium but low in nitrogen and phosphorus. You should not fertilize the plant in the colder months; this can lead to soil toxicity because the plant is not actively growing and will not use up all the nutrients and minerals that you keep putting into the soil.
If the plant’s leaves are wilting and you do not know what is causing it, look back on how you have been fertilizing it, because this might be the reason. You can get rid of excess nutrients and minerals from the soil by flushing it out with water.
Pruning and repotting a eucalyptus plant
This plant grows quickly, so it does need to be pruned and repotted fairly often. Simply cut off the tips of the stems to control any unruly patches. Make sure the knife or scissors you use are sterile. You can also control unruliness by planting a stake in the middle of the pot to guide the plant’s growth in a certain direction.
Pruning and repotting is best done in the spring because this is when the plant is actively growing and it will recover faster from the trauma of this process.
Repotting usually needs to be done every couple of years. You need to use fresh soil and choose a new pot one size bigger than the old one. Do not use a pot that is too large, as it will need more soil to fill it. More soil means more moisture is retained, and this can increase the chances of overwatering and root rot.
No, eucalyptus plants are not succulents; they are evergreen shrubs and trees native to Australia and parts of Southeast Asia. They can tolerate drought to a certain extent, but not to the degree that succulents can.
They do not do well in cold temperatures, so they can only really grow as indoor plants in parts of the US that have harsh winters.
Eucalyptus plants like bright, direct light, water when the top two inches of soil are dry, temperatures higher than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, fertilizer during their active growing phase, pruning when the leaves and stems become unruly and repotting every couple of years when they become rootbound.
Image: istockphoto.com / Luis Echeverri Urrea