Eucalyptus trees are a classic visual of the Australian outback and are often depicted being munched on by Koalas. Today, Eucalyptus trees are grown all over the world for their beauty and fragrance. With more than 700 species, there’s certainly enough variety for nearly any gardener. In this article, we’ll look at what eucalyptus plant care takes, as well as how you might do so indoors.
Common Indoor Varieties
Eucalyptus is a tall, fast growing plant, which can make it tricky to grow indoors. Luckily, there are a number of smaller varieties that are ideal for indoor growing. These varieties still grow quickly, but with routine pruning can be managed as an indoor plant.
Here’s a couple of popular indoor varieties:
A compact variety often used in bouquets and arrangements. It has a strong but pleasant scent that lasts long after being cut. With proper maintenance, it’s possible to keep this plant under 4’ tall.
Cider gum is one of the most popular varieties for indoor growing. This compact variety stays under 3’ tall, but does require consistent pruning during their growing season. It too has the trademark scent expected of eucalyptus plants.
This variety features bluish leaves that almost look like their namesake. They can grow quite bushy, but with regular pruning can be kept more manageable. They can be kept near the 3-4’ size.
Potting and Soil
Eucalyptus is not picky and will do well in most commercial potting soils. Go with any well draining potting and your plant should be fine. Plant it into a container with drainage holes and that is a few inches bigger than the root ball of the plant. This gives your plant room to grow which it will happily do.
For planting, our favorite option is to start with a seedling. You can often get these at garden stores or other big box stores. Starting with a seedling gives you a jump on the growth time and lets you enjoy the full grown plant sooner.
Starting from seeds is also a viable option due to the fast growth rate of eucalyptus. Plant your seeds directly into your container and keep it in a warm location that gets some in-direct sunlight. You should see the seeds start to germinate in about 14-21 days. During this time, keep the soil a bit more moist than normal, never let it dry out. After your seedling sprouts a few sets of leaves you can move it to a direct light location and start with normal care.
Eucalyptus are light hungry plants and need to be planted in a bright location. Make sure to get them at least 10 hours of bright, direct sunlight per day. Lack of sun is a common issue for indoor eucalyptus plants, and will lead to growth issues. If you’re growing indoors, and your plant is displaying signs of stress, it’s almost always going to be due to lack of sunlight.
Many gardeners will opt to use grow lights with this plant. This is especially helpful in the winter when the intensity of light is lower. Set up your grow light for about 12 hours per day if replacing natural light as the intensity of artificial light is generally less.
Watering and Feeding
Eucalyptus is fairly drought tolerant, so a little bit of underwatering likely won’t harm the plant. That said, it’s still better to keep up on your watering schedule as lack of water can stunt the plant’s growth.
To water, first check the top inch of the soil by sticking a finger into it. If it’s dry, then it’s a good time to water. This will typically be about 1-2 times per week depending on the local environment of the plant.
For fertilizing, look to do so about once per month during the spring/summer growing season. Use a low nitrogen, liquid based fertilizer, or slow release pellets to help replenish the soil’s nutrients.
Temperature and Humidity
Eucalyptus grows naturally in relatively warm temperatures, so you’ll want to provide the same in your home or garden. Look to keep them right around 70°F, with some wiggle room of about 5-10 degrees in either direction. Keep them away from sources of temperature changes, and always move them indoors if the temperature drops too low. Freezing temperatures will quickly kill your eucalyptus plant.
Eucalyptus also likes moderate humidity levels. Most homes will likely be perfectly fine without any extra work, but you may potentially run into issues in the winter months. A light misting goes a long way here, and you can also check out our guide to indoor humidity control.
Pruning and Repotting
Pruning is important to keep your eucalyptus plant manageable, and should be done consistently during the spring and summer. Start by cutting back and dead or dying parts of the plant and removing any debris. This also has the added benefit of preventing moisture buildup which can lead to rot.
You should also be cutting back any branches that are getting too long or unmanageable. This not only helps with the aesthetics of the plant, but will also encourage new growth from the cut areas. Do this periodically and you’ll be able to keep your eucalyptus plant looking fantastic for the entire growing season.
You should also be looking to repot your eucalyptus roughly about once every 1-2 years. Look to move your plant to a new container a few inches bigger to give it more room to grow.
During this process, you should also make sure to break up any tangled or bound roots. Eucalyptus grows quickly, so its roots tend to bunch up which can reduce its ability to gather nutrients. Break up the soil, and give it a larger container to ensure future health and growth.
Eucalyptus Care Guide
Eucalyptus are beautiful, fast growing plants that are the perfect addition to any garden. They thrive in most indoor environments, and take surprisingly little care. Prune it back a few times a year and keep up on repotting, and you’ll have a plant that lasts for many years bringing its beauty to your garden that entire time.
Can I Grow Eucalyptus Outside?
You can in warmer climates, it does well in USDA hardiness zones of 8 to 11. Outside of this, you can move it outside during the day in the warmer months, but be sure to move it back indoors as the temperature cools down.
Is Eucalyptus Toxic?
Yes, the oils the plant secretes are toxic to both humans and animals. It’s best to keep this plant out of reach of any pets or small children.
How Fast Does Eucalyptus Grow?
Under proper conditions some varieties can grow several feet per year. If you’re growing indoors, and planting smaller varieties, it will be slower than this but can still be quite quick.