I just ordered a fun new plant… Eucalyptus! It’s actually ‘Silver Drop’ Eucalyptus, which grows in the form of a shrub, not a humongous tree.
Not only is it GORGEOUS, it’s also goo for you. You know how it is, everything we plant around here has to have a use. And this beauty fit the bill!
I’m excited because eucalyptus can be used to treat respiratory infections, colds, wounds, rashes, and asthma.
In one place I read a woman share how when she gets a sinus infection, she steeps several fresh leaves of eucalyptus in a bowl of hot water, and then she puts her head over the bowl, covers her head with a towel, and breaths in the soothing vapors to relieve the pressure.
She also recommended putting some fresh leaves in a sachet in the shower for the same vaporizing effect.
Eucalyptus can also be used in homemade toiletries such as deodorant and bath products. I can’t wait to experiment!
Table of Contents:
- grows in zones 7-11 (can be potted and brought indoors during the winter in cooler climates)
- gets about 3 ft. tall; space 12-14″ apart
- likes full sun, but will tolerate partial shade (grows slower in shade)
- it’s an evergreen
- very aromatic
Those are just the basics. Ready to learn the details? Here’s everything you need to know about growing eucalyptus plants.
What Is Eucalyptus?
A fast-growing evergreen tree native to Australia, this warm-weather plant is commonly used as an ingredient in many products.
There are over 400 different species of eucalyptus, but the Blue Gum Eucalyptus, or Eucalyptus globulus, is the most common source of eucalyptus oil. It is also one of the most commonly grown.
Plants in the Eucalyptus family generally have fibrous, smooth, stringy, or hard bark. Their leaves have prominent oil glands and they have petals that are fused with sepals to form caps over the stamens.
Most Eucalyptus plants are native to Australia, with every state having some kind of representative species. In fact, over 75% of Australian forests are eucalyptus forests, with these plants well-adapted to fire.
These plants are grown in plantations in other countries, too. They are fast-growing and have valuable timber. These trees can also be harvested for pulpwood, honey production, or essential oils.
Because of their native growing conditions, eucalyptus trees are not tolerant of the cold. They can be damaged by temperatures below 23 degrees.
The Many Health Benefits of Eucalyptus
This plant is commonly used in a wide variety of products. The oil that is derived from the tree is frequently used as a perfume, a cosmetic ingredient, an antiseptic solution, and more. It’s also used in many industrial and dental applications.
This plant has a history in many styles of medicine, including Chinese, Greek, Indian, Ayurvedic, and European. To extract the oil, leaves are steam-distilled.
This process produces a strong, colorless liquid that has a powerful, woody scent. The leaves contain important tannins and flavonoids that are plant-based antioxidants – many of these also contain tannins that can reduce inflammation.
Eucalyptus has a ton of health benefits, not all of which have been formally studied in scientific research. However, with minimal side effects, this plant is one to consider growing on your homestead for sure.
For example, eucalyptus has powerful antimicrobial properties. It used to be used for cleaning urinary catheters in hospitals in 19th century England, in fact!
More recent studies have shown that eucalyptus oil is a powerful cleaner and could be used with established antibiotics to develop treatment strategies for various strains of bacteria.
It is also often used to treat the common cold – have you ever noticed that most cough lozenges or inhaled treatments have eucalyptus as a primary active ingredient?
The oil of eucalyptus is a powerful decongestant and can relieve sore throats, sinus pressure, and even bronchitis. One of the most popular cough medications, Vicks VapoRub, contains eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that make it a prominent treatment in various dental settings.
It can fight bacteria hat cause tooth decay, so if you are able to use eucalyptus in chewing gum, you may be able to fight off decay. It can also be used to treat skin wounds and fungal infections.
If you struggle with bugs around your homestead, you might want to consider using eucalyptus as a natural treatment, too.
It is a powerful miticide and insecticide and can even be effective against he pupae and larvae of the housefly. If you’re looking for a good eco-friendly solution to keep flies away from you farm, eucalyptus might be your go-to solution.
Finally, eucalyptus oil can relieve pain and is often used as an over-the-counter preparation for things like joint pain, arthritis, backaches, bruising, strains, muscle pain, and sprains. It can also stimulate your immune system and make it easier to fight things like cold sores, fevers, flus, wounds, and burns.
There are very few side effects to using eucalyptus oil as a home remedy – you need to be careful about using it directly on your skin unless you dilute the oil.
I always recommend diluting essential oils with some kind of a carrier oil anyway, like olive oil. Otherwise, it can produce a burning sensation. You should also make sure you are not allergic to eucalyptus oil before using it on your skin.
Finally, you should not consume eucalyptus soil because it is poisonous to eat. It can cause issues like trouble breathing, dizziness, and digestive upset.
How to Grow Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus has a delicious menthol-like fragrance and is a popular plant to be grown at home. In the garden, it’s a great ornamental species, and when grown indoors it is equally stunning. You can use the leaves in crafty creations or extract the essential oil for home use, too.
If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, you can grow eucalyptus as a tree. It will grow to towering heights and will be the same kind of plant that is used to feed the koalas in Australia!
However, if you are a home gardener, you may find it easier to grow eucalyptus as a small plant or potted shrub, as I did. You can trim it back frequently to keep it at a manageable size.
This plant is easy to grow, despite the fact that it is a heavy feeder and needs a lot of sunlight. You can put it outside during the summer and bring it inside when the weather cools.
You will want to pay attention to the lighting, feeding, and watering needs of this plant, but know that it can adapt to most soils. If you are able to put it outside for at least some portions of the year, know that it is valuable for its ability to attract bees with its fragrant blossoms.
Outside, eucalyptus trees can be grown to heights of 60 feet tall or more! They will produce gorgeous half-moon-shaped leaves.
As potted trees, they will likely only grow to about eight feet tall in one season – however it’s easy to keep these plants trimmed back to a more manageable size.
It is not recommended that you use a conventional round pot for your eucalyptus plants. This will result in poor root development, as the roots will begin to circle around inside of the pot and become so tightly wound that it will be impossible to transplant the tree later.
Instead, you should plant the tree in a large, cone-shaped pot. You can then transplant it later if need be. You should plant in well-drained, nutritious soil and give it regular water.
You should add liquid fertilizer to your plant water about once a week. You only need to fertilize during the early spring until the end of the summer – it will remain dormant for the rest of the year. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer, as this plant has low nitrogen needs.
Your eucalyptus plant needs full sun in order to remain healthy. It should be placed in a sunny location (that also receives shelter from the wind) where it is easy for you to water it.
In the summer, you might want to dig a hole and place the entire container in it. You can sink it to the lip of the pot and leave it in the ground all summer.
This may make it easier for your eucalyptus plant to war up. Just make sure you bring it inside once the temperatures drop!
Water your plants by misting the soil. This will ensure that your plant remains properly hydrated but does not become water-logged. This should e done just about every day.
Growing Eucalyptus From Seed
If you don’t already have a eucalyptus plant, you can grow your own at home or purchase cuttings or transplants from the store. To propagate it from cuttings, you will need a cutting that is about four to six inches long.
Place it in a small pot filled with either potting soil or perlite. Keep it moist and regularly mist it until the roots form. Then, it should be kept in a warm area of about 80-90 degrees until it has become firmly established.
You can also grow eucalyptus from seed, which is often easier for the novice gardener. You will want to chill your seeds in the refrigerator for two months before beginning. This process, known as stratification, will bring the seeds out of dormancy and encourage good germination.
You should plant your eucalyptus seeds in late winter. While this timeline doesn’t matter as much if you plan on keeping your eucalyptus plant indoors full time, it will help put you on a schedule that mimics your eucalyptus’s plants natural growing patterns.
To plant seeds, prepare peat pots with good potting soil. This should be porous and contain lots of perlite.
You will want to use peat pots and not any other kind of pot because eucalyptus does not take well to transplanting.
The peat pots will make it easier on your plants’ fragile roots, as you can just plant the entire pots.
Plant your seeds by sprinkling a few on top of the potting soil in each pot. Cover them with a light sprinkling of horticultural sand, which will help keep the seeds warm and in position until they germinate. Never use sand from your backyard to do this, as they can be contaminated with pathogens that can kill your developing seedlings.
Mist your seeds regularly. Once they germinate, you should mist them everyday to keep the medium evenly moist. They also need to be kept warm – a good spot is the top of the refrigerator or on a heating pad.
Once seedlings emerge, you can trim back the weakest ones. You don’t want to have multiple seedlings in one pot, as this can cause overcrowding. Use sterilized seedlings to trim back the weak links.
How to Transplant Seedlings
Once your seedlings have fully developed, you will need to transplant them either into larger pots or directly into the garden. If you are transplanting outside, you will want to wait until mid-summer.
If you planted in the winter, your seedings should have had plenty of time to establish themselves. Plus, the temperatures will be warmest and best-suited for these plants at the height of summer.
Make sure you select a well-lit location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day. It should be a few feet from nearby buildings because this rapidly-growing tree can cause damage with its falling branches. The site should also be protected from heavy winds for this reason.
You may want to add a bit of compost to your sol. This will help improve the ability of the soil to drain and hold moisture.
Your planting holes should be slightly larger than the peat pots. Plant them gently and make sure you pack soil up and around the roots to protect them as they adjust to the new setting.
Caring for Eucalyptus Plants
Regardless of whether you are growing eucalyptus outdoors or in a container, it may benefit you to add a thick layer of mulch. Mulch can control the temperature of the soil and protect it from drying out. You should use a bulky type of organic matter like compost or bark.
Water your trees at least once a week. Watch out for shriveling leaves, which indicates that your plants aren’t getting enough water.
Once the plant is at least five years old, you won’t have to water at all, even during dry periods, as the plant will have exceptional drought tolerance.
How to Harvest Eucalyptus
You should cut the branches of your eucalyptus plant regularly. You can use all parts of the plant, including the bark, leaves, and roots, which all contain the valuable essential oil.
If you want to extract the oil, you should having the branches by the stem in an upside-down bundle. You may also remove the leaves and let them air-dry until they are leathery. The leaves can then be stored long-term in glass jars.
Extracting Eucalyptus Oil
You can easily distill your eucalyptus plant into your own essential oil by using a common homestead appliance -the Crock Pot!
To do this, you should start by gathering your eucalyptus leaves. You will need about a quarter cup of leaves for every cup of oil you want to make.
Wash the leaves in the sink in water, rinsing them well before you let them dry. Get them as dry as possible and then put a cup of a carrier oil like olive oil into the Crock Pot.
Strip your eucalyptus leaves from the stem and crush them with your hands. Put them into the Crock Pot with the oil and set it to low. Let the mixture steep for about six hours – the longer it steeps, the stronger the oil will be.
Once the oil has steeped, let it cool. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a jar. Try to use a dark glass jar and make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. Any water or bacteria that make their way into the jar can lead to mold.
And that’s essentially all you need to know about this fun plant. I’m anxious to get my new plants! I have just the perfect place for them in mind.
Do you grow Eucalyptus plants? I’d love to know how you use them!
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.