Name: gum tree, Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora species and varieties.
Height: 50m+, but many garden-worthy varieties in the 3–6m range.
Foliage: evergreen, lance-shaped and often curved.
Climate: cold temperate, warm temperate, arid/semi-arid, sub-tropical and tropical.
Soil: most soils.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: white, cream, orange, red, pink and some other colours.
Feeding: not usually needed once established.
Watering: water young plants to help them establish. Very little water, if any, needed once established.
Eucalyptus is an evergreen tree with green, blue-green or grey foliage. The leaves are usually lance-shaped, often with a pronounced curve to them. In some varieties, such as Silver Princess, the leaves can also be rounded.
The tree can be short, with a stout trunk and thick head of foliage or it might be more open, even pendulous.
With around 700 eucalyptus species – including the tallest flowering tree in the world – you might be thinking these are trees for the forest, not for your garden. However, there are many smaller gum trees that are ideally suited to home gardens, and in recent years newly bred varieties have been introduced that have showy flowers on garden-friendly sized trees. Just double check the plant label to confirm it won’t get too big for your position.
Nearly every eucalyptus is guaranteed to bring in the birds – they love the nectar that the flowers produce. If you’ve got the space you might plant a variety of eucalyptus trees that flower at different times – that way you’ll have birds feeding at different times of the year.
Many of the new hybrid flowering gums also make useful screen plants, as they are not too tall but still have a thick head of foliage. Other eucalypts can be grown to create shade. As they mature, remove lower branches so you can sit under the broad spreading branches.
A few eucalypt varieties are particularly good as garden specimens. Look for the ones with interesting trunks or a lovely weeping habit.
Although famous for their toughness in hot and dry conditions, not all eucalypts can take frosts, so check locally before purchasing.
You may need to stake a young eucalyptus tree if it is in a particularly wind-prone spot or very sandy soil. Use two stakes on opposite sides of the trunk, and tie with a soft material that allows a little flex, but not too much. Remove the stakes after about a year.
Your eucalyptus tree probably won’t require pruning. When it is very young check that it has formed up with one main upright trunk. If a second upright trunk (not a side branch) appears, remove this, leaving the established one as the leading trunk.
Watch out for caterpillars, as they can strip a young tree bare pretty quickly. You can pick or cut them off and squash them, but make sure you wear protective clothing, including gloves and eye protection, as many will squirt a noxious substance at you, and some are covered in nasty hairs. Alternatively, there is an organic caterpillar killer.
Most eucalyptus trees are propagated from seed. Collect the drying brown cones into paper bags just before they split open, and leave in a warm dry place until they open. The minute seeds can be sown onto the top of a seed-raising mixture and covered lightly with more of the mix. Keep damp and plant the seedlings into small pots or tubes when they are a few centimetres tall.
Lilly pilly: an evergreen native often grown as a hedge but can be left to form specimen trees.
Grevillea: a native bird-attracting plant that ranges from small ground covers to large trees.
Bottlebrush: an evergreen Australian shrub with fabulous bird-attracting flowers.
Crepe myrtle: a small tree with smooth bark, good autumn colour and flowers in late summer.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.
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