Eucalyptus is a tall flowering tree of the Myrtaceae family. Almost 700 species of this family have been identified so far, mostly native to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In Australia, these are mostly referred to as gum trees. Although we are familiar with tall varieties, these plants also grow as shrubs.
These plants can be grown easily from seeds. These plants are more suitable for temperate regions. As there is a wide range of species within the group, it is important to choose the particular type that best suits the climate and soil conditions at your place.
Although most of the trees require a good amount of sunlight, there are some species like E. neglecta and E. crenulata, which can tolerate partial shade, and also adapt to a wide range of soil and climatic variations.
If you are planning to plant seeds, sow them in late winter in moist sphagnum moss. Be sure to place them in a location that gets a lot of sunlight. If you are getting small plants from the nursery, ensure that the plant is planted right away in your garden.
In case the species is native to your region, you could plant it any time in the year. However, in the winter season, it is best to plant eucalyptus in early spring. If you live in an area which has hot, dry summer, fall or beginning of the rainy season would be the best time for planting it.
The area where you want to plant this new addition to your garden should be clear of weeds. Dig a hole bigger than the root ball. Try to keep the hole as big as the pot from which the plant is being removed. However, ensure that the hole is 1 to 2 inches deeper.
Now place the plant in the hole in such a way that the roots are disturbed minimally. There is no need to spread out the roots as this could harm them. You could separate the roots so that they point outward, as long as you are sure that you won't harm the roots. However, this is easier said than done.
Fill the hole with soil, and tamp the area a little to ensure that there are no air pockets. Water the soil and spread mulch around the tree so that it would hold the moisture. Maintain soil moisture until the tree gets established.
Once it is done, it will tolerate relatively harsher drought conditions. Other than being planted in the garden, certain species of eucalyptus are also good choice for container gardening.
Once the plant is established, it doesn't require too much care. Other than those that are grown in containers, this plant does not require too much water. For those that are being grown in containers, let them dry between successive watering.
Add fertilizer to the plant once after the first month of planting it. After that, fertilize it once every three years. Care and maintenance includes annual pruning to remove dead and diseased branches.
It is advisable to prune the trees in summer season as a cut in the bark leaves it susceptible to fungal infection during the winter months. Always use a sealant or apply a wound dressing in case any part of the tree is injured while pruning.
The tree produces heavy litter during fall. It is best to clean the area around the tree as the bark is flammable. Yellowing of leaves or chlorosis is a common disease of the plant. This is caused due to lack of iron. It is also susceptible to the long-horned borer, eucalyptus gall wasp, the lerp psyllid, and different leaf eating beetles.
Chemicals like eucalyptrin, hyperoside, quercetin, quecitrin, tannins, and associated acids can be found in the eucalyptus. These are mainly obtained from the leaves and bark of the tree. Eucalyptus oil is the main source of the various health benefits of the plant. It is an essential oil that is extracted from leaves and branch tips.
The oil is also a rich source of the antiseptic substance called cineole. Its benefits include its ability to provide relief from sinus infections, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.
Its excellent anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties has provided this oil a place as the preferred ingredients in soaps, ointments, deodorants, and other products which are of use for maintaining personal hygiene.
Besides the oil, the plant leaves contain tannins that are believed to reduce inflammation, and flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. Many herbalists suggest to add fresh eucalyptus leaves to tea. Gargling with warm eucalyptus water can be used as an effective remedy to treat bronchitis, sinus infection, and sore throat.
The tree is also preferred to be grown in marshy areas that soak up excess water from the soil, and thus prevent the spread of diseases like malaria. Eucalyptus plants also form the staple diet of the koalas, the much-loved Australian marsupial.
Eucalyptus not only add to the visual pleasure of a landscape, but they also have a number of medicinal and therapeutic uses.