Once your tree is planted the most important things you can do now to help your tree establish are the three W's: Water, Weeds and Water. Eucalyptus are shallow rooted and thirsty trees, for their first year make sure so water regularly and well. Remove any weeds from the base of the tree and up to 1 metre around, this competition can suck up any water and slow the establishment of the tree.
Generally speaking, Eucalyptus don’t need high levels of nutrients to keep themselves going and are very efficient at getting what they do need from the ground. This means that they don’t need much, if any fertiliser when planted in the ground.
If you do want to use fertiliser (those growing foliage for floristry may want to encourage extra growth) then you can use a balanced fertiliser during Spring and Summer. Avoid high nitrogen fertilisers as Eucalyptus can very carried away if given too much nitrogen, producing masses of top growth but on very weak, thin stems and become top heavy.
The only time we would encourage the use of fertiliser is during late Summer and early Autumn. Using a fertiliser with little or no nitrogen but lots of phosphorus and potassium will help harden new growth for the oncoming winter to protect against frost damage.
Protection From The Elements
Coming from a warmer climate Eucalyptus can be prone to frost damage, particularly in their first couple of winters. Adding a thick layer of mulch (bark chip) up to 15cm deep around the base of the tree can really help protect the roots from frost.
Tree shelters should be avoided as it restricts lower branch growth essential to the development of a strong trunk. They can also have a humid micro-climate inside which leads to a heightened risk of attack from diseases. If you need to provide protection from rabbits then a spiral tree guard should suffice. If deer are a problem then some form of open structure or cage may be necessary, but make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
Growing Eucalyptus Gum Trees in Containers
A popular option for Eucalyptus Trees is to grow them in a pot. Grown in the ground they are pretty big trees - for those with smaller gardens, growing in a pot means they can still enjoy everything Eucalyptus has to offer, but on a smaller scale. There are many Eucalyptus species that will grow happily in pots and containers (see our Growing Eucalyptus Trees In Pots page).
The best method would be to grow your Eucalyptus in an Air-Pot. These pots are specially designed with many holes around the pot wall and the stops the tree becoming root bound – trees can be kept in these pots for quite a few years. Air-Pots can be placed inside more ornamental ceramic or plastic pots if desired. When it comes to pot size, the bigger the better. Eucalyptus are vigorous growers so will need room to spread.
Use a free-draining compost, preferably peat-free (and even ericaceous). Additions such as water retaining granules and slow release fertilisers are also a good idea. Water regularly and use fertiliser during the Spring and Summer months.
Eucalyptus in pots will require regular pruning to keep them in check as they will still try and grow into full size trees if given the chance. All pruning should ideally be done in March/April. Summer pruning can be done if the tree has become out of hand but Autumn and Winter pruning should be avoided as the open wounds of the Eucalyptus are susceptible to Silver Leaf Fungus.
If growing outdoors in a container, Eucalyptus will need some winter protection. Move to a sheltered location and in very cold places root protection may be required by wrapping the pot in fleecing, hessian or similar.
If growing indoors, make sure the trees always have plenty of light as they are sun-lovers. During colder months make sure the tree is in a well ventilated area as high humidity can cause Oedemas (puckering of the leaf).
Pruning Eucalyptus Trees
Pruning Eucalyptus can be done for several reasons: to keep the size and height down, to encourage more bushy growth with coppicing or pollarding & corrective pruning for those with badly placed or unstable branches. As mentioned in the previous section, any pruning should ideally be done in March/April. Summer pruning can be done if the tree has become out of hand but Autumn and Winter pruning should be avoided as the open wounds will not heal quickly and are susceptible to Silver Leaf Fungus.
When pruning medium to larger sized Eucalyptus, time should be taken to consider each cut to make sure you are left with a tree which looks which hasn’t even been touched (rather one that has been hacked at!). As with all pruning make sure your tools are sharp and clean and make all cuts close and clean to either the main trunk or back to the desired branch.