Eucalyptus: Growing Tropicals for Your Home
The Amazing Eucalyptus
Food isn't the only reason I garden. Some plants I have chosen to propagate made the list for their benefits in health and beauty products and in first aid.
Eucalyptus has been used for hundreds of years (maybe thousands) by the aborigines of Australia. It is a fascinating tree. It can grow up to 180' tall, it loves water, and can tolerate drought. The leaves are highly aromatic, and when they are crushed or rubbed, they emit a wonderful scent.
There are so many uses for eucalyptus. Eucalyptus oil is used to support the respiratory system and is added to products for chest relief. It is also added to rubs and lotions to relieve sore muscles.
There are many species of Eucalyptus—E. globulus being the most popular and highest in virtues.
What You'll Need
- Sandy soil substrate
- Large pot (plastic)
- Drip pan to fit
- Small pebbles
- Eucalyptus seed
EucalyptusClick thumbnail to view full-size
From Seed to Houseplant
Eucalyptus do not like their roots disturbed, which is a big deal when we are germinating houseplants. Usually seeds are started in starting trays and transplanted up as they grow. For a tree that doesn't like their roots jostled about, this can be a problem. I remedied this problem by doing what every garden bible written says NOT to do. I started the seed in a large pot so the roots had plenty of room to do their thing. I chose a plastic pot to help retain moisture between watering.
In the beginning, most seedlings will need to be offered partial shade. They need warmth and bright light, direct sun and too much heat, however, can easily kill them. Place your pot in an area that receives plenty of early morning sun and afternoon shade.
Seed needs to be sown on the surface and it needs to stay moist. It can't be too hot and it can't be too cold. I started the eucalyptus seeds outside in late spring when it was warm and cool but not too cool and not to warm. I have found that allowing mother nature to do some of the hard work takes frustration away from the gardener trying to mimic growing conditions inside. It's also cheaper than heat mats and grow lights.
Water your pot well. And check it daily until germination occurs. If you are using this method, you won't need to water every day. Often times, spring brings rain to you. A plastic pot helps retain the water.
Eucalyptus seeds germinate fairly quickly so keep your eyes peeled. They are heavy feeders and will require a lot of water. They will grow very fast over this first summer. You don't want your seedling to dry out before it has its chance to grow.
Starting seeds outside gives your plant a chance to adapt to environmental challenges it would not experience inside, such as wind and temperature fluctuations. When you start seedlings inside and then bring them outside they need to be acclimated over a two week period. Wind and temperature changes can cause detrimental harm to seedlings. Acclimating plants to outdoor conditions can be time-consuming. A forgotten tray of seedlings can be a total loss of weeks and even months of hard work. Exposing the seeds (and future seedlings) to the elements at the earliest time possible is key to a strong, fairly adaptable, happy houseplant.
You 'll want to bring him in before frost. While frost can occur to zone 9, and eucalyptus would probably live through a minor frost, it is unnecessary to put your baby through that. As fall approaches and threats of early frost loom, bring him inside. He will want the sunniest window in the house.
Mixing Your Own Substrate
What you will need:
- 2/3 Sand
- 1/3 Top Soil or Potting Mix
- Dash Compost or Manure
- Blend Well
Why Mix Your Own Substrate?
The soil where you live is unique to your area. Your soil is made up of tiny particles, sand, minerals, clay, compost, loam. Your local DNRC or extension office can go into extreme detail on this subject, but it may bore you to tears. Different plant life requires different soils and different minerals. Which is why some plants grow better in one place than another, it s not just weather.
When you mix your own substrate, you control how many parts of each type of soil are present in the final product. For our eucalyptus, we consider where it grows when we mix our soil to best recreate its preferred growing conditions.
Substrates and soil types can get very technical which is why going to purchase potting soils can be so daunting. There's potting mix for roses, tomatoes, cactus, bromelaids, and many more. There's organic and non organic, seed start or potting mix, perlites, and peats. It's easier to just mix your own. And it s really very simple. For this project you need three things, four if you include a wheel barrow or tub to mix it in.
- Potting mix or top soil
- Compost or manure
Any sand . . . I use sand from my area. There is a sand quarry nearby and the sand is soft, like beach sand. It is filled with minerals and nutrients. I fill a 5-gal bucket and use it as needed. I've never bought play sand, although I assume it would work just fine, the grains might be larger than beach sand, but for the purpose of mixing dirt, it should work. If you can get beach sand, go for it.
Top Soil or Potting Mix
Top Soil has been scraped from the surface of the land, hence "Top Soil". The top 5-12" or so of soil in certain areas is primo. Full of nutrients and microorganisms. The soil is super soft and retains water well. Other areas, not so much. Before purchasing "topsoil", know your areas soils and know what is being delivered. If the top layer of soil is clay or sand . . . you don't want it.
Each "Potting Mix" is different. Potting Mix is pre-mixed soil for container growers. It has been formulated with nutrients to feed container grown plants. There are some cheap potting mixes that are bare bones material. They will do just fine for mixing your own soil.
Compost or Manure
Compost is made up of biodegradable material which has been aged and turned to create an organic growing medium. Compost is not just food scraps, it is also leaf debris, grass clippings, sawdust, almost anything that can be returned to the earth can be composted to create compost. Avoid composts with chemicals added.
Manure comes from livestock. The benefits of manure vary by animal, as each animal digests food differently. Some animals return seeds to the garden that you don't want. A few of the most sought after manures are cow dung, chicken, and rabbit droppings. Many manures need to be aged before using.
Find an old bowl or scoop to use as a measuring device. Take three scoops of sand and place it in your mixing container. Add one scoop of topsoil or potting mix and a half a scoop of compost or manure. Mix everything together well. You want it sandy with dark brown flakes and pieces. Add a little more topsoil and compost if you need too. Keep adding and mixing until you have enough soil to fill your chosen pot.
I mix my own soil for everything, not just houseplants. I try to use as much product as possible from my area. I want the minerals, especially when I grow something I intend to eat. I avoid using anything with chemical additives.
SubtrateClick thumbnail to view full-size
The leaves of Eucalyptus globulus are steamed distilled to extract the much sought after essential oils. For most of us, this would be impractical at home. However, Essential oils can be extracted for home use by gently cooking the fresh leaves in olive oil.
Eucalyptus essential oils are used in lotions for sore muscles, added to salves for colds and coughs, and distilled in the air using a diffuser to fight bronchial and or respiratory infections.
The leaves are prepared into a decoction and used as an insect repellant. This decoction is also a useful gargle for bad breath and throat infections.
Dried eucalyptus leaves are used in teas. They can be collected at any time and dried for home use. Store in an airtight jar and always label and date. Use 1/2 tsp dried leaf to 1 c boiled water.
The leaves can be used in steam distillation by filling a pan with water and gently simmering on a back burner. These are just a sampling of the many home uses of eucalyptus.
Cold and Cough Salve
- Olive oil (to cover)
- Use a double boiler to Infuse the herbs into the olive oil. Allow to stand until cooled then strain off the herbs reserving the oil.
- Weigh out 1 oz beeswax and six (6) tablespoons of infused oil. Place in a bowl over a double boiler until beeswax melts. Remove from heat.
- Stir gently while your product is cooling. When cool, yet still warm, add 10 drops Vitamin E.
- If you wish to add additional essential oil, you can do so now. Blend well.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found all the information you were looking for. If you have grown eucalyptus indoors and you have any tips, please share in the comments below! Happy gardening!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2017 Kim French