Whether you've tasted eucalyptus as a tea, smelled a candle scented with its oil, or hung a leafy eucalyptus wreath on your front door, you're likely familiar with how this beautiful plant can be much more than just another boost of green in your horticulture collection. If you're wondering how to grow eucalyptus indoors, we've got great news: it comes in all sizes!
Types of Eucalyptus Plants
There are over 800 species of eucalyptus plants that are mostly native to Australia, according to the Australian Academy of Science. They are fast-growing, and some varieties range from 10- to a whopping 200-feet tall, as Better Homes & Gardens notes.
None of the members of the eucalyptus family tolerate cold, so they can only be planted in US Hardiness Zones eight through eleven outside. They are evergreens with distinctive blue-green to silver leaves that can be either circular or moon-shaped. Most eucalyptus plants have fragrant, unique flowers. Additionally, most varieties shed their bark annually, which can create pretty patterns on the trunk.
Eucalyptus trees are probably most famous for their relationship with cute and sleepy koalas—one of the rare species of animals that can digest eucalyptus leaves, as National Geographic explains. The oil is toxic to ingest for most other animals (including humans!). Externally, the essential oil has a number of uses. It has a pleasant smell and works well as a bug repellent against dust mites and houseflies alike. Eucalyptus is also a common component of cough drops and chest rubs for congestion.
Starting Your Eucalyptus
With some care, eucalyptus trees can be brought indoors as houseplants. As mentioned before, eucalyptus plants grow very fast and are relatively easy to start—but they can be finicky. It's best to go with smaller varieties that do well indoors. Mallee Eucalyptus are shrub varieties that include Eucalyptus erythronema, Eucalyptus gracilis, Eucalyptus socialis, and Eucalyptus oleosa. Other varieties that do well inside include:
- Eucalyptus gunnii (cider gum)
- Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon-scented gum)
- Eucalyptus vernicosa
- Eucalyptus archeri
- Eucalyptus gregsoniana
- Eucalyptus crenulata
- Eucalyptus coccifera
Most eucalyptus plants can easily be grown from a cutting. If you have a friend that has a plant, ask them to cut off a small branch and let it soak in water in a vase for a few weeks. The branch will grow roots and then can be planted in a pot. The finicky part? They don't want to be repotted. So, it's best to pick out a huge pot that will still look nice in ten years and that the plant can grow into. Make sure the pot has drainage holes, too, so the roots won't be sitting in water. You may also want to invest in a plant stand with wheels so you can move the heavy pot around when you move furniture.
If you don't have access to a friendly eucalyptus gardener, you can try your hand at growing your plant from seed. Most seeds in this plant family are small and like to be planted less than an inch under the soil. Keep the soil moist, never dry but also never saturated or flooded. And remember, eucalyptus plants really don't like to be transplanted. This means that you may want to start your seeds in a pot you can put directly in the soil and will decompose, such as a homemade newspaper seedling pot, an egg carton, or a toilet paper roll with the end folded. When your plant is a few inches tall, plant the entire seedling pot into a huge, long-term pot just like you would with a plant grown from a cutting.
You can also very easily buy a small plant from a local garden center or a mail-order nursery! When planting your new baby, do your best not to disturb the roots. I often loosen the soil and roots when putting any plant into its new home—but that should never be done with eucalyptus! If your plant is root-bound in its old container, use scissors to cut the plastic container away so you don't tear the roots.
Caring for Your Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus plants like a lot of light, so keep your plant in a south-facing window. It would also be happy outside in a sunny spot in the summer for a few months. Just be sure to bring it in before any threat of frost (find your average first frost date at the Old Farmer's Almanac).
These plants are used to hot, tropical environments. They can tolerate a drought with some wilting, but don't go too long without watering them. They are evergreens, so if you have leaf drop, try to adjust your watering schedule. Note that eucalyptus plants kept indoors do not often flower.
This is how to grow eucalyptus indoors: force them to stay small! You may want to treat your eucalyptus as a Bonzi. Pinch off old growth and shape the tree to the size you prefer.
Benefits of an Indoor Eucalyptus Plant
Be sure to make use of those cast-off leaves you've pruned! Dry the leaves by hanging them upside down out of the sun. You can arrange them in a pretty wreath or floral arrangement, or decorate your patio with the leaves to ward off uninvited bugs. You can also crush the dried leaves and make them into a calming tea. These crushed leaves are also great additions to sugar scrubs or homemade soap and can be found in store-bought natural soaps, too.
Learn more about the power of plants on the Ingredients from Nature board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
Growing indoor plants brings the outside in. A eucalyptus plant will also bring a little piece of Australia to your home and make your room smell wonderful!