Eucalyptus, the Vick’s Vapor Rub herb, starts in our Zone 7 early spring as a 3 – 6 inch runt of a herb plant. First time purchasers have no idea how large and how fast Eucalyptus will grow over the summer / fall season. In zone 7 eucalyptus is a year round tender perennial that can stay outside permanently. More later on how it ever dies. In zone 7, where the HerbFest is held; and below zone 7, the tree rarely ever reaches it’s full magnitude due to our cold spells and freezes, but that does not mean it can not be enjoyed year round.
It’s difficult when planting eucalyptus to appreciate the rapidity of it’s growth and the herbal characteristics of this plant. In one summer it can easily reach over 12 feet in height with a 12 foot diameter. The branches became long and spindly with beautiful, gray glistening round button leaves. The branches are sporadically positioned, trunk and bark exposed with the uneven bark colors and hues of gray / chalky white. The top gray color of the leaves and chalky white of the bark and branches make it a perfect member of the “moonlight herbs” category which will affect it’s placement in the landscape. Moonlight reflects to the ability of the plant to reflect light and illustrates to the gardener to place the plant in a full moonlit area to take advantage of the reflected moon light. Often this is a placement outside where people walk, or have to cross during darkness. The additional reflected light makes it much easier to navigate. Often Eucalyptus would be planted beside the “outhouse” as the “target” when one ambled between the lamb’s ears pathway to the outhouse. Of course we know what the Lamb’s Ear also would be used for!
Once the plant is established owners often cut the branches, roll into a wreath structure, and hang in their home or office for the delightful fragrance and unique everlasting wall hanging it can be. Eucalyptus makes the room smell better and adds a seasonal aroma to the air. When possible Eucalyptus prefers full sun, or at minimum morning sun with afternoon sun being ideal.
The main culprit to the continuing life of eucalyptus is icy cold weather where the ice sticks to the branches and trunk. This once every 3-4 year weather in zone 7 usually means the water freezes on the branches, weighs them down and off, resulting in broken branches and often a broken tree trunk. When this happens the tree’s appearance is permanently altered and rather than prune it’s often best to cut down and plant new. Once again the rapid growth becomes a main feature of Eucalyptus and the misfigured broken tree is better replaced since in almost one year it will return to it’s original grandeur. Of course now we wait for the next bad ice storm and hope for the best !!
South Africa Today Garden