Plant Lover’s Guide to Eucalyptus Gunnii
The eucalyptus gunnii, better known to most as the “cider gum,” is a species of tree that is known around the world for one primary trait, which is the production of eucalyptus oil. Although eucalyptus oil is definitely a well-loved essential oil all over the planet, this tree also makes a beautiful addition to any landscape that can handle the sometimes towering height that this tree can achieve. Gardeners who possess a flare for pruning or even the art of bonsai may be particularly interested in this species as it is a favorite amongst those who utilize coppice and/or pollard pruning techniques.
The eucalyptus gunnii is native to the southern region of Australia where it takes advantage of the warmth and brightness of the region. The typical cider gum will grow to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 feet in height with a 40 to 60-foot spread at the staggering pace of five to six feet per year. This is a fast-growing species that can be surprisingly long-lived. If you’ve never seen this species of eucalyptus up close, then consider visiting a local flower shop to get an idea of what you can expect from this tree. Many flower bouquets contain stems of the eucalyptus gunnii adorned with round, lily pad-shaped leaves. The color of the eucalyptus leaves may range from dark green to ghostly green and as a general find, the young leaf growth tends to be round whereas mature growth becomes elongated and ovate. The leaves are very fragrant and emit the familiar citronella scent that many gardeners find exotic and pleasant, which is a good thing considering this is an evergreen plant.
The bark of this eucalyptus species is quite interesting. The color of the eucalyptus’s bark is light brown but when new growth occurs, especially in the years before the tree becomes fully matured, the bark will turn grey and begin to peel away. The naturally smooth texture adds an otherworldly touch to the plant that makes it much more fascinating than the typical landscape-variety tree. If you’re looking for a versatile tree that can be kept large or small (depending on your pruning abilities), that looks unique, and smells fantastic, then the eucalyptus gunnii may be a good tree to grow in your garden!
Growing the Eucalyptus Gunnii
Growing this species of eucalyptus is actually pretty easy because this tree is hardy to drought and warm temperatures, but you should know that there are some environments to which this tree simply won’t be suited. Areas that experience a lot of coolness and/or dampness would not be a good match for the eucalyptus. In the United States, it is recommended that this species be grown only in USDA zones seven through eleven. These areas typically do not experience temperatures cooler than zero to five degrees Fahrenheit at any given point during the year, which is good news for the eucalyptus as it is cold hardy to some degree, but certainly not with temperatures lower than zero degrees Fahrenheit.
This eucalyptus species will do best in a location where it can bask in the sunlight but receive protection from harsh winds. If you have a specific windy season, such as the month of October, then you might consider constructing a protective shelter around the tree while it is young. Alternatively, you could grow the plant in a pot and prune it back regularly to keep it from becoming too large. Adding fertilizer to the soil will result in a blast of leaf growth, so try to go a bit easy on plant food, compost, and fertilizers.
Training the tree’s growth is a great idea regardless of whether you plan to grow the tree in the ground or in a pot. You can do so using a variety of pruning techniques. One such technique that is used with the eucalyptus tree is called coppicing. This method is very easy and is a great way to obtain a shrub-like appearance. All you have to do is trim the plant down to ground level once it has grown too large for your liking. This will encourage new growth from the ground up and will provide your garden with a fresh, rejuvenated appearance each year. Alternatively, you could use the coppice pollard method, which just involves trimming back the growth from the main stem. For instance, say you’ve got the main stem at about five feet—where you like it. From that stem there will be anywhere from three to six large branches that produces leaves. –These are the branches that will be cut back each summer to maintain the height that you prefer. Every few years you may find yourself needing to trim off the main stem. The best time to pollard is in the summer, before cool weather moves in and encourages fungi growth.
Uses for Eucalyptus Oil
You may be curious as to the hype surrounding eucalyptus oil. For many years oil has been extracted from the branches and leaves of the eucalyptus tree. The oil is very potent and has been used primarily for healing ailments. This oil is heavily diluted, as taking pure eucalyptus oil can cause death. A few of the conditions that this natural element has been used to treat throughout history include: arthritis, upset stomach, inflammation, respiratory infections, controlling blood sugar levels, bronchitis, and sinus pain/swelling.