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 constantly. More later on how it eventually dies. In zone 7 and above 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 become 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 grey 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 refers to the ability of the plant to reflect light and illustrates to the gardener to place the plant in a full moon lite area to take advantage of the reflected moon light. Often this is a placement outside where folks walk, or have to come cross during darkness. The additional refelected light makes it much easier to naviagte. Often Eucalyptus would be planted beside the "outhouse" as the "target" when one ambled between the lamb's ears pathway to the outhouse. Of couse we know what the Lamb's Ear also would be used for.
Once the plant is estalished owners often cut the branches, roll into a wreath structure, and hand 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 usuallly means the water freezes on the branches, weighs them down and off, resulting in broken branches and often a brokern 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 replace in almost one year to it's original grandeur. Of course now we wait for the next bad ice storm and hope for the best!!