Q: I saw a couple of eucalyptus plants growing outside the entrance to Gwinnett Place mall. The maintenance people didn’t seem to know much about how well they grow in this region but they seem to have survived the winter.
What do you think about eucalyptus here?
A: I have seen an occasional eucalyptus in local landscapes, too. Some varieties of eucalyptus are hardy to temperatures below zero – so growing it in Atlanta should be a snap, right?
In fact, eucalyptus has a hard time surviving more than a few years here – not because it gets too cold, but because the cold alternates with warm weather in winter.
Given a few days with temperatures above fifty in January, followed by a night in the twenties, and eucalyptus becomes compost!
The key to keeping eucalyptus safe in the winter is to treat it badly in the summer. The plant should be sited in a well-drained but dry area on the north or east side of a windbreak (like your house or garage). It should be fertilized minimally in early summer, with NO fertilizer applied after July. Eucalyptus is adapted to the desert, so no water should be applied other than natural rainfall.
Even with these hints, winter temperatures in the teens call for covering eucalyptus completely with a sheet during the night.