The dream: loads of eucalyptus that you lovingly grew from seed adorning your flower arrangements and wreaths.
The reality? Fighting other cut flower growers for seeds the minute a seed company updates its listings, struggling with poor germination and long growing times, then barely getting any eucalyptus to show for it because it feels like you practically live in the Arctic and it was a particularly cold summer.
But then you take your meagre harvest, throw it in a bouquet or use it as foliage in a wreath, and you’re back in love, vowing you’re going to figure out how to grow eucalyptus from seed in a cold climate and short growing season.
I live in hardiness Zone 3 with anywhere from a 90-110 day growing season, and I’ve successfully grown eucalyptus from seed and lived to tell the tale. Here’s how I did it, and what I’m going to do differently to improve my harvest.
If you prefer video content, check out my video, How to Grow Eucalyptus in a Cold Climate, on YouTube:
IS IT EASY TO GROW EUCALYPTUS FROM SEED?
In theory, yes. Eucalyptus needs light, water, and heat like any other cut flower.
In practice, there are things that make it especially challenging in a cold climate and short growing season. For one, eucalyptus needs around 200 days to mature. That means in Zone 3, I’m starting it in January or February. It’s also notoriously slow to both germinate and grow.
In 2020, I started my eucalyptus seeds around mid-February, and this is how big the largest one was by April 25th.
These plants also prefer heat, which they did not get because we had a particularly cold summer that year. So my largest plant was somewhere around 12-18 inches, and not very bushy.
A GROWING STRATEGY FOR COLD CLIMATES
If you’ve never grown eucalyptus from seed before, here’s how to do it step by step:
- Figure out your first and last frost dates. You can see how I do it in this video.
- Count backwards from your last frost date 200 days. This is the latest you should start your seeds. I personally would start them around a month earlier, to give you some wiggle room if they germinate extra slow, or your summer ends up colder than normal.
- Harden off your seedlings carefully. After all that work, you’d hate to lose them!! I make removable tunnels like these ones to make the process easier.
- If you own a greenhouse, plant them directly in the ground in the greenhouse. They’ll be a lot happier, and you’ll gain a few extra growing days at the end of the season.
- If you don’t own a greenhouse, choose the hottest microclimate in your yard to grow them.
- Water your plants regularly, and it should reward you with fragrant bunches of eucalyptus in late August and into September.
WHERE TO BUY EUCALYPTUS SEEDS (ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE IN CANADA)
There are a lot of online seed companies that sell the silver drop and silver dollar varieties of eucalyptus, and many of them are either in Canada or ship to Canada. At the time of writing this, eucalyptus seems to be very popular to grow, so the seeds often sell out fast. Also, shipping times are slow, so you need to order well ahead of the time you need them.
Here are the online seed companies, in no particular order:
- Edgebrook Farm
- Johnny’s Select Seeds
- William Dam
- Floret Farms
- Sarah’s Cut Flowers
- West Coast Seeds
If you have any more questions about growing eucalyptus from seed, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. And, if you want more tips on growing the garden of your dreams, I’ve taken all the guesswork out of creating a cut flower garden with my e-book, Cut Flowers Made Simple. It’s the perfect way for beginner and intermediate gardeners to start their own cut flower garden with or without seed starting.