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Distinctive foliage provided by red ironbark.

Drought is nothing new here. There could be plenty of rain next winter and for years afterward; but eventually, there will be another series of dry winters, prompting rationing all over again. Landscapers and big box garden centers continue with business as usual. It is up to us to manage our gardens responsibly. Besides native plants, aloes, yuccas, junipers and eucalypti are four groups of formerly popular, drought tolerant plants that are worthy of more attention again.

Eucalypti had gotten a bad reputation even before they became popular the last time around. Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, that was planted so extensively for wood pulp and timber throughout California, is a huge and extremely messy tree. Yet, it is still the most familiar of the eucalypti.

Garden varieties of eucalypti are much more docile. Even though they drop their evergreen foliage and hard seed capsules throughout the year, they do so on a smaller scale. The tall and elegant lemon gum constantly sheds strips of bark like the Tasmanian blue gum does, but does not get big enough to be too overwhelming.

Because they are so undemanding, and some are somewhat messy, eucalypti are best in unrefined parts of the landscape, and away from lawn. Their mess is no problem over ivy or iceplant. They are happiest where other trees might be unhappy. Generous watering actually inhibits root dispersion, and can cause vigorous but structurally deficient stem growth.

Eucalypti innately prefer to be planted while very young, even from four inch or one gallon (#1) pots. Larger (and more expensive) trees, such as boxed trees, take so long to get established that they get passed up by faster growing tiny (and less expensive) trees. Because they are sensitive to confinement, eucalypti are unfortunately rare in nurseries.

The online catalog of Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, which is famous for excellently weird and undemanding plants, features lemon flowered mallee, red capped gum, silver princess gum, bell fruited mallee and fuchsia gum, all in four inch pots. The bell fruited mallee and fuchsia gum are like large but airy shrubbery that do not get much taller than the eaves.

14 thoughts on “Eucalypti Are Innately Drought Tolerant

    1. There are actually a few genera of iceplant, such as Drosanthemum, Delosperma and Mesembryanthemum. They are succulents with an sparkle to the foliage that is supposed to resemble ice crystals. However, the ‘common’ iceplant that I referred to is not a ‘real’ iceplant. We just know it as such, or ‘freeway iceplant’. Others know it is Hottentot fig. It is the biggest and coarsest of these sorts of succulents, and grows wild on the cliffs above most beaches here, as well as on the beaches. Many people dislike it. I happen to really dig it.

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    1. Yes. It is not a problem if the debris is raked. It is not often a problem for smaller trees, especially in irrigated landscapes. However, the big and bad blue gum produces enough debris to bury anything that manages grow through the toxic soil below. The debris does not exactly poison the soil. Nor does it bother what is already established. It just inhibits the germination of seed. Monterey pine and Monterey cypress, and actually several native trees do the same.
      I do happen to like blue gum because I grew up with so many. Although not as common in the Santa Clara Valley, there were many acres of abandoned blue gum plantation around San Bruno, in which there was no other vegetation. Those trees were grand! I grow one here, but keep it pollarded for the aromatic juvenile foliage. It looks ridiculous.

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      1. Yes, although the ‘Compacta’ blue gum is naturally shrubby anyway. I would not mind if that one got planted somewhere to assume a natural form. It is not such a problem as the straight species is, since it says smaller. (However, it can disperse seed that grow into the straight species.) The straight species, which is the silly pollarded trunk in the last picture grew back quite fluffy. I do not have a picture of it from last year. The aroma is awesome. If I had space where such a tree would not interfere with a surrounding forest, I would like to plant a few and let them go wild! I know it is a nasty weed here, but I really like them.

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