Description, habit, uses and attributes:
An interesting species of variable habit. I have seen low growing ones reminiscent of a small alpine snow gum (E. pauciflora subsp niphophila) and tall upright specimens similar to an E. archeri
It originates from a freezing cold mountainous district of Tasmania and enjoys cool summer months with slow but steady growth – so should be happy in the UK! It can be shy to get going, becoming faster growing with time.
Lignotuber: it has one, which is a good thing! E. coccifera will regenerate off the lignotuber if cut down by man, beast or nature. It also produces many shoots from epicormic buds lying dormant beneath the bark higher up the tree; so E. coccifera will respond extremely well to both coppicing and pollarding practices.
What is a lignotuber?
How to use in the landscape and/or garden:
How to grow or train it to get the best out of it:
Good Specimen Tree for the wider landscape and for the medium/larger garden with free draining soil. Interesting architectural habit. Good for xerophytic landscapes, winter gardens and Australasian themes
Growing a full sized standard: Planting the tree and running away is an option, but it won’t necessarily give you the best results. For information on how to do it properly see our growing notes here
Growing a multi-stemmed bush or tree. E. coccifera does very well as a bushy shrub, when kept pruned annually (do this on March 19th) OR once turned into a multi-stemmed specimen, you can grow it up into a mature tree with many architectural branches and an open canopy of adult foliage
Why would you want to do this? To create
- a tree with more body or ‘mass’ of branches and foliage for screening purposes, once grown back up to its full potential, but now with several main trunks
- an attractive multi-stemmed architectural tree, especially if it has exceptional bark
- to control height, whereby your Euc can be usefully maintained anywhere between 2.4m (8ft) and 7m (20ft), but genetically it will want to grow taller if ignored.
To produce your own multistem from a young tree or maxi tree see our growing notes here -
Floral Art: Interesting species for cut foliage – robust and sturdy with a delicious minty fragrance. The juvenile foliage is very different from the adult foliage; both can be used for floral art.
For information on how to grow cut foliage, see our ‘How to’ pages here
Firewood Production: not on our list of recommended firewood species, but the wood will burn. For information on how to grow firewood, see our ‘How to’ pages here
Hedge-Screens & Windbreaks: Great as a hedge-screen for non-boggy soils. As a young tree this looks different from your usual idea of a Eucalyptus. Beautiful deep jade-green, interestingly shaped foliage, making this a variety for a distinctive hedge or evergreen screen (2-3m tall).
For information on how to grow hedge-screens, see our ‘How to’ pages here.
- Good shade tree for livestock to stand under. Eucalyptus provide a cool environment for horses, cattle, llamas, sheep to shelter from the sun on hot days, as the mass evaporation of water through the leaves creates a cool shady canopy beneath. Also, I have been told that the eucalyptol in the leaves deters flies
- Bees. - flowers are useful to bees and other pollinating insects
- Habitat creation and Game Cover: this species lends itself to providing good trouble-free habitat creation for wildlife and game cover, when planted in groups.
Birds enjoy roosting in Eucalyptus trees and Pheasants like rootling around underneath them.
- Chickens: The shredded foliage of this species is excellent at keeping Chicken nest boxes and hen houses free of red mites, which detest the presence of Eucalyptol. I used to line our Chicken boxes with shredded leaves, strew the floor and pile up the spindly branches for the chickens to make nests. It was all great till the foxes moved into the next field...
- Tolerant of the salt-laden winds and air-borne sea-spray of coastal environments, but best perhaps grown a mile or two inland from the sea-front. Snow gums have extra thick leaf cuticles, which help them cope with such conditions, but a free draining soil is essential for them to be happy. See notes pages for further details on growing in coastal locations here:
- Tolerant of cold and exposed growing environments inland, with non-boggy soils. No grass, no weeds and a thick bark chip mulch, to a depth of 150 mm (6 inches) are essential to assist with good establishment
- Tolerant of arid environments, poor stony dry soils once established. It is essential that your Euc is given lots of water during its establishment phase before you abandon it to its fate. The tree needs to establish a good root system before it can survive in these challenging conditions.
Pot Culture outdoors: E. coccifera can be successfully grown as a multi-stemmed bush in a large container provided you are prepared to pot on at the recommended intervals and to supply it with sufficient water and food during the growing season. If not watered enough, it becomes thin and spindly
For information on how to grow Eucs in pots, see our ‘How to’ pages here.
Shoots ‘n Leaves: Young shoots are shiny, ‘bobbly’ in texture and maroon (sometimes orangey-yellow) in colour with a white bloom, maturing to a coffee colour.
Juvenile foliage is a deep jade green, sometime with purple undersides and lanceolate in shape.
Adult foliage is long, willow-like and elegant, about 5-10cm long and 1-2cm wide, glossy jade green to sage gree; typical eucalyptus colour on bright white or golden smooth stems; dramatically different from the juvenile foliage.
Bark: beautiful - a striking mosaic patchwork of silver, pearl grey and white reminiscent of E pauciflora group, but often with striations of coffee and rich chestnut.
Flowers: striking silvery flower buds carried throughout the summer months in groups of 3, 7 or 9, open white.
Leaf Aroma: wonderful strong, warm spicy peppermint aroma. I love to hand water the young trees on a warm summer evening as the fragrance is striking.
Rate of Growth: Medium - 1-1.5 m (3-4 ft) per year
Height in maturity, if left unpruned: sometime grows to only a small mallee of around 5m and also to a medium sized mature tree of around 15m (about the size of a silver birch tree) and if pruned will take on the size and shape of a species rose or coppiced Hazel tree
Hardiness: Once established: Extremely hardy and tolerates exposed conditions Long renowned for being cold hardy in the UK. Down to -10 to -16°C mark, once mature. Hardiness in Eucalyptus is governed by provenance of seed, how it is grown (i.e. high nitrogen levels reduces cold tolerance), age of the tree - the older your tree, the hardier it will be. Younger Eucs are more susceptible to frost damage.
Planting position and soil preference:
E. coccifera enjoys an open sunny position. It will be miserable in shade.
Soil types: any good or free-draining garden soil in the neutral to acid range.
It will take a degree of exposure, but will not thrive in frost pockets with boggy ground.
To encourage deep rooting and therefore good stability, prepare a deep planting pit as per our instructions. If planting a large number for firewood or cut foliage, subsoiling may be a good practice to follow, especially if pastureland has previously been used by livestock.
For the best results, follow our planting and aftercare watering instructions; issued with each order.
Make life easier for you and your new tree: Plant with the mycorrhizal fungi product Rootgrow. Eucalyptus in particular have a special, lifelong relationship with their root fungi, which actively transport food and water directly into the tree roots, helping your new Euc establish faster and more efficiently, particularly in challenging types of soil.
Note: Although is E. coccifera is classified as being a snow gum, it is genetically one of the peppermints (Eucalyptus section Aromatica). All have a strong minty aroma to their leaves. Other members of this group are:-
E amygdalina, E nitida, E. pulchella, E risdonii, E tenuiramis
Meaning of the name:
Up for discussion. In my opinion - it is a reference to the very distinctive red-maroon coloured bobbly young stems. Euclid says it refers to Coccus infection of the leaves – which I don’t think to be correct.
Latin: coccus meaning grain seed or pill and fera meaning bearing