Why and How to Coppice Eucalyptus
In this section you will find information on the following:-
General notes on the practice of Coppicing
The time of year that this activity is carried out is species specific, but in the main, coppicing is done while the plant is dormant in the winter months, except Eucalyptus which need to be done in the Spring.
Eucalyptus and coppicing
Eucalyptus are coppiced for the following reasons:
There are two different heights to prune down to, depending on what you want to achieve with your Eucalypt.
Size of tree to coppice
Coppicing removes the food factory of the plant as well as the suppressant growth hormones (the chemicals produced in the shoot tips that prevent side shoots from growing) . Therefore, immediately after pruning down, the dormant buds in the trunk and lignotuber have to rely on the food stored in the root system for an emergency energy supply, until they have produced leaves to photosynthesize.
Coppicing a young tree that is not large enough to undergo the process may kill it.
There is no upper age limit for the practice; quite large and mature, old trees can be coppiced, provided they are of the right species.
Time of Year
Avoid carrying out this practice from October onwards and certainly not during the winter months.
Autumn is too late to allow the pruning wound sufficient healing time before the onset of heavy frost, which can cause the bark to delaminate from the main trunk.
Height to prune down to
Coppice method 'A', if the goal is to:
The ideal height for cutting down to is 100-120 mm (about 4-5 inches).
The bark may loosen if the cut is made lower that 100 mm, at ground level
If the cut is made much higher than 150 mm, you are not activating the strong buds near the root collar and for a mature tree, you are reducing its long term success rate of the operation.
About six weeks or so, after pruning down, you will see a mass of new shoots emanating from around the base of the trunk and also from the trunk itself. As the growth hormones in the new shoot tips begin to flow, dominance is re-instated and the largest thickest shoots, highest up the stem tend to take over. These suppress further bud and young shoot development.
Windward side shoots are preferable to leeward side shoots, because they are less likely to be wind-thrown in bad weather (i.e. peel off in a gale).
If your plan is to re-grow the new shoot up into a new tree trunk, you will find it best to select a shoot nearer to the root collar as possible. The callous tissue is stronger lower down, has better attachment to the stump, creating a more stable new trunk. The further up the trunk, the weaker the callous and therefore these shoots are less stable.
Coppice method 'B', if the goal is to:
In this instance, the ideal height for pruning is 450 mm (about 18 inches)
Young buds can be seen breaking dormancy after about 4 weeks. Shoots will be about 400-500 mm long by 8 weeks and grow quickly over the summer months. This is when some additional irrigation may be helpful if rainfall is sparse.
By the Autumn, new stems will be anywhere between 600 and 1200 mm long and ready for harvesting.
For cut foliage production, you can pick the shoots any time after they have ripened in the Autumn, between October and March. Now I know that this is a contradiction, first we say don't prune in the winter and then we say pick your foliage in the winter.
We have been advised by commercial foliage growers that the stems are harvested in the winter months, because that is when the wood is ripe (firm) and not actively growing fast and therefore fleshy and prone to wilting. The stems are good for floristry work, but the tree is at risk of suffering frost damage, especially if grown in a particularly cold part of the UK. Most commercial producers are to be found on the west coast of England and Wales or in Ireland, where they escape the harsh winter weather.
If you wish to use your Eucalyptus for floral art click here to see our notes on conditioning and preserving.
Alternatively, if you are growing the Eucalypt purely as an ornamental garden shrub, leave it for a further growing season before you coppice it again.
Choice of species for Cut Foliage
Many species are used in traditional arrangements and bouquets. In particular the Silver Leaved Mountain gum (E. pulverulenta) and the smaller (E. pulverulenta 'Baby Blue'), Small Leaved gum (E. parvula) and Cider gum (E.. gunnii) are very reliable and popular.
The feathery foliage of Narrow-leaved Black Peppermint (E. nicholii) is delicate looking and especially attractive.
However, the Spinning gum (E. perriniana) is very effective in modern installations.
The Candle Bark gum (E. rubida) is new and gaining ground as a red stemmed species with tones of pink/violet and burgundy in the new shoots.
Click here to be taken to our flower arranging collection in our shop
Full species recommended for cut foliage:
E. gunnii divaricata
E. pulverulenta 'Baby Blue'
E. risdonii in sheltered areas
Species to avoid coppicing
E. nitens but it will regenerate sufficiently to be used as one of the standard species used in firewood production, but will need re-planting after 24 years (i.e. 3 rotations)
E. pauciflora group but will grow back from their lignotuber, but generally are poor at coppicing
Return to the Eucalyptus 'Growing Tips' page
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Tel: 01905 888 098
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