Eucryphia, the slender “Ulmo” tree covered in white flowers

Eucryphia planting and care

A remarkable tree with a slender silhouette, Eucryphia also stands out thanks to its immaculate white blooming which smells like a fragrance from Heaven.

Eucryphia key facts

Botanical nameEucryphia
Type – tree

Height – 30 to 130 feet (10 to 40 meters) depending on the species
Width – 3 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m)
Exposure – sun to part sun

Soil – not chalky but cool and well-drained
Hardiness: 5 to 19°F (-7°C to -15°C)
Flowering – summertime
Foliage – evergreen (only Eucryphia glutinosa is deciduous)

Planting Eucryphia

Where to plant your Eucryphia ?

Native to Chili (where it’s called ulmo), Argentina and to Tasmania, Eucryphia is a tree that must see a few requirements fulfilled to truly thrive. It thus loves mild and moist climates, typically those along coastal areas. Best is to find a luminous spot for it that is sure to stay sheltered from wind and cold. Soil that isn’t chalky is also necessary.

When to plant Eucryphia ?

Planting should take place in fall, preferably. Roots will have time to spread out around the tree during winter and spring, and it’ll have a better chance to survive any possible drought in the following summer. Planting in spring remains possible. However, the young sapling will be much more fragile if ever it lacks water.

How to plant Eucryphia?

  1. Eucryphia plantingDig a large hole, it should be deep enough that roots can spread unfettered in loose, broken up soil.
  2. Amend the soil with manure, perhaps even compost, mixing it up well with the ground soil. If your soil tends to retain water too well, lighten it up with sand and gravel to enhance drainage.
  3. Set your tree in the hole, and backfill it. Water immediately and abundantly the first time right after planting.
  4. If you feel it necessary, tether the tree to a stake to help it stand upright at the beginning.

Smart tip : to keep moisture around the foot of your Eucryphia, you can spread a few inches (5-10 cm) of mulch. In this particular case, bark mulch will do great. It has the particularity of acidifying the soil slightly.

Caring for Eucryphia

Planting, care and pruning eucryphiaOnce it has matured, Eucryphia doesn’t require any specific care. However, you do have to watch over the sapling during the first few years. A couple simple tasks will help your young tree grow in a proper way:

  • In summer, if it gets too hot or if the soil starts to dry up, water regularly but without drenching the ground. You might check whether more mulch is needed around the trunk, it helps lock moisture in the ground and reduces evaporation from the soil surface.
  • When fall arrives, spread compost or manure and rake it into the soil a bit with a sturdy-toothed rake. This provides nutrients the tree needs to grow, and shuffling the soil up aerates the soil and lets roots breathe a bit.
  • In winter, Eucryphia is vulnerable to severe cold during the first years of growth: protect its leaves and trunk with winterizing fleece if ever a particularly strong cold wave is announced.

Pruning eucryphia

Even though Eucryphia supports pruning very well, it isn’t an obligation. There are only a handful of cases when it’s really mandatory:

  • shaping the tree to a harmonious appearance,
  • eliminating awkward-looking branches,
  • and of course removing any branches that might have died out.

Diseases affecting Eucryphia

Eucryphia isn’t vulnerable to diseases, nor to pests.

Multiplying and propagating Eucryphia

Multiplying eucryphiaEucryphia propagation works in either of three ways: sowing, layering, and preparing cuttings. Sowing is a long and arduous process. Indeed, seedlings grow so slowly it takes 2 to 3 years after germination before you can transfer them to the ground in the open. Air layering works, but it’s sometimes a bit complicated to set up, and results aren’t guaranteed.

Eucryphia cuttings

Overall, the best manner to obtain new specimens is to prepare cuttings in July-August. For that,

  • Select a young, semi-hardened shoot that’s nice and straight, about 3 to 4 inches long (8 to 10 cm).
  • Cut it slantwise just under a node, and remove leaves from the lower part, leaving just two or three leaves at the tip.
  • Once that’s done, dip the portion of the stem from which you’ve removed the leaves in a pack of cutting hormones, and plant it without pressing the soil down in a blend of garden dirt, sand, and peat (or heath soil).
  • Follow-up on the watering and make sure it never gets direct sun. In winter, watch out for frost spells.

Roots will take from one to six months to form. Once roots are ready, new buds will form. In the following year, you can transplant your cutting to a larger pot, and usually the year after you can transfer it to the ground already.

Tip: before sticking your cutting into the soil, make a hole in the pot first with a twig or a pencil. That way, when you slide the cutting in, the rooting hormone slides down with the stem instead of brushing off and staying around the surface.

Landscaping and use

Landscaping with eucryphiaTo fully take advantage of its majestic bearing, its best to plant your Eucryphia as a standalone, without any other large noteworthy tree nearby (lime, chestnut tree, plane tree…). Once it has grown a bit, you can set a flower and/or shrub bed underneath to highlight the tree. Select plants that love shade for this.

The flowers of this tree are similar to those of white hellebore; this makes it a great companion plant to have those cute blooms in both summer and winter!

Species and varieties

  • A variegated speciesEucryphia cordifolia: towers to 130 feet tall (40 m).
  • Eucryphia glutinosa: in Chili, goes by the name “Guindo Santo” (sacred cherry). When adult, size tops out at around 30 feet or 10 m. It’s the only deciduous species (semi-evergreen in some settings). Can cope satisfactorily with dry soil.
  • Eucryphia lucida: reaches heights of 65 feet (20 m). Two cultivars produce pink flowers: ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Pink Cloud’.

Above/right, Eucryphia lucida ‘Spring Glow’ boasts variegated foliage.

Smart tip

If you’re into beekeeping, you should know that Eucryphia will lead your bees to produce an extremely fragrant and tasty honey.

Images: CC BY 2.0: S. Rae, Wendy Cutler, CC BY-SA 2.0: alljengi, Inao, Megan Hansen