When to prune eucalyptus – know the best season for the tree and its health

Timing is vital when it comes to cutting back eucalyptus, so make sure to get it right

Eucalyptus foliage
(Image credit: Getty Images/Flavia Morlachetti)

Eucalyptus are great evergreen trees that have unique and aromatic blue-green leaves and a peeling bark that is highly decorative. The distinguishing characteristics of eucalyptus make them popular garden additions as ornamental trees or shrubs, while the foliage is also admired by florists.

There are many reasons to feature eucalyptus as part of your backyard ideas, they can be used as a tree or a shrub, or even as a privacy hedge due to its fast-growing nature. Pruning will be a must if you want to keep the plant restricted, otherwise eucalyptus can grow very large if left unchecked.

It is important to prune eucalyptus at the right time of year, whether it is small-scale formative pruning or larger renovation work. Knowing when to cut back eucalyptus correctly means you will avoid putting your plant at potential risk of harm or disease.

Rainbow Eucalyptus tree

The striking bark of eucalyptus trees make them stand out

(Image credit: Alamy/Carver Mostardi)

When do you prune eucalyptus?

As with pruning any trees, whether you are pruning fruit trees or ornamental ones, timing is imperative. Pruning at the wrong time is one of the major pruning mistakes that has the ability to damage the tree and leave it susceptible to a range of pests or diseases. It means proper planning and research before reaching for the pruning shears is important for knowing when to cut back eucalyptus. 

Lisa Tadewaldt is an experienced arborist and the owner of Urban Forest Pro. She urges everyone to remember that ‘for the sake of the tree and its health, winter is the best season to try to prune a eucalyptus’. 

Late winter or early spring - ideally February to March -  is the ideal time to cut back eucalyptus. This is the best time to prune as the plant is still in dormancy, but just about to start actively growing again. 

When it comes to why this is the best time, Lisa says: ‘When trees are dormant they can handle the trauma of being pruned better than in months when they are not dormant.’

The timing of pruning should ideally come just before the eucalyptus starts to grow in the early spring. At this point the sap will start rising and the eucalyptus can start the process of healing over the wounds quickly. 

Meredith Gaines, plant expert at Fast Growing Trees, says that the impending start of the active growing season will reduce the stress and mean the tree has ‘more energy to produce healthier branches and foliage’ and a ‘better overall tree structure’. 

As well as formative pruning, eucalyptus trees are also commonly pollarded and coppiced, techniques which can help to make them suitable for small backyards. The best time to do either of these forms of pruning on eucalyptus is also late winter or early spring. 

Lisa Tadewaldt
Lisa Tadewaldt

Lisa Tadewaldt is the founder and owner of Urban Forest Professionals, an arborist company out of Portland, OR, that has been serving that community for over 15 years

Meredith Gaines
Meredith Gaines

Meredith Gaines is a senior plant expert at Fast Growing Trees. She graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Biology and Horticulture and has worked at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and Historic Filoli Estate in the Bay Area. 

Branches of eucalyptus tree

The aromatic foliage of eucalyptus has a fresh hint of mint 

(Image credit: Getty Images/Kilito Chan)

When should you not prune eucalyptus trees?

It is important to do any eucalyptus pruning at the end of winter, or start of spring, rather than at the start of the winter or end of the fall period. Pruning too soon will leave pruning wounds that do not start to heal for a long time and those open wounds are going to be highly susceptible to the fatal silver leaf fungus. 

Going out with the pruning shears too soon in winter also has the potential to cause dieback, due to the cold weather and freezing temperatures in the middle of winter. Even in late winter, it may be best to delay your pruning if the weather is particularly brutal. Do not cut eucalyptus if the weather is snowy or frosty, it is better to wait until the harsh period has passed.

Pruning should not be done during the summer. The sap will bleed during the heat of the summer, which can attract pests that may be carrying disease, and humid conditions can leave eucalyptus susceptible to fungal infestations that are rife in hot and moist weather. Eucalyptus can be hit by fungal infections including anthracnose, phytophthora, and powdery mildew


Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree | Available at Fast Growing Trees

The Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree is very unique as its outer bark peels to reveal inner bark which starts out in green and deepens into orange, red, and pink hues. It can be grown as a full-size tree, or trimmed to be suited to smaller gardens or as a patio tree.


What's the difference between coppicing and pollarding?

Pollarding is a tactic to regulate the growth of a tree, where they are cut back to the main trunk to control their height. Coppicing is a technique that sees the tree cut right down to the ground level to regenerate lots of new stems quickly from the base. 

When doing any pruning in your garden, from gentle deadheading to tree pruning, it is important to have clean garden tools. Making sure your tools are sharp and sterile means any pruning will be easier, the cuts you make will be cleaner and easier for the plant to heal, and you avoid potentially spreading diseases from one plant to another.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.