A versatile tree, the Eugenia plant is a wonderful choice for a topiary thanks to its small and dense evergreen foliage, making it easy to shear it into various shapes and forms.
While it’s kept mainly as a plant on porches and patios or as a landscape plant, it can also be grown indoors in containers. In some zones, Eugenia topiaries need to be overwintered indoors.
If you’re thinking of growing this plant on your patio, in your garden, or even indoors, here are my recommendations on how to best care for the Eugenia topiary:
Size & Growth
The Eugenia topiary doesn’t have a speedy growth, averaging around 12 inches per year. Depending on the variety, the plant can grow quite tall, reaching a height of up to 40 feet. Some species, however, only reach about 4 feet.
As for its spread, the crown can spread to 20 feet, but this will, of course not happen when the plant is sheared into various shapes and forms.
The lifespan on the Eugenia is also impressive. In optimal conditions, it can live for 40-50 years.
The Eugenia requires a sunny location both when grown outdoors or indoors. When kept outside, the ideal light conditions would be exposure to full sun in the morning hours and a partial shade in the afternoon. If it doesn’t get too hot in your region, you can keep the Eugenia in full sun all day.
When the Eugenia is grown in containers indoors, they should be positioned near a south-facing or west-facing window, so they can get plenty of light.
The shrub does not fare well in full shade. Its leaves can lose their coloration and the plant will grow leggy, which is something you want to avoid in a topiary.
Because of the medium water needs, the Eugenia should not be planted in soil that stays wet for long. Never saturate the soil, instead keep it slightly moist.
The other extreme — completely drying out the soil — should also be avoided. When the soil dries out, the Eugenia also dries, and its leaves turn crunchy.
This is especially true of Eugenia topiaries that aren’t yet established. Mature plants will have a stronger roots system that can put up with short dry spells.
Whether you keep this shrub in a container, or it’s planted directly into the ground, make sure the soil isn’t prone to waterlogging or it’s not an area where water pools after rainfall.
Keep an eye on the soil’s moisture levels and water only when needed to avoid saturating the soil.
We’ve established that a well-draining soil is essential to these plants, more so when it’s grown in containers. Adding sand to your potting mix will improve drainage and help avoid overwatering issues.
A good potting mix for the Eugenia can be created by combining 1 part compost, 1 part loam and 2 parts sand.
Temperature & Humidity
The Eugenia topiary is hardy from zones 10-11, so in those areas it can be grown outdoors all year long. In other areas, it’s best to grow them in containers and overwinter them indoors.
Because they’re not frost resistant, they shouldn’t be allowed to winter outdoors. Frost can damage the plant and chilly, dry winds can cause severe dehydration.
If you can’t move the plant indoors, because of its size or because of the weight of the container, you should at least cover the plant up with insulating materials such as a burlap to minimize the damage caused by frost and winds.
Although container-grown Eugenia topiaries are sensitive to build-up of mineral salts from fertilizers, occasional fertilizing with a diluted balanced fertilizer is beneficial to the plant.
Fertilizing will support the plant’s steady growth and maintain the health of its bright green, dense foliage.
Make sure to only use diluted fertilizer (usually at a rate of ¼ teaspoons per gallon of water) and don’t fertilizer more often than every 3-4 weeks.
When overfertilized, the plant will shed its leaves. If you suspect your Eugenia has been overfertilized, you need to flush the soil to dilute the accumulation of salts. Immersing the pot or container in water also helps.
In winter, you should not fertilize the Eugenia at all to allow it to rest.
Potting & Repotting
Repotting is needed when the Eugenia grows too big for the pot and there’s a risk of the plant falling over because it has become top heavy.
Repotting also serves to freshen up the potting mix and get rid of the old mix that might be saturated with mineral salts, for example.
When repotting, find a sturdy pot that can bear the load of the Eugenia without the risk of it falling over. The pot should have drain holes to prevent water from saturating the potting media.
How to Propagate Eugenia Topiary?
The Eugenia topiary can be propagated from softwood cuttings that are best harvested in summer, after the plant has finished off its blooming.
Take 4- or 6-inch cuttings with leafy tips and a stem thickness of a quarter inch. Plant in well-draining 8-inch pots so that the bottom set of leaves are above the potting mix.
You can cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist by misting it whenever it starts to dry.
With the potting mix kept moderately moist, the cuttings should root in about one or two months.
It takes a long time for this shrub to root, compared to other shrubs. For this reason, it needs to be hardened off approximately one month after it has rooted. Slowly acclimate the shrub to full sun and steadily decrease misting to switch it to a normal watering routine.
Widely cultivated for its foliage, the Eugenia Topiary is a beautiful landscape plant or an interesting indoor or patio plant.
It can be sheared in a number of shapes and it can be trained to grow as a ball. One of the most popular shapes or training styles involves one ball or two balls connected by a central stem.
Whatever your plans with the Eugenia Topiary may be, rest assured that once you manage to fulfill its requirements it will lavish you with dense, green foliage.