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Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) Growing Guide

One of my favourite native trees has to be the snow gum, Eucalyptus pauciflora. This pale-stemmed alpine forest dweller makes an excellent addition to gardens, growing wiry and with gorgeous twisting branches when grown out in open landscapes.

If you’ve ever wanted to grow a eucalyptus at home, but wondered about size and scale, there are several subspecies that you can grow using this guide too, some of which will grow to just 12m tall.

Follow our guide to growing snow gum for everything you need to know about sowing, planting and caring for these spectacular Australian native.


Eucalyptus pauciflora with snow






E. pauciflora



Common names:

Snow gum, cabbage gum or white sally






Up to 30m in most settings

Sun requirements: 

Full sun

Foliage colour: 

Green leaves, turning silver with maturity

Flower colour: 



Year-round, predominantly early spring

Edible parts: 

None (some medical uses)

Maintenance level:


Poisonous for pets: 

All parts are considered toxic to cats and dogs

What is a Snow Gum Tree?

Snow gum is the common name for Eucalyptus pauciflora (also called cabbage gum or, regionally, white sally). Everything about this tree is tough, apart from its appearance.

This Eucalyptus species is one of the most charismatically crisp native trees we have. Its bright white trunks, occasionally interrupted by flecks of grey and yellow stand out against any backdrop, making it an ideal statement tree, either by itself or planted in groups.

Growing to an eventual height of around 30m tall, it produces striking gum nuts, with faintly red tips, which help foragers identify it from other species.

Natural Habitat of Eucalyptus pauciflora

Eucalyptus pauciflora is native to eastern Australia and widespread through colder upland parts of the country. Though some subspecies that we will look at later are native to South Australia and even Tasmania, the majority are woodland trees throughout Eastern Australia.

At 2000m above sea level, spread through the Australian Alps, there are entire forests of Eucalyptus pauciflora forming thick canopies of this fragrant and dazzling tree.

As its native altitudes might suggest, Eucalyptus pauciflora prefers free draining soils, and like most Eucalyptus trees it is particularly unfussy about soil types. For most gardeners in Australia, that makes it an ideal choice to bring into your own garden.

Eucalyptus pauciflora, commonly known as Snow Gum

Common Uses for Snow Gum

Snow gum has several common uses in medicine, but should not be considered edible in uncontrolled doses. Eucalyptus should generally be considered toxic, and no parts should be eaten unless you are certain you have identified one of the few with edible flowers or seeds – which snow gum is not.

Other common uses are as a building timber, thanks to its exceptional strength and fast growth, and as a slow-burning hardwood, it makes an excellent firewood and camp fuel. 

In terms of its uses within our diets, it is a high nectar-producing plant and does therefore support the production of honey through winter, with flowers that can continue to bloom all year round in some conditions.

Medicinally, the leaves produce eucalyptol and citronellal, powerful antiseptic essential oils, which are used all over the world to relieve coughs and colds.

Identifying Eucalyptus pauciflora

It’s useful to understand the clues for identifying Eucalyptus pauciflora, particularly if you are a forager for bush foods, to avoid unwanted reactions. The first visual clue to identifying snow gums is their bark – largely white and entirely smooth. 

Any mis-textured parts will be grey or yellow. The nuts (seed capsules) are usually in large clusters. Fresh seed capsules are green with red tips, and dry to green-brown, with a flat top that looks something like a ship’s porthole. 

The lance-shaped leaves are bluey green and turn to a paler silvery green as they mature.

Eucalyptus pauciflora Subspecies 

There are six native subspecies of Eucalyptus pauciflora found in Australia – all are naturally occurring. Some have evolved to make the most of varying climates higher up the East Coast, while others are ideally suited for colder winters and more temperate summers.

While most snow gums you will find in garden centres of tree nurseries are the simple species form, there are definitely reasons to consider growing one of the specific subspecies below.

1. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. acerina

This shorter form of E. pauciflora grows to just 12m tall at maturity, making it a more practical choice for gardens. Its foliage is shorter, and the bark sheds beautifully well. However, it is rare to find one for sale.

2. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. debeuzevillei

The Jounama snow gum as it's commonly called, or E. pauciflora subsp. debeuzevillei to give it its full title, is a small subspecies, often used for public gardens and parks, and while it is capable of reaching 12m tall, it very rarely grows above 6m if started as a multi-stemmed tree. Perhaps one of the best goblet-shaped trees to add to a garden. 

3. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. hedraia 

Like subsp. acerina, E. pauciflora subsp. hedraia is generally unavailable to gardeners, but its rich red stems that hold new foliage are utterly stunning if you come across one in nature.

Other than its wrinkled seed pods and vividly red new shoots it is identical to E. pauciflora. However, the tallest recorded specimen is 10m, and noting the age of the bark against the size of the tree may help to identify them.

4. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila

E. pauciflora subsp. niphophila, often simply called snow gum on plant labels, is sometimes easier to get hold of than its more famous parent. However, the bark is typically flakier, and mature trees, while usefully dwarfed, are nowhere near as elegant as Eucalyptus pauciflora in its full glory.

5. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. parvifructa

Parvifructa, meaning ‘small fruited’ is the clue to identifying this subspecies of E. pauciflora. The small, thin, pointed fruits are much more delicate and significantly more numerous in clusters of dozens around the base of new stems. 

They are native to mountainsides, grow most often in solitude, and are therefore naturally shorter than E. pauciflora. Again, it is unusual; to find one in a local nursery, but well worth looking out for.

6. Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. pauciflora

In all ways other than its height, this subspecies is identical to its parent, even sharing its first name as its subspecies name. Its bark is wonderfully smooth and it tends to reach about 10m tall.

In nature, you are more likely to find these trees on the edges of forests, rather than within them as they grow shorter and are out-competed by taller species.

For more inspiration, check out our round-up of types of Eucalyptus to grow in Australia.

How to Grow Snow Gum

Snow gum can reach 30m tall, but rarely does. Regardless of the subspecies or cultivar, aim for an open space with no overhead shade as they prefer full sun, and will develop a much more pleasing ornamental canopy of diagonally twisting branches as they develop.

At up to 30m tall, use common sense when planting and avoid planting within reach of the house. Eucalyptus roots tend not to be destructive, but they grow shallow and fast, meaning they can cause damage to very nearby structures or paving.

Eucalyptus pauciflora in Australia

Ideal Conditions for Growing Snow Gum

Soil & Drainage

This Eucalyptus species prefer slightly acidic to neutral, free-draining ground. Having said that, they can tolerate a wide range of soils, from sand, to loam to clay, and will grow on acidic, alkaline or neutral ground provided it drains. 

Light & Temperature

Snow gums can grow in the shade of other trees, but prefer not to, and perform significantly better in open space, where they not only flower more reliably, but their shape develops into a much more pleasing twist of silver trunks.

They are completely hardy both through drought and frost, so no special consideration needs to be paid to overwintering snow gums, and they can be planted anywhere in the country with good effect.


Snow gums don’t need shelter, and if planted as saplings shouldn’t need stakes or supports beyond their first year. They grow in exposed, high-altitude spots in nature, and can cope with high winds and extreme temperatures.

Planting Snow Gums

As noted above, snow gums aren’t fussy trees. They can tolerate a wide range of soils and a wide range of climates. But, as you should when planting any tree, make sure to dig over the ground and prepare a planting hole the same depth as the root ball, but twice and wide. 

Plant carefully, considering the best angle of the tree (very important with snow gums due to their ornamental limbs) and then heel the whole thing in while you backfill.

Stake young trees for their first year to protect the main branches from snapping in high winds, and to reduce rocking while the roots establish.

How to Propagate Snow Gum

While gardeners and botanists alike will tell you that Eucalyptus trees can’t be grown from cuttings and that seeds are the preferred method, the reality is slightly more complex.

Because the seeds are produced in such abundance, and their best method is to densely sow seeds, the method is hiding a high rate of germination failure. Most of the seeds will fail, just like most cuttings will fail.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try both. Eucalyptus cuttings done well can work, and Eucalyptus seeds done right, will nearly always produce good results.

Propagating from Seeds

Eucalyptus seeds need light to germinate, and once they do, they grow quickly. Follow the basic guide below for the simplest way to sow snow gum seeds at home. To begin with, you’ll need either a packet of seeds or a few dried gum nuts with seeds inside. 

You can vernalise the seeds by placing them in an airtight bag in the fridge for four weeks, which will improve germination rates, or you can sow directly. If you choose to cold-treat your seeds, you will have better, faster germination after sowing.

If you choose not to, there is a very strong chance that many of the seeds will still germinate. If you only need a few seedlings, the latter is the easier option.

  • Mix the tiny seeds with sand so you can see where you’ve sprinkled them.
  • Sow seeds directly onto the surface of a sandy, free-draining seed compost.
  • Water the surface of the compost to evenly wet it.
  • Leave it somewhere bright and warm to germinate.
  • Germination should take about four weeks in mid to late spring.

Propagating from Cuttings

Eucalyptus pauciflora will not grow reliably from cuttings, but it is possible with the right tools and conditions.

You will need:

  • New shoots, in bud, with mature leaves removed – ideally in spring
  • Perlite
  • Rooting hormone
  • A pot with drainage holes
  • A clear plastic bag & elastic band
  • Temperatures of 27°C (may require a propagator)

In these conditions, cuttings should take about 4-8 weeks to root, with a success rate of about 25% - so take multiple cuttings for a better chance of success.


  • Remove 10-15cm of a new shoot in spring
  • Make a clean cut directly below the lowest node
  • Remove any larger leaves, leaving the buds intact
  • Dip the base in rooting hormone gel
  • Insert the cut ends into a pot filled with perlite and soak it
  • Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag, secured with an elastic band
  • Leave somewhere bright but away from direct sun
  • Heat using a propagator tray or mat at around 27°C
  • New shoots should appear after about 8 weeks, after which you can gently pull to see if there is resistance from any roots

Read more guides to different types of plant cuttings here.

Caring for Snow Gum

Caring for snow gums is pretty straightforward. They don’t need much in the way of nutrients and they definitely shouldn’t need watering once they are established in your garden, even during prolonged droughts.

Checking for pests and diseases is perhaps the most important factor, despite the natural ability of these plants to protect themselves against many common pests, there are, as with any native species, some insects that adapt specifically to these trees for food or shelter.

Eucalyptus pauciflora

Adjusting nutrients

Rather than ‘feeding’ or ‘fertilising’ look at any additional mulches as a nutrient or pH adjustment. Snow gums will grow on nutrient-poor soil, and generally don’t need any fertilisers.

However, for young trees, a slightly acidic bark mulch or garden leaf litter will help to retain moisture while roots are established, and repeating this every few years will help to maintain the right pH balance for ideal conditions.

Pruning Snow Gum

Snow gums look better as mature trees, so I would not personally advise anybody to coppice them or prune these trees unless branches are growing too heavy in one direction and pose a risk of breaking.

If you are growing Eucalyptus pauciflora as a coppiced tree, which looks lovely and willowy thanks to the lance-shaped foliage, you can cut back at any time of year, but early spring offers the fastest regrowth.

Harvesting Snow Gum Leaves and Bark

While there are no definitively safe edible uses for snow gum, you can harvest leaves and bark for medicinal preparations at all times of the year. For bark preparations, remove the peeling bark as it naturally falls. 

Avoid carving or pulling attached bark from the tree as this can cause wounds that take time to heal. Once peeling bark is removed, dry it slowly for long-term storage, or burn it and store the ashes in sealed jars until needed.

Leaves retain their aroma when dried, so can be stored in airtight jars for as long as you need them, but the most practical way is to make batches of infused carrier oils which keep for years as rubs and decongestants. 

Eucalyptus pauciflora Pests and Diseases

Snow gum is a useful garden plant in that it is generally pest-resistant, though less significantly than other Eucalyptus species. Its problems are mostly condition-based, preferring free-draining conditions, and therefore showing susceptibility to root fungus and overwatering.

Snow Gum Pests

Eucalyptus pauciflora hasn’t got many common pests, but it also isn’t the most effective pest repellent in its family. Typical garden pests like aphids, spider mites and most moths, will lay eggs on the undersides of leaves, and cause problems for young trees.

On mature trees, it is rare that naturally occurring pests will cause significant enough problems to warrant pesticides though.

The only major insect pest for Eucalyptus pauciflora is the gall wasp, which lays inside leaves and causes galls that develop and force leaves to drop. The young of these wasps can return, and multiply each year, so removing leaves with gals and burning them will help stop the problem in its tracks.

Snow Gum Diseases

As well as general root rot, crown rot and overwatering, snow gum does have two very practical problems that are caused commonly by incorrect placement, or infected wounds.

Phytophthora root rot

Phytophthora root rot can affect nearly all types of plants. It is a soil-based disease that spreads in a number of ways, including insects, on tools, and through the movement of water over and under the soil surface. It requires damp conditions to develop, and weak roots of drainage-loving plants are particularly susceptible.

Early signs are yellowing or anaemic leaves, which begin to drop. On soft-stemmed plants, there will be dusty mildew spreading up from the base, but this is harder to detect on trees. It rarely affects mature trees but is worth checking regularly for with young trees.

Chondrostereum purpureum

Better known as silver leaf disease, this problem causes the discolouration and deterioration of foliage condition as a result of a fungus that enters through wounds along branches, stems and trunks. Once infected, the foliage beyond the infected point becomes grey and pale.

Later in the year, the point of infection can develop a visible fruiting body of the fungus. The only real treatment is to remove the affected branch from a foot or two below the infected point.

Snow Gum Frequently Asked Questions

Snow gum trees in Australia

How tall does snow gum get?

Snow gums can reach 30m tall but there are a few cultivars that are reliably limited to around 10m tall. Even the standard E. pauciflora will reach an ultimate height of 15-20m in most gardens if it isn’t competing for space with other trees.

Where is snow gum found in Australia?

Snow gum is generally found in high altitudes around colder parts of the country. Some subspecies are limited to Victoria, but most are spread right down the eastern stretches of the country and as far south as Tasmania.

Is snow gum frost hardy?

Snow gum is frost hardy down to -15°C and tolerant of cold and even salty winds, often growing quite happily in saline soils.

What type of leaves does Eucalyptus pauciflora have?

E. pauciflora has elongated lance-shaped (lanceolate) foliage, which holds throughout winter. Their undersides are silvery, and the surface tends to be blue-green, but the overall colour fades and becomes brighter later in the year.

Can you eat snow gum flowers?

Snow gum flowers are not edible. No part of the snow gum is edible and the effects of consuming more than a medically advised amount in any capacity can cause severe digestive problems.

Is snow gum invasive?

Snow gum is not an invasive species, and can be found growing throughout Australia, though it is only native to the east of the country.

Does snow gum have invasive roots?

Snow gum roots are not invasive or damaging to property if planted considerately. Avoid planting within 20-30m of structures, and consider the location of paths and hard landscaping and their shallow roots can lift flags.

What is killing the snow gums?

Longicorn beetles are naturally occurring, but in recent years a watch has been put on their spread due to infestations in the Australian Alps which have caused mass snow gum dieback.

The wood-boring beetles create the ideal conditions for fungi to enter trees, allowing other species to nest, and spreading various diseases between trees.

Invite the Rugged Beauty of Snow Gums into Your Garden

There’s something quite magical about these silvery-stemmed, mountainous, natives. They hold their own in any landscape and nearly always take centre stage thanks to their vibrant bark that glows against the night sky.

If you think you’ve got the space for these statement trees, you’ve got the knowledge now, so get out and grow your own snow gum, whether it's from seed, or a ready-grown young tree straight from your local nursery.

Last Updated on April 12, 2024

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About the author 

Nathan Schwartz

Hey, I'm Nathan Schwartz, team member at Aussie Green Thumb since 2020. I have a passion for edible plants and Australian native plants, both in the garden and in the Aussie bush.

As an avid traveller and camper, I love seeing the different landscapes and flora that Australia has to offer, and try to incorporate this into my own daily living.

Whether I am living on the road, in an apartment or have a big backyard working with practical and usable gardens in small spaces is my specialty.

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