immobilus(9a)February 3, 2013

Earlier last year, I posted that my oleanders were not growing and needed to be water twice a week in order to not droop. I attributed this to two things, the gray brick wall behind them reflecting heat and a large tree adjacent to them absorbing a lot of the water.

To encourage growth, about two weeks ago, while dormant, I pruned off about 1/2 of the tops hoping it would encourage root growth and new top growth in summer. Now they're looking sickly.

I noticed two of my photinias which are in direct sunlight have yellowing leaves with green veins, which means iron deficiency. Do you suppose this could be the issue with Nerium too?

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Hi Immobilus,

Oleanders all over the Phoenix valley were severely damaged by the sub-freezing temperatures we had. I'm sure they'll all recover but right now they have dry, browning leaves on the outer branches.

Contrary to what you may have been told, pruning the tops does not encourage root growth. When you remove the green leaves you are actually starving the plant because the leaves are the 'food factories'. Pruning is in fact, dwarfing. Roots that were previously being supplied with sugars made in the leaves suddenly are restricted from it when leaves are pruned away. In order to grow a plant relies on stored sugars in its roots, which have been transported there from the leaves.

If done correctly, pruning will result in additional shoot growth as the plant tries to replace what has been cut away. Try never to remove more than 25 percent of the living shoots/leaves/branches in any year to avoid stress.

Oleanders are tough plants and yours should recover.

Yellowing leaves with green veins could be either nitrogen or iron deficiency. When soils are too moist or too cool, plants have trouble pulling these nutrients from the soil. When the soils warm up your plants will probably look much better. Adding nitrogen or chelated iron (water soluble) as fertilizer in late February may give them a boost.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:11PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

If I had oleanders - I don't and I won't - I would prune them up from the bottom for two reasons: 1)I think exposing the trunks, especially if they're planted in a row, is prettier than having old, ugly branches sprawling on the ground. 2) Oleanders are horribly messy and attract all manner of pests, including roof rats (maybe not a problem in Tucson) and having that space that you can get into and rake debris away makes for a cleaner yard.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:26PM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Yup, I agree with aztreelvr and tomato as usual. The oleander in the pic has cold damage. I'd just leave it alone until mid spring when it re-sprouts. Oleanders all over the Phoenix area often look the same, mine own included, hah! (I grow some of the pink dwarf ones around my patio--I'm not sure I love them, LOL, although I do like most oleanders in general). Keep us posted and happy gardening!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:04PM
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