Oleander branches blackening - frost?

raptoress(3)January 16, 2007

Hi everyone, I am new to this forum. I live in Calgary, Alberta and have an indoor potted Oleander. We purchased it last spring, and I had some trouble with it in the fall. I ended up spraying it down because I did some reading and found out it had spider mites (there was webbing everywhere). The leaves died off, but some were left alive. Then I pruned it in September/October, and all the leaves fell off by November. I've been watering it here and there at the bottom, but the cactus-mix soil is quite dry at the moment. Our house is not very humid at all, and it gets up to about 40% if we turn on the humidifier.

My concern is that the branches have started turning black/brown at the tips, and the browning is working its way down the length of the branches. It is getting about 3-4 hours of sunlight currently, and it is by the window along with the rest of my plants.

Am I underwatering this plant, or could this be frostbite? If anyone could give me tips that would be great. I also read another post on here about Oleanders, however I could not find the answer to my question.

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Dear Raptoress,

Spider mites appear when the plant is relatively dry. Occasional spraying with water would help to reduce the infestation but usually a 'green' pesticide containing pyrethium (sp?) is far more effective. Perhaps you can create a humidity tray to set your potted plant in. This can be done by setting a potting dish filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it humidifies the plants.

In winter most tropical plants go into a form of dormancy. They appear horrible and may lose leaves as a result. Make sure you do not overwater. The key is to provide the plant with even & consistent water. Not too much and not too little. Let it go somewhat dry (but never too dry) in between watering and then water thoroughly which is at least 1x a week.

The location of your plant is okay but in what direction is it facing? Another thing you should be aware about is that South facing sunlight is rather harsh on some tropical plants.

Frostbite (frost kill) happens when plants get exposed to winter weather. This is not the case in your plant's situation.

What I suspect is happening is

Inconsistent watering and/or overwatering. Overwatering causes cellular death. The sudden surge of water literally causes the cell to burst. You also see symptoms of this when leaves' tips start browning up. Smaller branches begin to shrivel up. Consistent overwatering, causes the plant to wilt and roots to rot. I suspect your case to be the former which is overwatering with long spells of drought in between.

Secondary disease such as fungus or virus which happen when the plant gets 'stressed'. It will attack open wounds, such as the areas you cut open. If the fungus gets into the branch itself, it's more difficult to cure - requiring a systemic form of fungicide. At this point, you'd probably find it less expensive to buy a replacement plant.

So what can you do... first, be consistent with watering. the soil must be just slightly damp before the next watering. Don't overwater.

Treat with both fungicide and pesticide. Black areas are indicative of fungal disease. It the problem is more extensive, regretfully you may have to discard the plant and get a new one. And always sterilze your pruners before using them.

Hope that helps.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 1:48PM
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Hi Ianna,

Thank you for your suggestions. I did some reading and another gardening forum suggested that it would be best to give it some extra water to "recover", but your post said that the cells may burst. It was doing well for a few weeks, and some little green dudes starting sprouting from the branches, but now the plant seems like it is sleeping again. The branches are looking wrinkly for some reason... I think I'll leave the soil to dry up a bit. I dont know why this is getting to be a pain, because Oleander did very well outside during the summer without much water at all. I suppose its trial and error at this point...

The branches are not turning black anymore so I (hopefully) don't think its fungus.

Thank you muchly! I'll keep trying.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 5:54PM
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sammyqc(NE Quebec/zn 4/5a)

I just wanted to point one thing out about Oleanders. If I remember correctly, they really don't like staying wet. So it could be too much watering but you mentionned that you're using a cactus type soil? It could also be that it is not getting much water at all. If the branches are 'wrinkly', that is usually a sign of drying up. When you do water it, try poking around in the soil, down a few inches, and see if it is actually holding the water. Sometimes, the top of the soil will look wet, but when you look closely underneath,you will see that it is not getting any water to the roots. Some soils tend to be too peaty, and they won't hold the water once they have dried out. You could also mist the plant once in a while, they do like humidity, and inside our homes in the winter, it is so dry. An occasional misting would make it happier.
Hope this helps a bit.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 11:01AM
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Hi Raptoress,

To clarify my point.. if there are drought conditions between waterings, there will be some die offs due to the conditions mentioned above. Avoid extreme conditions of overwatering and underwatering. Too much water promotes death by drowning. Too little - well death by drought. Sudden surges of watering - not good either. So consistent watering is key.That can be 1x or 2x a week. NOW in winter, the plants do not need as much water as they would in spring or summer. Oleanders, as most tropicals are, go into a form of dormancy in winter and they will look lousy during this time. Expect it. Just feel the soil to check of dryness, that's all the testing you will need.

If the branches have gotten 'wrinkly' it means it's dying off. It could be due to cellular death which doesn't appear immediately. Too much water?) Anyway observe it anyway to see how it is progressing. If it does, best to cut off that branch entirely to prevent the spread. healthy areas will not get the wrinkly look and is easily recognizable.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 4:35PM
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Bah... the plant died. I sad :( Now I know for next time... I know for sure it was the sudden rush of water that killed it. Like ianna said... cellular death due to sudden surges of water. Next time... won't happen again. In other news, my 2nd Gardenai has flowered almost 10 times... so I must be learning something! Thanks again for your help everyone.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 12:24AM
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