Oleander~~ Help, please!

organic_donnacOctober 15, 2006

Hi there I'm new here and have a question:

I have an Oleander tree (about 5 1/2 feet tall)I've had it 5 years. It 'summers' outside and comes in for the winter months.

The upper branches are pretty bare, until the very ends, where there are leaves and where it does flower. A whole lot of new branches grew from the base and about a foot above soil, this summer.

I brought it inside a week ago to spend the winter in a west facing window.

My question is this: should I prune off the upper branches? And if so, when? Now or in the spring?

Thanks so much for any help or comments!

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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

Is yours grown as a "standard" (a single stem at the base, branching out a foot or more up into a tree like form) or as a bush? I assume from your description that it's a standard, and if that's the case, then you want to remove all those new branches ("suckers") from the base. They will divert energy away from the the rest of the branches and the whole shape of your Oleander will change. Suckers are generally not growth you want to keep.

If the tops of your branches are dead, they you can cut them off, but I would avoid any real pruning until the spring. Pruning will stimulate the plant into putting out new growth and you don't want that this time of year - you want the plant to go into a more dormant state and not actively grow (not enough light in our northern winter for proper growth).

I wonder if your plant is healthy - it sounds like it might be in slight decline. Excessive suckering is a sign of stress, and if the upper branches (new growth) are dying or doing poorly then that is another bad sign. Have you ever repotted it or changed the soil? Given it a good pruning? If you have never changed the soil or properly pruned it then I would do nothing now, other than to remove the suckers. In the early spring though, I would haul it out of its pot, knock as much of the soil as possible off the roots (hosing it down gently with water will help remove a lot of the soil). Take a good look at the roots, and if they look healthy but crowded(firm, not black or soft), then remove a small percentage of them (maybe 1/5 at most) and pot in a slightly larger pot with fresh soil. The top should be pruned as well - Oleanders can tolerate a fairly hard pruning if they really need to be cut back, but you will have to decide how much to prune based on how you want your plant to look. The more you prune, the bushier it will be, but you may not have as many flowers (heavy pruning = fewer but bigger flowers). If you haven't already done so, I would recommend you plant it in a terra cotta or other pourous pot - this will allow slightly more air exchange at the roots, and will allow the soil to dry out well after you water. Oleanders are very drought tolerent, and should never sit in wet soil.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 2:38PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

If you aren't deliberately growing it as a standard, or if you'd prefer a bushy look, you could off the upper branches altogether. You can grow oleanders either way, and I've done both. Following Bonnie's advice and waiting till spring is probably a good idea.

Oleanders are pretty tough and forgiving, so you don't have to be too panicky about this.

Janet's Garden

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 8:18PM
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Bonnie and Jane, THANK YOU BOTH so very much!! Sorry I didn't get back sooner, I was away, then got busy catering!

Bonnie, I shall follow your advice... now, about those (possible) suckers.... they only start about 2 feet up from the soil on the one stem, (so it's a 'standard') Should I still remove those?

Again, thanks so very much for the detailed response! Very helpful!!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 11:35PM
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Hi. I was recently given a slip of oleander. It has grown rapidly. Unfortunately, it branched about 8 inches above the soil. One of the branches is much larger than the others. I'd like the plant to be "standard" or tree-like. Should I prune the two smaller branches close to the main stem to create more of a trunk? Any advice on preparing the plant to overwinter indoors would also be appreciated. Oleanders are new to me, although I've admired tham for many years. The earlier posts were very helpful. Thanks to all.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 8:52PM
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Just trying to figure out which forum this is on.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 9:49PM
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you can certainly train oleander branches into a straighter form for as long as they are still pliable. Identify a lead trunk/branch. Use a straight bamboo pole to act as a guide. Stick this into the pot. Take some garden twine and tie the trunk to the pole.

The idea is to remove all branches except for the lead branch. Do not remove or nip off the tip of the lead branch. This tip is referred to as the leader branch. As it grows upward, tie it to the branch. Once the branch reaches the desired height nip off the lead branch. This forces the plant to branch into 2 or more branches. Let these branches grow to certain lenght. Nip the tips off the branches again, forcing these to produce more branches. Continue doing this until a ball is formed. Thereafter prune the plant to keep the ball shape.

Overwinter indoors by a window with good sunlight. you will water less during winter. No fertilzing during winter because the plant goes into a form of dormancy. Add fertilizer in spring.

BTW -- Oleander sap is toxic. Use gloves while pruning.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 10:55PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

Yes, tanja, prune those two branches in order to train your plant as a standard.

I take my oleanders indoors about a week or two before the first frost or very cold night. I keep them in a dark, unheated garage; however, my garage is attached to the house and doesn't really get very cold. Therefore, I do not water my plants at all, until the day when I put them out in the spring.

A friend of mine whose garage is very cold, will give her oleander a half a cup of water once a month. I did this once and the plants came out of dormancy and started sprouting new growth which ultimately died once they were brought outdoors. I guess it depends on the temperature of your garage or cellar.

In the Spring, I water thoroughly and place my plants in a shaded area for a couple of weeks. I gradually move them into a sunnier location, preferably during a period of cloudy or overcast days.

Some time in early May, I'll also repot any plant that seems pot bound.

I keep the plants in full sun all summer long and keep them well watered, though they can tolerate dry conditions. I fertilize with a high-phosphorus fertilzer weekly during June and July.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 10:57PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

Ianna, guess we were posting at the same time.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 11:01PM
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Thank you ladies. Very helpful advice.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 1:23PM
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We recently purchased our first home and I immediately started a garden. I fell in love with a pink braided oleander tree which has both light and dark pink flowers.
It's done very well over the suimmer however, I understand that it needs to come indoors for the winter.
I have 2 children and a cat so bringing into the house is not my first choice.
I do have a heated garage, so could i keep there for the winter? If so, what do I need to do to ensure it survives? (watering, light, wrapping it up,etc) I know not to fertilize it until the spring.
If I needed to bring it into the house, I do have a bathroom in the basement the we hardly use and the door can be kept closed. The problem with that is there is no window for it to get sunlight.
Any suggestions?

Please help

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 10:14AM
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rosco_p(z6a ont.canada)

LAURA: As mentioned in an earlier post,Oleanders are quite tough. I have several that I bring in to my unheated but attached garage to overwinter. I give them no special treatment. During the summer they grow in the soil but for overwintering I place them in pots after cutting some of the root ball away. They sit in these pots for the winter and usually during this time they develop seed pods. I may or may not give them a bit of a drink a couple of times during the winter depending on how dried out the leaves are looking. Sometimes the leaves seem to dry and turn brown..other years they remain fairly green. Either way they always have survived the garage temps which often dip to the low 30"s. In the spring I just gradually acclimatize them to being out in the sun over a week or so time span and then they are ready to be planted back in the ground for another great show. Wishing you success with yours. Ross.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 6:24PM
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Thank you Ross! I will try my best and hopefully it will survive.

Much appreciated!


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 9:51AM
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I have some plants that I would like to know what care they require before the first frost.

I have:

Emerald Gaiety Euonymus
Dusty Miller
Red Fox
PJM Phodedendron
Hosta Fortunei Aureo
double impatience

any suggestions? Can all of these survivie the winter, how do I prep them for the winter season, etc?

thank you

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 8:16AM
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Just a suggestion for the next time. It's best to start a new thread with a new subject line so members can effectively address your concerns.

However - I can say the following:

Emerald Gaiety Euonymus - This is a perennial. no need to bring inside. & be careful when handling this plant. It's sap is toxic.

Dusty Miller - annual. Best discard. they don't do well indoors.

Red Fox - no idea what this is.

Begonia - I'm not sure if this is one of those bulbous begonias or wax begonnias. Wax begonnias are treated as annuals and so discard. For bulbous types, you can save their 'bulbs' dust them with sulfur, place is a peat filled box and overwintered in a dark space. You will need to check on it every now and then to ensure no mold develops.

PJM Phodedendron - I'm not sure if you are referring to rhododendron which is an outdoor shrub or philodendron - a tropical plant that needs to be indoors in winter.

Hosta Fortunei Aureo - perennials

Impatience - annual - discard.

double impatience - same as above.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 12:48PM
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thank you for your feedback.

I will prepare my garden as you have suggested and keep looking for more options with the other plants that are in question. I am still new to gardening so I can't be of more help in the details except for what's on the tag...lol

thanks again and I look forward to more suggestions/advise that may be available to me.

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 9:38AM
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