Pruning oleanders

mamabythesea(z9 FL)March 31, 2006

I just bought a house that has 3 oleander plants in the yard. They are about 6 foot tall. The problem is that they are not bushy or full at all. They are more like several 6 feet sticks with only about the top 2 feet with leaves on them. I noticed some seed pods on them so they have bloomed recently, I guess. My question is, how do I get them to be fuller and bushier. Do I prune them back? And how exactly should I do that? Should I chop them way back like I would a hibiscus? I was going to post a picture but I dont know how to do that on here.

Thank you.

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hmmm... I'd prune them, but I am wondering if they are so sticklike because they aren't getting enough sun. I was under the impression that they are more mediterranean in likes... Hot and DRY during the summer.
I HAVE seem them pruned into a standard shape, which is what I was trying to do at my last house... but it really wanted to bush. So, I'd try pruning, but they might not ever be happy.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 9:21PM
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mamabythesea(z9 FL)

heathen1, thanks for your reply. They are all in full sun, so I think the last owners got that right. Well, one of them is on the side of the house with morning sun, but it looks the same as the others in full sun. Maybe youre right- They wont ever be happy... I inherited a bunch of brats!

I have never seen an Oleander in a standard! Or maybe I havent been paying enough attention!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 9:45PM
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yeah... but take my word for it, full Florida sun is different from full California sun... something about the humidity in the air or something. I have a lot of plants that take full Fla sun, but need afternoon shade here.
I have only seen a "standard" oleander once... I thought it was cool and wondered why I'd only seen that one. :o) Oleanders are a highway plant here... I couldn't even stand them for awhile. But the standard was nice.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 11:11AM
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Here in zone 10 Fl it is common to see oleanders as standards. So the ones you have may have been purchased as just that. It sometimes takes a year or so to have them branch out to a full looking tree. And maybe they need some food.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 7:45AM
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FYI, you probably know this, but oleanders are poisonous. Be sure to wash hands and tools well after pruning (and throw away the clippings (don't compost 'em).

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 8:09AM
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Yes... I cover myself with oleander in case someone wants to lick me... :D I dunno... I thought that was funny.... :oD

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 11:17AM
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Just whack them back to about two-foot stubs. In two years they will be the same size and much fuller and bushier. About three years ago, I painted my house. The six 12-footers on the north side of the house were whacked back and now they are all about eight feet tall and much bushier and healthier looking.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 3:54PM
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spectre(SZ 24, US 10b)

While oleanders can be bushy in the tropics, the extra night-heat and humidity tend to make them leggier than they get in climates that are closer to southern California's. In Hawai'i, they always tend to look sparse and leggy (almost like the shape of a plumeria, which is in the same family).

While whacking them back will promote denser growth and a bushier look to it, you'll have to be vigilant because their tendency in a warm-humid climate subtropical climate like Florida is to grow branches quickly and out-run the older foliage.

If you like the look of an oleander, but want a bushier screen-like feel, you might want to try lucky nut or yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana). While the flowers are a bit smaller and range from apricot to light yellow, they are amenable to looking bushy in both our dry subtropical climate in SoCal and your climate. In Hawai'i, they use it there as the regular oleander is used in California.

They are in the same family and the same toxic precautions are warranted.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 5:38PM
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mamabythesea(z9 FL)

Heathen1- I thought it was funny! LOL

Ron, Thank you for the advice. I will whack them back to 2 feet. And maybe I will continue to give them a little snip every time I prune my other bushes during the growing season.

I dont know if this is rude or not, but I have a real quick question about the gardenia in the yard regarding pruning-it looks fine, except for a few yellow leaves (prolly needs some iron) but Im not worried about that. Can I take a few inches off the top to make it look more even (love my grammar? LOL) or will this affect the flowering?

I just had to buy a house with plants I have no idea about..........;)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 7:39PM
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chickadeedeedee(z 6-7 ish Ohio)

LOL!!! Whilst a whackin' away at yer oleander please do be careful with your eyes. The oleander goo can be very irritating to the eye. Please be mindful of that so if you happen to get some on your hands you don't rub or accidentally touch your eyes with your hands (or the sap directly from the plant).

Let's be careful out there. :-)

The gardenia question? I don't know the correct answer.

C3D ~~ fluent in NO language. LOL!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 8:02PM
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I think it will affect the blooming...:o( but if you can't stand the unevenness... you won't be happy unless you do. :o) How do I know this? I live with a Japanese Prune-aholic. HE calls it bonsai'ing, I call it plant butchering.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 9:17PM
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The toxins in Oleander break down quickly in compost and pose no danger. The same goes for any other plant toxin, even allelopathic ones.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 11:48AM
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I live in Galveston, the Oleander City. They are everywhere here. And it is HOT and HUMID. Our humidity is rarely below 80%, we are an island after all.
They don't have a tendency to get leggy here at all. There are tons trained as standards and even more that haven't been pruned since the last hurricane did it and are big bushes. It depends more on the hybrid then anything.
Every few years I chop mine down to the ground, really, even with the soil almost, well, as short as I can get them without the chainsaw. They come back and are at least as big within 1-2 years and have always bloomed the year after pruning.
Don't plant the thevetia if you want something bushy. Here every single one is a small tree, whether you want it to be or not. And they are a lot more toxic than the oleander. In India the seeds are chewed to commit suicide. I prune mine like crazy and it is now about 15' tall. And the seeds pop up everywhere. Though the hummers are really fond of it.
And they grow in full sun. You'll get leggy plants and few flowers in shade.
Depending on which one you get they can get up to 20' tall, hardy red for instance can be 20' tall and about as wide.
The Oleander festival is next month here on the island.
I'm in a 9b semi-tropical climate. Alkaline sand soil. Drought or monsoon. Tropical storms, hurricanes. They are pretty salt tolerant too growing right up to the edge of the bays/bayous.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 5:34PM
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shaybass(z8 West Ctl AL)

What time of year do you prune Oleanders? Does it make a difference?

Have some I want to prune down but I am not sure what time of year to do it. Spring? Summer? Fall?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 11:36AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

I am just south of Tally, about 75 miles or so, and on the coast too. We have oleanders everywhere, and they all get big and bushy. There doesn't seem to be anytime that is terrible to trim them. I would be pretty radical with them, and remember that where you cut them just above a node, they will sprout 3 new branches. So if you want bushy, cut low, then come back every few months and nip one of the new branches off, right above a node. I feed mine occasionally with hibiscus food. It is cheap and they love it. They are not hogs when it comes to being fed I don't think. The biggest and bushiest I have seen never get fed or watered!


    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:14PM
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Here in El Paso, the city parks sport single trunk oleanders and I've seen four trunked oleanders with a beautiful canopy worthy of a average tree. Is this a viable way to go for quick growth "trees?" Does anyone have experience in pruning to get such results? Frank

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 10:52PM
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I pruned my Oleander about 18 months ago..until then it flowered all I get are what I'll call sucker branches which are very weak and no flowers...any ideas how I can bring it back to health??? Thank You

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 8:43AM
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I had two Oleanders and lost one to disease. It looked like the other was dying too so I pruned it back hard. I decided I'd either "kill or cure" and dabbed some diluted bleach water (what I was using to cleanse my pruners) onto the stubs of the shrub. This year it came back with the most blooms ever. Go figure!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 8:39AM
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When is the best time to prune oleanders? Mine are leggy but blooming.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 6:09PM
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My oleanders are about 8 feet tall, some have dead branches and some plants have died. Can I cut them back to about 4 feet now or is it too late? Do I wait for the freezes to get over with?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 11:57AM
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When to prune olenaders? Prune in early spring.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 5:09PM
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I have always understood Oleanders should be pruned right after they finish blooming to make them bloom more the next year. For the big ones, in Austin, that's around October, but I don't know about the dwarfs. I have a Turner Trey Boy dwarf that bloomed from April to December. It's a ltitle leggy, but I'm kinda tempted to let it go another year 'cos I don't really mind it sorta laying around everywhere. I have read some people don't prune Oleanders until Spring, but that is mostly about shaping, and not about getting the maximum number of blooms.

little dani is exactly right about pruning just above clusters of three leaves to get more branches to sprout from that place. I did that to my big Oleander and got results in just a couple of months. Oleanders bloom on new wood.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:57PM
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