Oleander Plant Care: Tips For Growing Oleander Bushes and Trees

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The Oleander plant (Nerium oleander) is an ornamental shrub with attractive characteristics from flower to stems. The plant is an erect evergreen shrub, also known as adelfa plants, with lovely flower clusters of pink flowers. Each flower has 5 spreading petals.

The oleander tree flower clusters are supported by the plant’s slender stems. Lance-shaped with leathery texture and pointed tips refer to the plant’s leaves.

oleander floweringPin

If the oleander flowers come in clusters, the leaves come in groups of 2 or 3 along the branch.

Oleanders are so well known to both northern and southern gardeners, they need little introduction or description.

They are grown everywhere in the South, and at one time ranked with beautiful hydrangeas as northern house plants.

For some obscure reasons, oleanders (Nerium) faded from popularity some years ago, but they are now making quite a comeback.

Give these plants well-drained soil, full light, and plenty of fresh air.

Pink and red oleander flowers with green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @denizcebe

Oleanders are salt and drought tolerant, thus making it an excellent flowering shrub for coastal areas as well as for xeriscaping.

They also are perfect as a container grown plants. In outdoor spots and landscapes, Nerium flowers make a fabulous accent plant, oleander hedge, and great border plant.

After flowering, cut the plants back and rest them for a few weeks. If cuttings are wanted, take them of mature wood when you cut the plant back sharply; pruning to shape the plant may be done at any time.

Clean up and dispose of all debris after you finish pruning.

Oleander Plant Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Nerium oleander
  • Common Name(s): Oleander plant, Adelfa plant
  • Synonyms: N/A
  • Pronunciation: Near-ee-um oh-le-an-der
  • Family & Origin: Oleander plants are part of the Apocynaceae family, originating from Mediterranean and southern Asia regions.
  • Growability: The oleander plant is easy to grow if the recommended conditions are met.
  • Grow Zone: Oleanders grow well in USDA zones 8 through 11.
  • Size: The typical oleander plant grows as a medium to large shrub, reaching 6-20 feet in height.
  • Flowering: Oleander plants bloom during summer, producing pink, red, yellow, or white flower clusters.
  • Light: This plant enjoys full sun to partial shade for optimal growth.
  • Humidity: Oleander plants can survive in various humidity levels but prefer slightly humid environments.
  • Temperature: They thrive in temperatures around 50-70°F, growing well in warm climates.
  • Soil: Oleander plants grow best in well-drained, moderately fertile soil.
  • Water: Water moderately, allowing the soil to slightly dry out between waterings.
  • Fertilizer: During the growing season, apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every month for optimal health.
  • Pests & Diseases: Oleanders can be affected by pests like mealybugs, glassy-winged sharpshooters, soft scales, oleander aphids, and white or oleander scales. Oleander leaf scorch is a common disease for oleanders.
  • Propagation: Oleander plants can be propagated through stem cuttings.
  • Uses: Oleanders are popular as accent plants, borders, hedges, and even as container plants. They are suitable for xeriscaping and coastal areas due to their salt and drought tolerance.
Bright pink oleander flowers with green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @darlene.elkins

Oleander Plant Pest And Diseases

Oleander poisoning occurs when man and animals eat the stems, leaves, and flowers of the plant. But on the other side, this poisonous plant are beloved by scale insects and mealy bugs, they have long been popular subjects.

Oleanders can become infested with infested with mealybugs,  glassy-winged sharpshooter, soft scale, oleander aphids and white or oleander scale.

To control all these, apply regular applications of sprays containing neem oil insecticide for plants or insecticidal soap spray solution.

The Oleander caterpillar, a pest commonly found in oleander plants, loves to eat the leaves gregariously.

These caterpillars possess immunity against the tree’s poison. It grows to a polka-dot wasp moth which lays eggs on the underside faces of the leaves.

If not controlled, these greedy pests may cause unsightly defoliation. This may not kill the plant, but it makes it vulnerable to other pests, such as scale insects.

Oleander leaf scorch is a lethal disease that kills oleander shrubs. This condition scorches the leaves of oleander plants and spreads quickly.

Experts point out two culprits for oleander scorch: the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa and the pest that spreads them, the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

Oleander Bush or Standards

Oleanders may be grown in bush shape or trained as standards (like a tree rose).

In the latter, plants are topped at whatever height is desired, and good crowns will develop the same season.

Oleander tree White growing outdoors - Tanger Outlet, Daytona Beach, Florida May 2019Pin

However, owing to the weight of the large flower heads, which are borne in terminal clusters, it is not advisable to allow the plant to flower the following year, as the branches will not be strong enough to support the blooms.

I have very little room for duplication of indoor plant material, but I am so enamored of oleanders, I have two plants. The larger one is a bush, and has double pink flowers.

From this I have taken innumerable cuttings, which root in plain water.

The other plant I am training is a standard tree form, and already I can see the space-saving advantage of this form.

With this variety of flowers, it will have white blossoms.

Hence, it’s often searched for as “white oleander trees.”

Oleanders have single or double flowers, and in addition to the white, they range from shades of pink and rose to an almost purple color.

The yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana), another poisonous plant, serves as an ornamental plant. Its fragrant flowers bloom all throughout summer and fall.

Don’t be afraid to try trees; when confined to a pot, they will remain a reasonable size for a long, long time.

Blooming pink oleander shrubs under sunny sky.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @blondepikebtq

When To Prune Oleanders & How?

Question: My potted oleander last year grew to four feet in height and developed three new branches – one on the old stem and two from the root. The old branch bloomed all summer.

I want to cut this plant back to a smaller size – would you tell me when and in what way it should be pruned?

Answer: The best time to prune oleander plants is right after they have finished blooming, and they are pruned rather severely. Cut back all the tall stems until about half the total foliage has been removed.

For those varieties that bloom well into the fall, they should be trimmed by mid-September.

This will make the plant grow short and bushy rather than tall and spindly. After pruning, give the plant good light, and when new growth starts, increase both the temperature and water.

Why Does My Oleander Have Lots of Buds But No Blooms?

Pink oleander blossoms in focus.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @houseplantfairy

Question: I have several two-year-old oleanders. In the spring, they are placed on the south side of the house, where they get plenty of sunshine, and left there during the summer.

The plants are doing well and have had many buds, but they never open. What is causing this? Eleana, North Dakota

Answer: To bloom properly, oleander wood should be firm and well-ripened. The latter part of the summer should find the growth fairly well made and from that time on the plants should be kept on the dry side, with no fertilizer added, with all the light and air possible.

The shoots made this season should bloom the next if they are wcll-hardened. I suspect the dropping of buds is caused by drying at the roots, or poor ventilation in the spring before they go outdoors.

Oleander Tree Care Up North

During winter, the oleander should be grown quite dry so that it remains in a resting stage. About the first of February, place the plant in a warm sunny window and increase the amount of water. Although drought-tolerant, these plants appear at their best with proper watering.

Pink flowers in front of a yellow building.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @alifelesslived

Give the shrub a good liquid feeding about the first of March and again each month until September. Use something like any liquid water-soluble 20-20-20 plant food.

Dissolve the plant food in water at the rate of one heaping tablespoonful to a gallon of water.

When the blooming period is about over, usually by June, prune the plant back rather severely, but keep it growing vigorously until September.

From September on, water should be withdrawn sufficiently to permit the oleander plant to remain virtually at a standstill until February.

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