Oleander overwintering: care, cut& watering | simple tips

A pruning mistake costs the oleander its flowers. The right time is also crucial.

Pruning oleander correctly

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The oleander is one of the most impressive plants of the Mediterranean region. When pruning, however, there are a few things to keep in mind, for example, the right timing is important. What you should avoid when caring for the oleander.


The oleander (Nerium oleander) – also known as the rose laurel – especially likes conditions similar to those of its natural origin. When it comes to location and watering habits, here are some things to keep in mind. And by timely fertilizing and pruning, you can enjoy the handsome potted plants for a long time.

Wintering oleander: From when to bring the oleander into the winter quarters?

In principle, you should bring the plant into the winter quarters as late as possible. Oleander is frost-tolerant down to minus five degrees, so it should not be moved to a bright, zero- to ten-degree winter habitat until late fall. Before you can protect the plant well in sheltered locations near the house wall and wrapped in fleece from too cold temperatures, because often follow even in late autumn again warmer days. So you can often delay putting away for several weeks, which will harden the plant and make it more robust.

Caring for oleander: These are nine mistakes you should avoid

What you water the oleander with is crucial for the health of the plants. (Source: imago images/Leopold Nekula)

Oleander loves a warm, sunny place protected from wind and rain, and then rewards us with its opulent blooms. (Source: Getty Images/Tree4Two; )

It hardly needs watering in winter, but when the oleander comes outside in spring, a saucer for the tub is recommended. (Source: Getty Images/Gabriele Grassl)

The summer months are the ideal time to cut cuttings from the oleander. (Source: Getty Images/beodra)

For oleanders, annual pruning should preferably be done between spring and summer. (Source: imago images/DC_1)

Wear protective gloves when doing any pruning on the oleander, as the sap that escapes can cause skin irritation. (Source: imago images/Westend61)

Oleander has a particularly high nutrient requirement and should therefore be sufficiently supplied with a slow-release fertilizer right at the beginning of the season after clearing out. (Source: imago images/samurkas)

Photo series with 9 pictures

Wintering oleander – outdoors or indoors?

The oleander plant must be brought into the winter quarters at the latest when stronger frosts or even permafrost are forecast. For this purpose, for example, a bright unheated room in the house, a cellar, a cold conservatory or a garage is suitable. Good ventilation is important so that pests and plant diseases don’t stand a chance. It is best to check the plants once a week, water if necessary and watch out for pests, so that you can react quickly in case of infestation.

Cut oleander: It is better not to cut after flowering

The annual pruning is best done in the spring after clearing until summer peak. After flowering, one should be careful with pruning . The inflorescences are not cut off, because at their tips are the plants for new flowers next year. Pruning before putting away in the fall may often seem useful for space reasons, but it is not recommended. Since the roots of oleander plants are active all year round, they would react by sprouting and this should be avoided for the good of the plant in the winter quarters.

For spring and summer pruning, simply cut off about a third of the shoots close to the ground. Pruning into the old wood will produce long shoots, while pruning in the flowering region will produce short shoots that flower quickly. Finding the right balance here is the key to healthy oleander plants. When pruning, always make sure to leave enough inflorescences, otherwise the oleander will not bloom.

Oleander needs the right care. (Source: imago images/Peter Widmann)

Oleander needs proper care.

Yellow leaves on the oleander: what to do?

Regular pruning is recommended to rejuvenate the plant. If one renounces cutting, yellow leaves often appear on the old branches, which are thrown off. In addition, yellow leaves can be a sign that the oleander is not watered enough or does not receive enough fertilizer.

Sunny location preferred

For the oleander to show itself in all its glory and produce as many flowers as possible, it needs a warm, sunny place protected from wind and rain. For example, the south or southwest wall of a house is ideal. It even continues to give off the stored heat of the sun in the evening and at night, from which the plants in front of it benefit.

When can the oleander back outdoors?

In spring, the oleander plants can be removed from their winter quarters. The ideal time is a rainy period, because this also removes the dust from the leaves, which has accumulated there during the months of winter dormancy.

There are two types of overwintering. Cold, i.e. at below ten degrees, overwintered plants can often be returned to the outdoors in early to mid-April. They have retained the winter hardiness acquired in the fall and light night frost, which can still occur in the spring, does not bother them much.

Oleander that has been overwintered warmer, however, often begins to grow already in the winter quarters. The fresh shoots are very susceptible to frost and it is best to move the plant outdoors only after the Ice Saints, so that frost cannot harm the shoot tips.

Can oleander also be planted outdoors?

The oleander should not be planted outdoors. Since it is not hardy, it will not survive the low temperatures outside. It needs winter protection. It is therefore better to leave the plant in the container and then move it to your balcony or terrace in the spring and store it in the winter.

What to do with the oleander after the winter

For both types of overwintering, it is recommended that the oleander plants are slowly accustomed to outdoor life and especially light conditions in a shady place after they have been removed from the garden. Otherwise, it can happen that the plants are damaged and lose leaves.

Watering oleander properly: the foot in the water

Water consumption is also dependent on heat and solar radiation. Thus, in winter, when the oleander is cool, it is relatively small and it is sufficient to check the water level weekly and water only when the root ball is dry.

Later, it is best to place the tubs in saucers. This way, nutrients can still be drawn through the roots even from the seepage of irrigation water, and nothing is lost. In summer you should water the tub plants abundantly. Water the oleander up to three times a day, because it needs a lot of water and it is allowed to leave water in the saucer, so that it is sufficiently supplied.

A common mistake in care is the Watering with rain water. What sounds practical and environmentally friendly, unfortunately only harms the plant, because over time the soil in the tub becomes acidic. Then the nutrients contained in the soil can no longer be absorbed and deficiency symptoms occur. To make the oleander bloom faster in the spring, you can use preheated watering water.

Cutting oleander cuttings: the right moment

The summer months are the ideal time to cut cuttings from the oleander. Young shoot tips without buds or flowers are best for this, explains Detlev Hellinger, master gardener at the Freiburg municipal nursery. They are cut with a sharp knife or secateurs after the second or third leaf set and remove the lower leaves.

Put the stems in potting soil or place them in a container with water. In a bright place without direct sunlight, roots will form after a few weeks. If the cutting is well rooted, it can be potted up. For propagation rather unsuitable are the shoots that arise anyway during the annual pruning, because they root poorly.

Oleander is poisonous!

Be sure to wear protective gloves during all pruning operations, as the sap that escapes from the plant can cause skin irritation. Also remember to clean your hands and tools very thoroughly.

Especially families with children or owners of cats, dogs or rodents should not have oleander as an ornamental shrub in the garden. The plant is toxic and can be poisonous to pets and deadly to rodents and to birds.

The plant contains glycoside oleandrin, which can cause cardiac arrhythmia, and in case of severe poisoning can even lead to death by cardiac paralysis. Such severe poisoning is rare, however, because the plant has a very bitter taste, and therefore the toxins would be quickly broken out. The symptoms of poisoning are as follows:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slowed pulse
  • Pupil dilation
  • Cramps
  • Blue lips and hands.

When to fertilize oleander?

Oleanders are heavy feeders – they have particularly high nutrient requirements. From March – when you put the containers out – until the beginning of September at the latest, treat the plants once or twice a week with high-quality liquid container plant fertilizer, so that they can develop well.

If the leaves become darker and stronger again, the oleander plant is active and the right time for the first fertilization has come. For this purpose, add a slow-release fertilizer with a lasting effect of six to twelve months to the pot soil. Depending on the need, you can also add fertilizer lime and possibly a potash fertilizer.

It is better to refrain from fertilizing later in the fall, as well as in winter.

Although overfertilization is not life-threatening for the oleander, leaf edge necrosis will occur and the leaf edges will turn brown and dry. As with sunburn, this damage remains visible for a long time. If this happens, it is best to flush the fertilizer out of the potting soil with plenty of water. In the following period do not fertilize and wait until the plant forms healthy foliage again.

Oleander: pests and diseases

The oleander is basically quite robust with good care. Nevertheless, there are some pests lurking that can harm the plant. Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and signs of the contagious oleander canker should be kept an eye on throughout the year. Spider mites, for example, are constantly in the air and prefer to attack oleander plants that are particularly protected – on the corner of a house.

To control pests, you can spray the oleander several times a year with a preparation against sucking insects. Do not forget: You should pay particular attention to the undersides of the leaves, as this is where most pests are found. In autumn it is advisable to add a fungicidal fungicide at the same time.

A natural alternative to fight the oleander enemies are ladybugs. A ladybug eats over a hundred aphids a day, and a larva eats between 400 and 600 aphids in three weeks.

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Oleander Cancer can only be handled by a radical cut of the affected locations. Since the bacterium is passed on by carriers, it is important to disinfect the scissors very well afterwards to avoid a new outbreak. Unfortunately, if many parts of the oleander are affected, you can only destroy the whole plant. Waste from diseased plants does not belong on the compost, however, so that the disease does not spread further.

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