Grow Guide: Pruning Oleander

Gardening expert Felder Rushing gives tips on caring for oleander.

Nerium oleander ~Calypso~ (01) Habit

Nerium oleander ~Calypso~ (01) Habit

Nerium oleander ~Calypso~ (01)

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Q: Can I cut back my oleander bush now? It isn’t too big, but has gotten leggy. I just don‘t want to ruin next spring‘s flowers.

ANSWER:

Yes you can cut it now, without harming next year’s flowers. Oleander is a popular many-stemmed ever-blooming bush enjoyed widely in mild-winter areas of the country. It can tolerate temperatures down into the lower teens, but it will freeze to the ground; however, if it is mulched, it can come back up the next spring and keep right on flowering. Smaller varieties do well in pots but have to be brought indoors in cold winter areas. 

Since oleander flowers on new growth, just like roses and althea (sometimes called rose of Sharon), there is no danger of losing next spring or summer blossoms. Even if you decide to cut the shrub down close to the ground and mulch it really well, it will do just fine. In fact, it is sometimes a good idea to prune it every few years to keep it in bounds, especially in colder areas where the plant can look really ragged after frost. But if you can wait until later in the winter, closer to spring, the plant will be bare for a shorter period and have less likelihood of the cut stems suffering cold damage.

Special Warning About Oleander 

Be aware that the sap of oleander is very poisonous if ingested. Don‘t use the cut stems for anything edible like roasting hot dogs, and be sure to wash your hands after handling the clippings. 

Gardening expert and certified wit Felder Rushing answers your questions and lays down some green-wisdom. You can get more of your Felder fix at www.slowgardening.net.

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