Pruning oleander: How to do it right

oleander flowers
oleander flowers

Oleanders are beautiful flowering container plants for balconies and terraces, but they also need some care. Find out here how to prune oleander so that it stays beautiful for years to come.

Oleander is a popular tub plant, because of its pretty white, light yellow, pink or red flowers, depending on the variety. Originally from the Mediterranean region, the evergreen shrub feels particularly at home in a sunny spot on the terrace and can spend the summer here. However, it is not reliably winter-hardy and must therefore be moved to winter quarters in late autumn. If you water and fertilize the plant regularly, you can enjoy lush blooms in the warm months.

To promote flowering and growth, the oleander should also be properly cut back. Here you can find out how to do this correctly and when is the best time to do it. Whenever you reach for the scissors, wear gloves if possible, because oleander is poisonous.

When does the oleander need pruning?

Young oleander in the first few years in the container are very eager to grow and bloom. However, this decreases as the plants grow larger and can only be compensated to a limited extent by adding fertilizer. In addition, it is no child’s play to transport a large and, above all, densely grown oleander to its winter quarters in the fall.

If you notice that the plant is obviously producing fewer flowers and new shoots are growing across the interior of the crown instead of outward, you should reach for the pruning shears. The nice thing is that oleander does not hold even a radical pruning against the gardener. On the contrary, you are usually rewarded with strong shoots and magnificent flowers. Also, as for the timing of pruning, the plant is merciful and gives us many time windows for it. However, the method of pruning varies from season to season.

Pruning oleander before wintering

Usually, you cut back oleander before it moves to winter quarters for overwintering. Usually this is done for reasons of space, because oleander bushes can develop into large specimens over the years. Especially if the plant suffers from scale insects, this procedure is recommended. However, you should be careful not to cut back all the shoots completely, as the flower buds for the coming season have already formed on the shoot tips in late summer.

Instead, if you cut back only to the first bud, you can look forward to abundant flowering next summer as well. In addition, the plant can be thinned out now and any cross-growing or overhanging shoots removed. You should also cut off diseased or damaged branches, of course. When doing this pruning, be sure to remove no more than one-third of all shoots.

Radical pruning in late winter

If your oleander has grown significantly too large and has gotten out of shape, is bare at the bottom, or is heavily infested with pests, you should radically prune it back. This rejuvenation pruning is done in late winter, preferably in March, as the plant puts a lot of energy into growing new shoots at this time anyway. To do this, all the shoots of the plant are cut about 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) above the ground. Also remove all plant debris and moss from the container.

The result will then look a bit puny at first glance, with only short branch stubs sticking out of the pot. However, like many other woody plants, the oleander is very regenerative and sprouts new shoots quickly. Radical pruning also ensures that the plant grows nicely bushy. However, there is one disadvantage: You will have to wait a year until the next flowering, as all flower buds have been removed.

Continuous and regular pruning

Better than the radical option is regular pruning. In doing so, make sure that no cross-growing branches grow inside the shrub. Also remove shoots close to the ground, because they tend to hang down over the edge of the container. In their natural habitat, oleanders spread over such shoots resting on the ground, as they often form their own roots within a few weeks given sufficient moisture. They are undesirable for potted plants, as they make watering and putting away for winter quarters more difficult.

Light corrective pruning is possible throughout the growing season and will result in an extended bloom period. In fact, most perennial flowering varieties remontage well if you cut back the faded shoots by no more than a third by mid-July at the latest.

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