En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Wednesday - September 28, 2011

From: Darien, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Poisonous Plants
Title: Pruning non-native oleanders
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have an oleander that has become to "leggy". I read the pruning instructions, but where I want to prune, there are not any leaf nodes. Can I trim below at the base, or will I hurt the plant? I live in Chicago and have had the plant for many years and have not pruned. I bring the plant indoors from Oct - May.


If you will go to our Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page and enter "oleander" in the Search by Keywords slot, you will see that there are more than 20 questions that appear that are associated with Nerium oleander (oleander).  You will also see, if you read ones (e.g., #268, #522, #6495) that are about oleander alone, that it is a native of northern Africa, the eastern Mediterranean and southeast Asia. It was introduced into the U. S. in the 1800s and now can be found in cultivation and naturalized over the southeastern states, Texas, California, and Utah.  Our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America so we are not really who you should be asking about care of your non-native oleander.  However, we can guide you to some information that should help you.

The International Oleander Society has an article, Oleander Culture, with a section on pruning them.  Buzzle.com has an article, Oleander: Pruning Oleander; here is another, Nerium Oleander Care & Pruning, from Botanical-Journeys-Plant-Guide.com.;  and another, The Oleander Plant for Spectacular Blooms, from Plants and Bulbs@Suite 101.  Pruning above the nodes will make the the plant branch there, but the articles all indicate that oleaders can be heavily pruned and continue to do well.

When you do prune your plant we would like to remind you of the toxic nature of oleander and suggest that you wear rubber gloves and dispose of the prunings carefully.   The following is a quote from a previous question:

"Nerium oleander is one of the most poisonous plants known, with all parts of the plant being toxic. Ingestion of just one leaf can cause heart attack and death. Some of the poisons it contains are cardiotonic glycoside (oldendrine), prussic acid and rutin. Skin contact with the plant can cause severe dermatitis...We would recommend that it be carefully removed, wearing gloves and protective clothing, bagged and disposed of properly, NOT burned nor consigned to the compost pile, where the toxins would continue to be dangerous."


More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with non-native St. Augustine lawn from Austin
October 06, 2013 - We have St. Augustine in our front lawn. There are some patches where the grass has entirely died but mixed in with the dead areas are little clumps of living grass. It seems to be spreading througho...
view the full question and answer

Non-native dwarf palm leaves yellowing in Katy TX
March 30, 2013 - 1 month ago we planted dwarf palms, the leaves are turning yellow, does this mean we are over watering them? If so how much water do they require? Is there anything we can give them? We also have a fa...
view the full question and answer

Recovery of non-native star jasmine from freezing in New York
April 22, 2007 - Hello, I have a star jasmine plant that was left outside over the winter. Will it come back to life? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Non-native crepe myrtles in Coleman, TX
March 06, 2009 - We want to plant 2 white crepe myrtle trees on our family cemetery plot in Coleman TX. Once they get established, they will be pretty much on their own. Wind and sun are abundant. Rain is scarce. ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with peonies in Indianola, WA
May 18, 2009 - My 5 year old peony plant didn't come up. I thought it was dead so I dug it up. I found a clump of thick roots. I separated them, and then realized these were probably the bulbs. It is the middle...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center