Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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?

Share

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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 [email protected] 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 Pruning Questions

Leaf loss on Cenizo in Bertram TX
November 17, 2009 - I need help with a purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) problem. Most of one of my plants started having paler, more greyish leaves, then the leaves began to fall off. It seemed to still look healthy...
view the full question and answer

What about the brown dots on my Silver sage?
June 27, 2008 - During the past year, the leaves on my silver sage bushes around the perimeter of the front of my house have turned yellow in places and there are tiny brown dots on virtually all of the leaves. If I ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Saucer Magnolia in Eatontown, NJ.
January 12, 2013 - Adult Saucer Magnolia (tulip tree). Branches were getting heavy to where they were ready to break. I pruned them back leaving 1 to 3 inch diameter cuts on many branches. Should I put something on th...
view the full question and answer

Survival of yucca plant mowed down in Oklahoma
April 15, 2009 - I have a yucca plant that came from a very old plant of my late father, and had transplanted it 6 years ago and it came back every year and bloomed. This morning I went outside and noticed my husband...
view the full question and answer

How can I control underground runners from from Pride of Houston Yaupons in Austin, TX?
July 16, 2010 - How can I control the underground runners from the Pride of Houston Yaupons?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.