Ravishing Rascal

Now is the time, to get to grips with Oleander

AA plant of motorways and hedges, Nerium oleander is so common along the Med, that this flowering shrub seldomly gets enough attention. However this southern symbol adds a lot of joy – with suitable location, sufficient nutrients and good pruning.

Twiggy shoots say: wrong location. Oleander wants full sun, always. He dislikes slopes, but loves lots of water when young. Visible basal roots show: something’s wrong. Mr. O. is tough, but he’ll frown at that. Compost is a solution. As a swift grower he needs regular formative pruning. Dead wood must go – all the way down, diseased branches are cut back into healthy wood by about three leaf nodes – a cut slightly above the node keeps diseases off.

Sharp, clean secateurs and loppers are a must; ideally you disinfect them; automatic hedge trimmers and machines? No way! Clean quality tools and fine pruning give plants beauty and health. A showy oleander needs training right from the start. Five to seven main shoots form the structure over time. For a little “tree” one to five upright growing shoots are enough. Water shoots and basal shoots consume nutrients; criss-crossing or rubbing branches attract diseases, so out with them. Oleander can be cut back by one third or 50%. That makes the rascal healthy and gives him good shape. Oleander accepts heavy pruning here in the south. Shrubs getting their correct treatment now, will again look fabulously in spring. A scoop of compost rounds off this autumn therapy.

But why a „rascal“? Oleander is beautiful, but poisonous in all parts. Even when burnt! Gloves and a dust mask are needed when renovating him. Kids and pets may not ingest any of the pruning remains! However, feel free to compost it.