If your oleander has dry leaves, don’t write it down right away. Maybe he still has a chance, with our guide you may still be able to save your oleander.


If an oleander does not start fresh and green after winter, but rather reluctantly and dryly into spring, the first thing to do is to determine how much life is still in the plant.

Sometimes this can be seen immediately or determined very quickly by pouring on: If the oleander still has largely normal-looking, only slightly limp leaves, of which only a part has dried, the living leaves will quickly appear fresher after pouring on. The dried-up parts are then more noticeable, which also makes it easier to dispose of them later.

When the whole shrub has dried up and doesn’t look like it still contains life, it should be carefully pampered with some water first. Now just wait a few days to see if anything changes – if the oleander soon looks a little less limp, that is an important sign of life.

At this stage, pouring on only means the administration of a little water – you can deal with the possibly compacted potting soil, the possibly dried up parts of the roots, etc. later if necessary. If the water just runs through it (the oleander urgently needs fresh soil), take a moment to add the water that has run into the saucer again (slowly, well distributed over the surface of the pot) until a little moisture has arrived.

All the scenarios just described assume that the oleander was overwintered with extensive water restrictions and that this restriction was a bit too severe.

The exception is therefore the opposite: if the oleander is in a soaking wet pot after winter, it needs everything except more water. You can then go straight to the “First Aid” step so that the oleander gets dry as quickly as possible.

Rescue, radical cut or disposal?

After a few days it becomes clear whether the oleander could do something with the little water “to wake up”.

The signs clearly point to “rescue” in the following cases:

  • The foliage of the oleander is clearly more upright again
  • It might even look a little greener
  • The dried up branches can be better distinguished from the rest of the plant
  • The first signs of budding appear at the shoot tips

It looks rather bad if the oleander still shows no signs of life.
Then the exam continues:

  • Are there still individual branches that do not appear completely dry but rather more elastic?
  • On such a shoot, scrape off a little bark a hand’s breadth below the end
  • Greenish-yellow plant tissue containing residual moisture is usually still alive
  • If there is still life to be suspected in the upper part of the plant, go to 3
  • If you find plant life, but also animals, eggs, (mushroom) webs, continue to 3
  • If everything looks more dead than dead, check closer to the ground
  • If nothing seems to be alive here either, pessimists and oleanders set off for the bin
  • Even then, optimists give the oleander a chance
  • However, it should be freed from as much dead plant matter as possible
  • It will never work again, but it also prevents any rebuilding
  • The oleander is therefore cut back to just above the ground
  • And placed in a place where it does not interfere because the new shoot takes its time

Even with very dead-looking oleanders, the optimists have a chance to prove to a pessimistic environment that optimism is worthwhile. Because oleander is a dog poison plant, and they are all hard to kill.

First aid for (half) starved oleanders

If the oleander obviously still has life in it, this life now needs support, because “starved” it indicates: The dried up part of the oleander has dried up because it was no longer supplied with nutrients. Actually, almost a feat that a plant can do: as long as a little light, air and moisture enable the little photosynthesis that the oleander needs during hibernation, the plant sprouts relatively normally in spring. If a very meager supply in winter has led to a “very deep vegetative hibernation”, he may need something to react to the pouring on, which should then be increased carefully.

Even if a plant is forced to take a real winter break in the dark with zero photosynthesis, it will very often sprout again as soon as it enters the growing season. This is not quite the case with the oleander: the evergreen guest from southern climes grows all year round, so its vegetation period covers the whole year, with increased growth in spring and summer. A winter-damaged oleander needs help in order for this growth to begin.

How first aid should look like depends, of course, on the condition of the oleander:

  • Almost fresh again after pouring on, only a few dry leaves remain -> care for and wait normally
  • Even the evergreen oleander does not keep every leaf forever, perhaps it is a matter of normal foliage disposal
  • Noticeably more lively again after pouring on, only a few dried up branches remain -> cut away branches, possibly repot in fresh soil
  • Wet potting compost, oleander shortly before giving up -> Repot in fresh, normally moist soil
  • Traces of pests indicate infestation -> bare the oleander (remove all soil) and shower, put in a fresh pot with fresh soil
  • If other care mistakes have fully taken hold in winter, but the damaged oleander is still alive -> if necessary put in fresh soil, nurse it up slowly

If the oleander has to be repotted or re-potted, you should try to use good potting soil, especially if there was rock-hard material in the pot that only allowed water to flow through. Quite a few of the substrates sold on the market end up in a very short time, which is obviously not a really good environment for a plant. Especially substrates with peat (which are still sold, although it is now known that natural resources that have grown over long periods of time are irretrievably destroyed with them) are not at all suitable for plant cultivation because they hardly show any more water absorption capacity in a very short time. Either you look for good potting soil from an ecologically active company, or you mix your own substrate from soil, sand and compost,

In addition, the root should always be examined more closely when repotting, e.g. B. to cut away dried up root parts. If the oleander has been too wet for the winter and the roots are half rotten, the roots are carefully pruned before they are potted again until there are only strong roots left on the plant. Then the oleander also needs trimming in the upper part; only about twice as much plant mass as root mass should remain, the oleander cannot supply more at the moment. If, when pruning the roots, it turns out that the whole root is more or less “mud”, you can look for a couple of living shoots in the upper part, cut them into cuttings and stick them in potting soil – this will no longer work with the rest of the oleander.

A little extra care, please

For a battered oleander, the world is already half right again when winter drought has been corrected through more watering and care errors through repotting and pruning, etc. But only half whether there will be enough flowering in the upcoming season or whether the “winter shock” is dragged along for a longer period of time depends on the damage to the oleander and the care taken at the beginning of the season. This is how the oleander is nursed back up:

  • As soon as the oleander has recovered to some extent, remove (remaining) dried up leaves / shoots by pruning in spring
  • If a shoot is only half dry, the healthy part can initially remain, and it is likely to sprout again
  • Then cut the shoot with dried leaves back into the living part
  • By cutting away the dried up shoots, all branches that are otherwise too long can also be shortened
  • If this requires a very strong cut, it should be better distributed over the summer
  • The oleander should now be put outside as quickly as possible
  • In a sunny, but as protected as possible place, he is still a convalescent
  • As soon as the budding begins, the heavy-hunger needs nutrients, especially urgently this season
  • Particular attention should be paid to the size (and origin) of the fertilizer this season

If you are lucky, did not have to cut away a lot and the oleander was still pretty much alive, it will soon start to shoot quite vigorously and you can expect flowers this season as well. If the oleander needs a season of rest, you can not do more than treat it to this – if a lot had to be cut away, shoots have to grow again anyway, on which the oleander can then flower in the next season (oleander blooms on biennial wood ).

Hibernate oleanders properly

Oleander grows naturally in the Mediterranean or the even warmer countries further south. That is why the average oleander from the nearest garden center can only survive the German winter in a protected environment: the container plants should spend the winter in a bright, cool room with temperatures between 5 and 10 ° C.

It must be taken into account that the evergreen plant is used to growing all year round, so it does not actually know a winter break like deciduous trees. The photosynthesis rate is also reduced a little in the oleander during the break after flowering and fruit ripening, but green leaves need to be supplied all year round. This is why the oleander needs light and water even in winter, in principle as much as possible – if you can fully cultivate an oleander under plant lamps, do it, it will create many flowers for the next season and come out of winter healthy and strong.

Most of us, however, do not have the option of overwintering an oleander in such a luxurious way or, despite the current availability of high-performance, inexpensive LEDs, have not yet considered this option. So the oleander winters in the garage with a tiny window, in the equally dimly lit staircase, with a lot of luck in the winter garden or the glazed terrace. Always with so little light that the heat should also be reduced thoroughly so that the plant metabolism is reduced to a minimum and the oleander does not “shoot through the area” looking for light.

For the oleander, a deficiency situation that should not be joined by other care deficiencies than:

  • Oleander is supposed to hibernate in the dark – this is not how it can take care of its leaves
  • No or too little water – the oleander continues to grow and needs watering depending on the room temperature
  • Replenishment is due approximately every two weeks up to once a month
  • But also, or especially now, the following applies: First check the moisture in the soil, then apply the appropriate amount of water
  • Too much water (or “water in reserve”) – supposedly convenient, but also quickly the end of the oleander due to root rot
  • Allow oleanders at the end of the balcony season – they can stay outside in a protected place up to approx. 5 ° C
  • Oleander shares its winter quarters with many pest-prone exotic species – if possible, it is better to stand alone
  • Pest infestation is not combated in time – which costs the oleander even more strength
  • Oleander was also fertilized in winter – in the worst case it stimulates (now dried up) late shoots, fertilizer can hardly be used in the resting phase
  • Oleander was overwintered in a fairly warm place and began to sprout in its winter quarters – if this is not noticed, it will die of thirst

Oleanders better overwinter or oleanders in the garden

If overwintering an oleander repeatedly causes problems because the right rooms are simply not available, either upgrading the apartment with plant lamps or a paid overwintering service (at local nurseries, but often a neighbor can help too) helps.

If neither is wanted and you still want to continue living with oleanders, you can now look out for hardy oleanders. Because European growers have been trying to increase the winter hardiness of oleanders since the first rose laurel from Marrakech or Constantinople was “dragged” to Berlin or Amsterdam.

In the meantime, many hardened plant generations have passed the news of bad weather on to the next generation, and there are initial successes: cultivars that can be planted in the garden in warmer regions of Germany. It is still a very daring experiment to combine these cultivars (e.g. ‘Hardy Red’, ‘Italia’, ‘Jannoch’, ‘Margarita’, ‘Provence’, ‘Villa romaine’, but there is a lot of movement) with these varieties) sunny place to put in the garden. But if the oleander has survived the first few years (its youth) without extreme winter temperatures intervening, it benefits from “living in freedom” and only allows the leaves to dry out over the winter that it wanted to get rid of anyway.

It is not uncommon for the oleander to come out of its winter quarters half dry. This is not only due to poor care or a suboptimal wintering area – the evergreen southerner does not get along well in the German winter anyway, and overaged leaves are also best disposed of during the resting phase. That is why the oleander often struggles by itself in spring, but the robust wood can usually be saved with a little patience, even in the worst case.

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