Trimming Oleander

Reducing the size of Oleanders without affecting blooming

By: Sandy Feather ©2010
Penn State Extension

Q. I have a magnificent oleander that blooms profusely every summer on my patio. Of course I take it inside for the winter. There is my problem: It is getting too big. Do I trim the roots, or the branches (although it seems to be blooming mostly at the tips of the branches)? Also, what do I do with the pods? I have left them on, but they are a bit messy indoors.

A. Oleander (Nerium oleander) should be pruned in late summer or fall, after it has finished flowering. Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves when you prune since the sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Since oleander blooms on new growth (“blooms on new wood”), pruning will not interfere with next year’s flowers. It is oleander’s habit to bloom at the tips of branches with clusters of fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers.

How to Prune Oleander

Pruning will not change the way your oleander blooms, but it will remove those pesky seedpods. Unless you want to try growing more oleanders from seed, there is no reason to allow them to develop. You can remove the seedpods as soon as they start to form if you like.


hardiness zone map

Oleander is only winter hardy in USDA Zones 8 – 10, so it must be overwintered indoors in western Pennsylvania’s Zones 5 - 6. You can approach overwintering oleander in two ways: bring it indoors and allow it to grow as a houseplant in a sunny room or bring it into an unheated, integral garage where there is some light and winter temperatures do not fall below 40 degrees.

Growing Oleander Indoors

If you treat it as a houseplant, try to find a sunny, cool room – perhaps an unused bedroom with the registered closed. Oleander will not use nearly as much water indoors, especially with reduced heat, so be sure to alter your watering habits. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings to avoid the chance of root rot. Do not be surprised if it drops some to many leaves due to the reduced light levels indoors. It will soon grow new leaves better adapted to less light.


Overwintering Plants

If you choose to overwinter it in an attached garage, it will probably drop all of its leaves and look dead. Water it well before taking it in, then perhaps only once a month. Since it will be dormant, it will use very little water. To be on the safe side, push a finger into the soil – if it is still moist, do not water. If it is dry, go ahead and water lightly.


If your oleander has been planted in the same pot for a while, consider repotting it in spring before putting it back outdoors. If you do not want to put it in a larger pot, pull it out of the pot and trim the roots back by about one-third. Try to eliminate any circling roots and shorten any roots that you would have to coil around to fit them into the pot. Place some fresh potting mix in the bottom of the pot and replant the oleander, using additional potting mix between the rootball and the side of the pot. Water until water comes out of the drainage holes(s) in the bottom of the pot to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Add more soil if needed.

Moving Oleanders Outdoors

After danger of a hard frost has passed, you can put it back outside. Do not put it out in the full blazing sun right away, though. Gradually acclimate it to brighter sun over a seven to ten day period. Move it to a sheltered location such as a porch, or the filtered shade under a tree. Expose it to direct sun a little more every day until it is out in full sun.


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