No Flowers On Oleander: What To Do When Oleander Will Not Bloom

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

As a landscaper, I am often asked why certain shrubs aren’t blooming. I’m often told it bloomed beautifully for years then just stopped or it just never flowered after planting it. There’s no magical solution to this problem. Usually, it’s a matter of location, soil condition, or plant care. Read more to learn what you can do for non-blooming oleander shrubs.

No Flowers on Oleander

When you have no flowers on oleander, you have to question why. Oleanders are prized and beloved for their prolific blooms. If your oleander will not bloom, take a good look at its location.

  • As other plants grow up around oleander, they may have started to block out the sun. Oleanders need full sun to bloom properly.
  • Oleanders can have large root structures, if low growing plants have grown too dense around the oleander shrub, they can compete for nutrients, causing weak or no blooms.
  • The growth of trees and undergrowth around oleander can also compete for water. While mature oleander shrubs are drought-tolerant, all oleanders need adequate water during their bloom time or the oleander will not bloom. From early summer to fall, water your oleander well once a week. A stressed oleander will not bloom.

Non-blooming oleander shrubs used as a hedge could be absorbing too much nitrogen from lawn fertilizer runoff. High nitrogen fertilizers promote growth and vigor mostly in leaves, branches, and stems of plants, not the blooms or roots. Oleander hedges also may have very few or no flowers if they are trimmed too often.

What to Do When Oleander Will Not Bloom

If you have no flowers on your oleander, first make sure it’s getting adequate light and water. Trim back overhanging trees and weed around the plant base. Then trim the plant back by about ½ to promote new growth. Oleander flowers on new wood. Thin out the plant by removing dead and crowded branches. Generally, pruning of oleander should be done once a year in the fall. When pruning oleander, always wear protective gear, as oleander is poisonous. Wash your hands and garden tools immediately, and do not burn oleander trimmings.

You can also give your non-flowering oleander shrubs a dose of bloom boosting fertilizer. These can range from 10-30-20 to 0-52-30, and are lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium for bloom development. A bloom-boosting fertilizer should not be used too often, though. Use a well-balanced 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 as a regular fertilizer in spring and fall.

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Oleander, the South brings sun to the garden

Oleander is a beautiful shrub that blooms all summer long.

Summary of key Oleander facts

NameNerium oleander
FamilyApocynceae or dogbane
Type – shrub, bay
Height – 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 m)

Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary, well drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – from June to September

Pruning, caring for and watering oleander helps increase flowering, growth and avoid diseases. Take note, though, that this beauty comes at a price. The entire plant is highly toxic, and ingesting a single leaf can be fatal even to adults.

Deceit Pollination

Typically, flowering plants follow the rule of compensating pollinators that visit their flowers with the currency of sweet nectar found inside the blooms. Reciprocity dictates that as pollinators receive this reward, they transfer pollen from flower to flower, or from male to female parts inside the same blossom. A fertilized flower is the result of successful pollination, which leads to fruit formation and seed production that ensure successive generations. On the flip side, deceit pollination offers only the hope of a reward. Oleander’s showy flowers attract unsuspecting pollinators by holding the promise of nectar, but invariably leave them probing a dry well.

Oleander Leaf Scorch

Oleander leaf scorch (Xylella fastidiosa) causes leaves to turn brown and drop. This bacterium, spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter leaf hopper insect, leads to quick decline of tree health and eventual death. In some cases, pruning the infected plant parts can help slow progression of the disease. However, good sanitation practices, such as sterilizing pruning tools after each cut of an infected limb, are necessary. Even with pruning, the plant eventually dies. The best method of control is removing the infected plant.

How to grow oleander

Oleander, Nerium oleander, is a tender shrub and must be grown where temperatures never dip below freezing, so in the UK it’s only suitable for growing outside in the mildest areas. Usually, oleanders are grown in pots in a protected spot such as a conservatory, porch, or greenhouse, but they’re not suitable for warm centrally heated rooms. Oleanders can go outdoors for the summer months.

Buy and plant oleander bushes in spring or summer. Plant in a good-sized pot using a soil-based compost and place in a well-lit spot under cover away from central heating, or plant outdoors in a sunny, sheltered spot in mild areas only as oleanders won’t tolerate frost. Water regularly and feed during summer. Repot annually or top-dress, in spring.

Growing oleander: jump links

Where to grow oleander

Good light is essential for oleanders to produce flowers. Indoors, site your oleander in a conservatory, porch, or cool room in bright light or outside in a sheltered spot that gets sun for all or most of the day.

How to plant oleander

Plant oleander in a good-sized pot using a soil-based potting compost (such as John Innes no. 3) mixed with a third of coarse grit or perlite to ensure good drainage. Stand the pot where there’s no danger of waterlogging – inside, this can be on a large saucer of pebbles to protect surfaces, while outside the pot should be raised just off the ground if standing on paving.

How to care for oleander

Oleanders need regular watering from spring to autumn to keep the compost evenly moist and it’s especially important that plants don’t go short of water in spring when flower buds are forming. During winter, reduce the frequency of watering as growth slows. Feed with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks or so from late spring to early autumn.

Pruning oleander bushes isn’t essential but is often necessary to reduce the plant size, especially if moving from outdoors in summer to overwinter under cover. Ideally prune in late winter or early spring but pruning can be done in autumn if necessary. Start by removing any dead or damaged growth, then thin out crowded shoots. Cut back flowered shoots by half and remove a few centimetres of un-flowered shoot tips which will encourage bushy growth.

Every spring, repot oleanders growing in pots, moving up to the next size of container. If plants are already in large pots, top-dress by gently scraping off the top 3-5 cm of compost and replacing with fresh soil-based potting compost.

How to propagate oleander

Take cuttings in mid to late summer. Select leafy non-flowering shoots and take cuttings around 10 cm long, using a sharp knife to cut just below a leaf joint. Dip the base in hormone rooting powder and place in pots of seed & cuttings compost mixed with an equal volume of perlite or sharp sand. Cuttings also root readily when stood in water and can then be potted into compost when roots are well developed.

Oleanders can also be grown from seed. Pick the ripe seed in autumn and sow immediately into moist compost as above.

Growing oleander: problem solving

Oleander plants growing under cover are more prone to pests than those growing outside. Be vigilant and check regularly for pests such as scale insect, red spider mite and mealybug: under cover, combat pests with a biological control.

Plants are likely to be reluctant to flower if there’s not enough good light. Move to a sunny spot for a better chance of flowering.

Flower buds that fall before opening are caused by the oleander drying out while the flowers were forming. Make sure your oleander doesn’t go short of water during the growing season.

Yellowing foliage is a sign that plants are getting too much water.

How to promote bushy, blooming oleander

The blossoms on this red oleander lend bright color to the landscape this time of year. (Photo: USA Today Network)

QUESTION: Last year I planted three small oleanders. They have a few buds on them this spring, but the stems are so weak that they can’t hold up the weight of the blossoms. What can I do to make a sturdier, bushy plant?

ANSWER: Some nurseries wrap and tie the young stems around a stake until they are large enough to carry the weight of the bloom. Others prune the young stems back for one or two seasons to promote density. Prune after the plant blooms, or from June through July or August. Thin the plant out by removing the old canes at ground level, and generally shape the bush. If the plants are burned by a hard freeze, cut back damaged parts in late winter (early February). New growth will usually appear quickly and may or may not bloom that year.

For best bloom, plant in full sun and fertilize in early spring with a slow-release product. Little water is needed once plants are established. A hard spray with the garden hose will reduce damage from scale and mealybug. Remember that the stems, leaves and flowers are poisonous.

Serenita Raspberry Angelonia named Louisiana Super Plant for Spring 2016

Angelonias, also called summer snapdragons, have become one of the most popular summer bedding plants. These are generally considered annuals which thrive in full sun and dry landscapes (a common problem with angelonias is over-irrigation). The Serenita series is the smaller growing version of the Serena variety.

Although Serena angelonias have previously been named Louisiana Super Plants, raspberry blooming Serenita Raspberry was singled out for recognition because of its unique flower color. Raspberry blooms are not available in any other seeded type Angelonia. Plant angelonia in mid-spring around vinca (periwinkle) planting time — late April to early May. Serenita Raspberry is a compact grower in the landscape reaching about 12-14 inches tall as compared to the 16-inch growing Serenas. Space plants 10-12 inches apart

Today’s seminar to teach about native plants

We live in an area that has some beautiful and interesting native plants. Learn about them, and even take some home to create a native garden, in a Know to Gro seminar today, 10 a.m., All Seasons Nursery, 2974 Johnston St. The Saturday morning programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise announced.

Looking ahead to April 23, 10 a.m., the program will be Baskets and Brunch (a Make & Take workshop). Light snacks will be served while guests design and plant their own hanging basket. There will be a $20 fee to cover costs of materials. Please RSVP to Lindsey Rosenbalm 337-264-1418 or [email protected]).

Southern Garden Festival offers activities for all ages

Plan now to attend the 2016 Southern Garden Festival, 3502 E. Simcoe St., near Oakbourne Country Club, where guests will enjoy beautiful flowers, plants and trees, art, music and more while assisting Family Promise of Acadiana in its mission to help homeless families.

Festivities will begin the evening of Friday, April 15, with Dining and Dancing under the Stars. Tickets for this event are $100 per couple which will include entry to all weekend activities. Please call 337-233-3447 to make reservations for the Friday event. Activities on Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will include tours of the riverside gardens, Master Gardener presentations, artists’ demonstrations, bayou boat tours and refreshments. A ticket for Saturday’s activities will be $10 at the gate.

Avec Souci to present Les Beau Jardins Garden Tour

Five unique Lafayette gardens will be open to the public Sunday, May 1, during the 29th annual Avec Souci Garden Tour “Les Beau Jardin,” meaning “The Beautiful Garden.”

Included on the tour will be the home of Emma Jeanne and Bob Carruth who created nine unique gardens on their property at 401 Richland Ave. across from the River Ranch Town Square. The French formal garden in the front of the house reflects the symmetry and order of a Jardin à la Française.

The side and rear of the home feature a series of diverse plantings including a butterfly garden, tropical garden, water garden, herb garden, rose garden, shade garden and secret garden. Lastly, a garden room for entertaining adds to guests’ pleasure. Plant materials are labeled to assist both novice and experienced gardeners to identify their favorites.

Admission to the five gardens is $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Tickets can be purchased from any Avec Souci member or by contacting the number below. All proceeds from the tour will benefit local charities. Since the project began, Avec Souci, through the Beau Jardins tour, has raised and donated more than $152,000 to local charities. For more information visit, Avec Souci Garden Tour on Facebook or call 337-258-6411.

Have a hibiscus named for you

One lucky hibiscus lover will have a seedling named for him or her at

the 16th annual Hibiscus Show and Sale, May 15, at the Cathedral Carmel Gym on St. John Street. The show, which is sponsored by the Mike Bernard Acadiana Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society, is inviting attendees to sign up for a drawing to receive that honor.

Water Requirements for Oleander

Oleander is drought-tolerant when well-established. Provide additional watering for younger plants which may bloom poorly or not at all if conditions are very dry. Allow water to soak in deeply. Oleanders have high water needs during blooming time, which is from early summer to autumn.

  • Oleander is drought-tolerant when well-established.
  • Provide additional watering for younger plants which may bloom poorly or not at all if conditions are very dry.

Watch the video: How to Prune and Care for Oleander Plants

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