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How to Care for an Oleander Plant With Brown Leaves

An oleander plant is a perennial shrub that blooms actively during the summer months. Oleander plants prefer a sunny location, although they will tolerate shade also. With proper maintenance, an oleander plant may grow as tall as 12 feet high. An unfortunate occurrence among oleander plants is a condition in which the leaves turn brown. This condition is called “Oleander Leaf Scorch” (OLS).

Maintain the oleander plant carefully. Apply fresh mulch every spring over the roots of the plant in a 2-inch-thick layer. Water the oleander plant if less than 1 inch of rain falls within a one-week period. Prune the oleander plant immediately after the plant finishes blooming for the season. This will promote bushier side growth, additional blooms and will keep the plant from growing larger than you desire.

Watch your oleander plant carefully as it grows. Examine the plant often for signs of brown leaves. If you see brown leaves, this is an indication that your plant has contracted OLS. There is no way to cure this bacterial infection that infects oleander plants. If you detect OLS, act swiftly to prevent the bacteria from spreading to other healthy oleander plants.

Cut the foliage of an infected oleander plant down to the soil level. The plant will regrow, and often the new growth is healthy and will stay green, at least initially. As long as the plant remains green, allow it to continue to grow.

Watch the infected plant as it grows again. If you see more brown foliage, remove the plant from the soil and dispose of it to prevent the bacteria from spreading to healthy oleander plants.


The bacterium that infects oleander plants and causes OLS has other similar strains that affect other plants. Generally, the oleander bacterium will not destroy other plants and other bacterium that destroys other plants will not destroy oleander. Proper oleander care will not guarantee prevention of OLS, but it may help to avoid the disease.

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