The Q&A Archives: Yellow Leaves on Dwarf Oleanders

Question: I have purchased and planted 12 each Dwarf Oleander plants through Star Nursery in North Las Vegas. Recently I have noticed that on several of the plants the leaves have started turning yellow from the bottom side of the leaves. What is going on and what do I need to do to correct this?

Answer: Yellow leaves can be caused by many things including lack of nitrogen, insufficient light, water-logged soil (plant roots need oxygen to thrive), dry soil, or iron deficiency. If the older bottom leaves are yellow, but new growth is green, it's usually a lack of nitrogen. If new leaves are yellow, with green veins, it's usually a lack of iron. (Lack of nitrogen is a more common problem than lack of iron.) Soil should be kept moderately moist (but not wet). Finally, transplant shock can contribute to yellowing. If new growth shows up as green, that might be the problem.

In our arid conditions, yellowing is often caused by inefficient watering, both over and under. Running drip several times a day is not effective because the root ball doesn?t get moistened. For example, an emitter that puts out one gallon per hour would only put a quart of water on the ground in 15 minutes. For shrubs, water should soak 2 feet deep.

Use a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal or wood to poke into the soil) to check how far water has penetrated. The probe moves easily through moist soil, but stops when it hits hard dry soil. There are numerous variables involved for watering schedules, such as type of soil, how fast or slow it drains, sun and wind exposure at your site, temperature, age and condition of the plants and much more. Use the information above to determine how moist the soil is before automatically applying more water. It's essential that you allow your drip system to run long enough for water to penetrate the appropriate depth. Depending on the size emitters, soil type, etc. this might take several or many hours.

Desert soil and water both contain salts, which can accumulate in the root zone over time. This salt buildup forms where the water stops penetrating. Short periods of watering cause salts to build up in the top layers of soil and damage or kill your plant. Salt burn shows up as yellowing, and eventually browning and dying. Deep watering?or leaching?prevents this by flushing the salts past the root zone. Always water slowly, deeply and as infrequently as possible.

I hope this info helps.

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