My oleanders have recently gotten small white spots on them. They do not look like an insect. Spots are not clustered together. They have spread out everywhere. Any idea what they are and if a problem? I live in Houston.

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Check the link below and determine if what is on your Oleander resembles this problem:
Oleander Scale

If so, then the problem is Oleander Scale and can be controlled by applications of horticultural oil sprays. It will probably require multiple sprayings and you'll need to cover all leaf and stem surfaces. Once the scales are dead, the actual white scale will not fall off until that leaf drops in another season or two. But I'd recommend that if this is the problem that you plan to apply the oil sprays every year on a schedule until all of the new growth comes out clean and stays clean.
If you think that you've got something else other than Oleander Scale, please e-mail us a photo at Email Kara so that we might more accurately identify the problem.

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Comments (11)

Herbert J. YatesMarch 26th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I have the white spots also, but they are on the stems and branches not the leaves. Are they Oleander Scale or a fungus?

PlantMaster Reply:

Click the Oleander Scale link provided in the reply above and see if your spots resemble the ones in the photo. There are many types of Scale insects that feed on many types of plants. It is most likely not a fungus. Another type of scale is called a Tea Scale and is common on Camellias, Euonymus and many other ornamentals. It can resemble a fungus because it is very white and somewhat flaky.

Suzanne BellOctober 8th, 2010 at 9:04 am

I think I have scale on my Oleanders. They are on the branches. I have dark spots on the leaves and they would yellow and drop. Your nursery men would tell me it was fungus and to add iron. Now the stems and branches are covered in what looks like barnacles. Whatever it is seems to be sucking the life out of the plants. I have a hedge of 10 across my back fence. I have used Neem oil 4 x, Malathion 3 times and Perithrin. Nothing seems to work. This hedge is 5 years old and the plants are approx. 10ft. high. I have new growth, but this year very few blooms. I am faithful to feed with Miracle Grow & I trim every fall. Am I going to lose them? Is there anything I can do to stop the infestation of whatever it is? I am weary in the battle.

PlantMaster Reply:

The ‘barnacles’ that you see are the Oleander Scale referred to in the post above. They can be very difficult to control with the products that you have used and the infestation that you are seeing. Consider including stronger products that contain systemic insecticides alongside your existing regimen to gain control, following all label directions. You may be eventually forced to cut them down and start regular treatment on virtually new plants. It is very possible that the infestation that you have now is too widespread to gain control, and that you must reduce that population in order to get them under control.

Harold McGriffDecember 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Like the previous poster, I too live in the Houston area and have a row of ten oleanders in my back yard. Over the last year or so, three or four of them have gradually dropped all their their leaves and have multiple dead branches. Half of my plants now seem infected. Once all the leaves are gone, the branches are covered with fungus like scales. When branches are cut, the centers are virtually hollow. Does anybody know if any of them can saved. and how to save the ones that have not been infected?

PlantMaster Reply:

It is possible that your plants also have Scale, but that yours may be a type of Scale insect called the Tea Scale as mentioned in the original reply above. Both the Tea Scale and the harder Scale that looks like ‘barnacles’ are devastating to plants and can be difficult to control. It’s possible that a severe infestation of this insect can cause complete defoliation of your Oleanders and only after the leaves have dropped are you able to see the scale population. Like the case above, you may need to cut your surviving plants back severely next Spring and forfeit the first year of blooms in order to gain control over these pests. Use systemic insecticides, horticultural oils and contact insecticides at rates recommended on the product labels and start a program early in the Spring and continue until you see that the plants are clean and healthy. As for your denuded plants, only time will tell if they can be saved. It may be necessary to replace these when you cut the others back and start protecting the entire planting at the same time.

If you find that you question the diagnosis and want other ideas, please write back and we’ll try again.

J. Gostel Reply:

I have the same problem mentioned above. The stems on my oleanders are covered with a white powdery substance - dry powder. I checked for scale insects, but do not seem to have them. The stems defoliate and die. I have tried oil, systemics, and direct application of various insecticides. Nothing seems to help. Could this be some type of disease rather than insect damage?


East Coast of Central Florida

PlantMaster Reply:

As with all ‘word of mouth’ diagnosis, we’re basically handicapped when dealing with online diagnostics . Based on the limited information supplied in the original query we provided the best guess of what might be going on. There are really no fungal problems on Oleanders that present symptoms of dry powder covering the stems other than the scale insects that we mentioned. The further symptoms of stems defoliating and dying are also typical of scale insect damage. The products that you list should have done the job, but often repeated applications are required. It is also possible that what you are experiencing on the East Coast of Central Florida is different than what we usually see here in Texas. Some scale insects, like the Asian Cycad Scale, have proven difficult to control once firmly established on the plant. Consider contacting your local Extension Service for their opinion, and in the meantime please consider a photo so that we can see what’s happening. We’ll take another guess from that.

nyckMarch 5th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

my oleander has a strange disaster - leaves are begin to turn in white. You can see the pictures here:
Can you help me ?

PlantMaster Reply:

The photos are a little dark to tell for sure, but an educated guess without directly seeing the leaves looks like freezing damage. The coloration is too generally spread out to be an insect or a disease, which leads us to the diagnosis of freeze damage.

BeckyJuly 12th, 2011 at 9:06 am

Does this disease with the “barnacles” spread to other types of plants. I just planted two new plants (not oleanders) next to some oleanders that I pruned way down to try to save them. I’m concerned that whatever these “sick” oleanders have will spread to the brand new beautiful ones that I just planted.