71 Nerium oleanderCommon Names: oleander Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane Family)
This fast growing evergreen shrub can reach up to 20 ft (6.1 m) tall but is usually seen trimmed at 6-10 ft (1.8-3.1 m). It forms a rounded mound to about 10 ft (3.1 m) wide. It is a tough, versatile plant with showy summertime flowers in white, red, pink, salmon and light yellow. Leathery, lance shaped leaves range from about 4-10 in (10.2-25.4 cm) long, depending on variety and are a bright green. Oleanders have a tendency to become leggy - overgrown individuals should be pruned as needed to maintain a nice shape. A popular variety is 'Petit Salmon' which is a dwarf that grows to only 4 ft (1.2 m).
There are several white flowering varieties of which 'Sister Agnes' is a favorite. It is a large plant with deep green leaves. I like to grow it in shrub borders and partial shade at the edge of woodsy areas where the white flowers show their best. The light yellow double flowered variety, 'Luteum Plenum' is another favorite that I grow.
Nerium oleander is native to northern Africa, the eastern Mediterranean basin and southeast Asia. Oleander prefers dry, warm climates and may naturalize in such areas.
CultureLight: Bright sun, some shade is acceptable. Moisture: Versatile, can survive both dry and wet soils. Fastest growth occurs when provided moisture in times of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Easily grown in warm humid climates, like Florida and the Gulf coast, oleander is recommended for USDA Zones 8-10. It will survive some frost and temperatures to 15-20ºF (-9.4 - -6.7ºC) but foliage will be damaged. Some varieties are hardier than others. Propagation: Semiripe cuttings are best rooted in summer. Also by seed, but selected cultivars may not grow true to form.
Pests: Aphids and scale may be a problem (more likely in humid climates). Also attacked by a caterpillar that will strip a plant in a matter of days.
Use for screens, informal hedges, colorful accents, beach plantings, and cityscapes. By removing suckers, and leaving just a few stems, oleander can be formed into very attractive small trees. Oleander is suitable for container gardens and is a fine choice for bringing color into greenhouses and conservatories. Great swaths of multi-colored oleander line Interstate 4 through Orlando providing commuters a soothing green display to enjoy while caught in gridlock - their ability to survive the heat and exhaust fumes is testament to their durability (if they haven't been clobbered by road construction yet)!
The oleander is a tough durable shrub that is inexpensive and easy to grow in most situations. Abundant, beautiful flowers are produced in many colors and some varieties are delightfully fragrant. New homeowners appreciate oleander's satisfyingly fast growth rate and ability to quickly green up a bare lot.
Oleander is toxic -- do not ingest. Contact with skin may cause reaction. Avoid smoke when burning cuttings. Do not use in playgrounds or other areas frequented by young children and pets.
Jack Scheper 12/01/96; updated 05/28/01