Oleander is a small shrub of Mediterranean origin that gives beautiful white, pink, red and yellow flowers when the summer season begins. Belonging to the Apocynaceae family (the same as frangipani), this not-so-hardy species is traditionally considered an orangery plant. However, if it gets proper maintenance, it can also be grown outdoors in cooler regions. 

Oleander is a small evergreen shrub that rarely measures more than 6.5 feet in height. It is not to be confused with other species of laurel (including edible). This is a particularly toxic plant that should be handled with utmost caution. Indeed, if ingested, oleander is always fatal which is why it is recommended that hands be well protected prior to handling. A very prolific flowerer, this ornamental shrub comes in several varieties. Among the better known species, we can cite, among others, Nerium oleander Sister Agnes for its beautiful white colour, Nerium oleander Nomade, for its rosy shades or Nerium oleander Elat for its beautiful purple colour. Famous for its inflorescence, the oleander can be incorporated in both clumps and flowering hedges in warmer regions. Since the oleander is not hardy, it does not adapt easily to the most difficult climates. As a result, it is often advisable to grow it in a greenhouse or sunroom when the climatic conditions are not favourable. Nevertheless, oleander can be grown in colder regions if it is well-located, well-maintained and well-protected during the winter.

How to plant oleander? 

The oleander can usually be planted from autumn to spring, but for best results one should wait until the month of April. To grow, it is crucial that the oleander be exposed to sunlight. If you decide to plant your shrub outside, you should absolutely choose the corner in your garden that is most exposed to the sun’s heat. If you prefer to grow your plant indoors, make sure it is always facing south. Besides sun exposure, oleander also needs to have as much air as possible to thrive. In regard to ground type, choose preferably humus soils enriched with organic fertilizer. Meanwhile, oleanders intended to be grown on a balcony will need to be planted in a mixture of heath and garden soil.

How to maintain oleander? 

During the growing season, water the oleander every time the earth becomes dry. Given that these shrubs need to be well-fed to grow, it is also advisable to enrich the soil regularly with manure throughout the spring. In colder areas, it will be imperative to overwinter your shrub in the fall, after having previously trimmed down a few inches. Since the oleander plant is not hardy and is particularly sensitive to frost, this precaution is essential for the plant’s survival. During the winter, it is advisable to keep the temperature around fifty degrees. However, if wintered in a cool greenhouse, the oleander can withstand much lower temperatures (32 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit). For the whole duration of winter, avoid watering your oleander too often so as not to damage the root system. In spring, you can take your plant out again, provided of course that the climatic conditions are much milder. You can then cut the branches back to give it more strength, or repot the shrubs intended for balconies and patios. Finally, note also that it is very easy to propagate oleanders. In fact, one only needs to cut a few middle-sized stems around mid-summer and then insert them in small glasses filled with water for them to take root. Once the cuttings successful, they must be inserted in light soil and exposed to sunlight before being planted permanently in the fall.

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Published in Flowering shrubs by Alexander on 04 Jul 2011