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Oleander: Hardy, Evergreen Southern Beauty (With Pictures)

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden, growing plants for beauty and food.

Where we live in Houston, Texas, anyone residing here or passing through our fair city while on business or vacation will see colorful blooming oleander bushes, which typically come in a variety of pink to red colors as well as white. Some cultivars come from the yellow side of the color chart, but by far, most of the ones seen blooming here are in the pinks, reds, and white categories.

One reason for this abundance of oleanders is their hardiness and drought resistance. No enriched soil is needed, and the highway department often uses them mixed in with other hardy species of plants along our streets, interstate freeways, and as plantings in the medians of roads.

Oleander bush in bloom

Oleander bush in bloom

Oleander City

Galveston, Texas, Houston's nearby Gulf of Mexico coastal city, is nicknamed "the Oleander City" because of the great abundance of these radiant ornamental bushes in their locale. The salty breezes do nothing to hinder or impair their growth. Thick hedges are there, plus solitary splashes of color if utilized as a single specimen plant.

White blooming oleander

White blooming oleander

Evergreen Shrubs

One nice aspect of using oleanders in one's landscaping, in addition to their hardiness, is the fact of their being evergreen. They never shed their green, elongated leaves as deciduous shrubs and trees do in the fall and winter months.

They are also cold tolerant and can withstand occasional frosts without detrimental effects. However, we have long-lasting days of freezing weather, as occasionally happens in Houston, the leaves can turn brown. In the many years that we have had oleander shrubs in our yard, this seldom happened, although the weather seems to be changing of late, and we have had some rare episodes of snow the last couple of years.

What I did to remedy this situation with our oleanders is to give them a haircut! If most of the leaves had become unsightly, I cut them back to about a foot or foot and a half from the ground, and new green growth rapidly appeared. For every branch cut, more grew back, making the shrub even bushier in appearance when fully regrown. It has a maximum height of six feet to over twenty feet (2 - 6 meters).

Our pink variety grew to at least a twelve-foot mark offering a nice colorful border between our houses and a softening effect against the wooden fences in this area.

The photo above shows a white blooming oleander shrub peeking over the fence in our current subdivision. It looks to be about twelve feet tall since our wooden fences are typically at a six-foot height.

Toxicity of Oleanders

Yes, these beautiful flowering plants are reputed to be poisonous, but then who regularly munches on oleanders?

I love making split pea soup. A standard joke in our family was that if my husband displeased me, he had better watch out when eating my split pea soup because it would be easy to mix in some green oleander leaves, and he would never know the difference.

I am happy to report that such skullduggery never took place, and he can now breathe a sigh of relief as to any further threats as we no longer have oleander plants growing at our current address. Of course, I could always snip a few leaves elsewhere if things get out of hand. Ha Ha!

In reality, many plants are poisonous, but few people or pets are ever affected by them. We have had many pets and oleanders, and none of our pets ever became ill from those readily accessible plants in our yard.

Interestingly enough, that same toxicity is finding some good purpose concerning treating certain cancers. Ongoing research is still happening in this area.

Do not attempt self-treatment as all parts of the oleander shrub can be toxic. Consult your medical practitioner if you are interested in learning more about the health risks and possible benefits derived from the oleander plant.

The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I.

— Janet Fitch

Propagating Oleanders

We purchased our pink oleander shrubs from a nursery when we moved back to Houston from Wisconsin Rapids, where we had lived for four years. No one had ever lived in our new home, and there was no landscaping, so I had a blank slate from which to devise a garden plan.

As many large windows faced our backyard, I planted three oleander bushes in one corner against the wooden fence and another couple in another spot with other plants in between and in front of them. They were all within view of our living room.

Once we learned how easily roots could grow from cuttings, we began to share them with neighbors and even my husband's boss at the time.

By cutting the stalks and pulling off the leaves at the bottom, and sticking them in a bucket of water (with or without root stimulator), soon roots would begin to form, at which time planting directly into the ground could take place.

Our next-door neighbor had luck sticking the cuttings directly into the ground and watering them daily until he noticed some new growth.

Some people use other methods like keeping the cuttings moistened in sand or special combinations of soils. In any case, at least in Houston, it is pretty easy to share oleander cuttings with others who wish to grow the hardy perennial bushes in their gardens.

Growing Oleander Shrubs

These southern beauties frequently grow in gardens in the southern regions of the United States plus southern parts of Asia, southern parts of China, and in the Mediterranean region and elsewhere.

They grow best in bright sunlight conditions.

Once established, they need little care but give much back by way of beauty as they have a prolonged blooming period.

The pink oleanders (Nerium oleander) that we grew did not seem to have much of a scent, but some varieties offer a sweet odor in addition to the magnificent flowers.

We planted a dwarf variety of oleander in my mother's backyard, which got to be fence high, around six feet or so, and just as bushy.

Be sure if planting oleanders in the ground, leave enough space around them to branch out and grow. Remember that when full-grown, they are a large shrub.

Naturally, people in more northern climates can also grow oleander shrubs in greenhouses or their homes if offering them enough tender loving care mixed with enough sunlight and the other requisites these perennial plants need to thrive.

Hardy Shrubs

If you live in a tropical or subtropical area and are looking for a hardy shrub plus one that is perennial, blooms profusely, and takes little care once established, then perhaps an oleander bush should be on your preferred list of plants to consider.

If deer are the bane of your existence, knowing that this evergreen shrub is also deer resistant might have you running to your local nursery to choose a favorite color. Perhaps a friend will share some of their oleander cuttings with you.

My husband and I enjoy viewing all of the many beautiful blooming oleanders around our neighborhood and city even though we no longer have any in our garden. He also seems to be smiling and breathing easier, as he no longer has that "split pea soup threat" hanging over his head. (Smile)

Photos of Different Colored Oleanders Set to Music


Wikipedia: Nerium (oleander)

Oleander Fact Sheet

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I buy quality oleanders in the Houston area?

Answer: Just about any nursery selling oleanders should prove to be a good source as long as the shrubs are well rooted. They are a hardy shrub. We gave our neighbor some cuttings one time from our shrubs. He stuck them in the ground and kept them well watered for several weeks. They all grew into magnificent bushes.

A more significant decision to be made will be the choice of colors and whether you wish to purchase the regular or miniature varieties.

Question: I have a small oleander in the house. I live in Wisconsin, but the plant seems to mist a sticky substance in early spring. Do you know what this is?

Answer: There is a sap inside of the oleander plant that can be toxic. It is a milky consistency and is sticky. If you get it on your hands, be sure to wash them thoroughly. Also, do not let pets chew on the plant for obvious reasons.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 17, 2019:

Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for telling me about the novel titled White Oleander. I have not read it. As to the oleander plants, they are frequently seen in our part of the country and add to the beauty of the area.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 16, 2019:

I love Oleander. The pics are so pretty. They always may me think of White Oleander, one of my favorite novels!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 08, 2019:

Hi Chitrangada Sharan,

Nice to know that you also enjoy oleanders in India. I would say that the most common color grown in these parts is also the pink-colored ones. It is pretty when the different colors are grown next to one another.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 07, 2019:

Wonderful and informative article about Oleander flowers.

They are easy to grow and the colours are so pretty. These are found in India too, and the pink one is more common. Good to know that it has medicinal properties too.

Your pictures are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing this well presented article.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 29, 2019:

Hello Anita Kroha,

So sorry to hear that you almost lost your life by trimming your oleanders and inhaling the dust into your lungs. From the sound of it, you were fortunate. Your advice about being cautious is well taken. Out of curiosity, I did a search with the top 10 most deadly plants and as you wrote, oleander is one of them. Thanks for your message.

Anita Kroha, ft walton bch fl on August 28, 2019:

be very careful around these beautiful bushes. i had played in them and pruned them and never had a problem. however in 2094 i wasnt to lucky. i was trimming a stand of them and the wind was blowing the sawdust into my lungs. it was 8 days before i was found, was in a coma for 4 weeks and my relatives were told if i even lived id be a vegetable. fooled them. i made a complete recovery with the help of medications. they are one of the ten most deadly plants on this planet.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

That is a joke between us. He thinks he is fairly safe now after many decades of marriage. There are no thoughts of dispatching him with some oleander leaves mixed into his favorite split pea soup. Haha! Nice that you have gotten to see numerous oleanders growing wild in Turkey.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on October 24, 2018:

Thanks Peggy. I love these shrubs. One of my lasting memories from a visit to south west area of Turkey some years ago was the beautiful oleanders growing in the wild, planted close to beaches and along side of roads too. Interesting info about how to murder your hubby lol

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 25, 2018:

Hi C E Clark,

Thanks for sharing this post regarding oleanders to Facebook. They are in full bloom this time of year in Houston.

C E Clark from North Texas on June 25, 2018:

Lots of good information here for people who want to add this beautiful bush to their yard. Gorgeous photos! Posting on FB.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 21, 2017:

Hi sabour sabet,

As to growing a specific kind of oleander in New York I would suggest consulting local nurseries or even better some master gardeners in your area.

Blooming time is very long with oleanders. It is just about year round in our climate and particularly heavy in the spring, summer and fall of year.

sabour sabet on August 20, 2017:

Hi Peggy,

I was wondering if I could use the Oleander: Hardy, Evergreen Southern Beauty in New York State. Also, regarding when and for how long it blooms. Thanks for the quick response.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2017:

Hi Judi,

Hope you enjoy your beautiful hedge of oleanders between you and your neighbors. They will enjoy it as much as you!

Judi on June 07, 2017:

I'm thinking about oleanders to grow as a tall hedge/screen between me and my neighbors, and was a little concerned about them being poisonous. But now that you've said it, I remember we also had oleanders (as I was growing up), along with dogs and cats. We (me, sisters & brother) didn't eat them and neither did the animals. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2016:

Hi Glenis Rix,

It makes sense that oleanders would also be able to be grown in Egypt since it is a warmer climate than England. Thanks for the tip regarding the autobiography.

Glen Rix from UK on October 04, 2016:

Oleanders are very pretty -I particularly like the pale pink - but would probably not survive an English winter.

Incidentally, they are grown in Egypt too, according to the autobiography Oleander, Jacaranda -written by Penelope Lively.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 06, 2016:

Hi Cheryl,

There is always a possibility of roots from large trees or shrubs planted too close to the foundation of a house or sidewalk for that matter to become problematic over time. I have generally seen oleanders planted out further from homes like against fences. They make great median plantings for highways.

After doing some research it appears that the major damage done by oleander roots is to underground water sources. So if there are any water pipes nearby that could be of more concern to you. In drought situations the oleander roots will seek out those sources and you may have a pipe repair in your future.

Here is a link to a good source regarding oleanders:

You might wish to talk to a good nursery for advice or seek out a master gardener in your area. Good luck!

Cheryl on June 05, 2016:

I have 2 very large oleanders approximately 3 ' from the house. Will they damage my foundation in time?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2015:

Hi Patricia,

No oleanders in our current yard but they are in the neighborhood. My split pea soup is good! Ha!

Nice that you got to enjoy the oleanders at your mother's home. They certainly are easy care if grown in the right climate. Thanks for the votes and share.

BTW...let me know in a comment if you send an email because I rarely look at my gmail notices. But I will be on the alert if you advise me that you sent a message.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 14, 2015:

How situate the bushes so they could be seen from your living room. My Momma had them all over our property when I was growing up and they always were gorgeous. I do not have any but may just have to get a couple now that I am reminded of how lovely they are.

And when I come to dine, I will look warily at the split pea soup ... :D (this present house has not oleanders though, right? so not to worry :D )

Angels are on the way bringing blessings and hugs, Peggy. Have a lovely Saturday Voted up++++ and shared

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 18, 2014:

Hi Colleen,

Hope this article helps you with regard to planning your garden changes. Good luck to you and most of all...enjoy! Gardening can be hard work but also fun. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 18, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

Thanks for bringing more attention to this hub. Oleanders are certainly hardy plants in this part of the country!

Colleen Swan from County Durham on July 18, 2014:

I am in the process of replanting my garden with evergreen shrubs, so as to have some winter color. Your article has given me some great ideas.

C E Clark from North Texas on July 17, 2014:

Love the photos here, the colors are so pretty. Pinned to my 'Pink II' board this time, posting it on FB, and sharing with followers again.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 11, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

It is fun posting things to boards on Pinterest...things that you like. Thanks!

C E Clark from North Texas on June 09, 2013:

This is another of my favorites of your hubs. I love the photos and the flowers are in one of my favorite colors. So much good information here for people who want to grow these beautiful flowers themselves. I'm going to share this hub with my followers again, and then make this my first pin on my "Trees, Plants, & Flowers" board on Pinterest.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 25, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

We do not have room in our current yard for oleander bushes so just have to enjoy them wherever we see them planted. Many people grow them in our area, so we do not have to look far to enjoy the various colors and hues of their blossoms. Thanks for your votes + share.

C E Clark from North Texas on April 25, 2013:

Your photos and videos are so gorgeous! I love these flowers and I wish I had a place to grow them. Lots of good information here, too. I feel certain my readers will enjoy this hub and I plan to share it with them. Voted up and UBI. Will share!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2013:

Hi Sheila,

If you don't typically see oleanders growing in your area that might be the first hint that they do not do well in your climate. Your local nurseries should be able to advise you as to whether they are good to grow in your area. I know when we had severe winters in Houston, they would die back...but we simply cut them back and they regrew quickly and more lush than ever. Good luck with your endeavor and thanks for the votes and share.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 19, 2013:

These are such beautiful shrubs! I really like the fact that they are so hardy and easy to grow from cuttings. I am going to have to go to our local nursery here and see if it is possible to grow them here. We have had some hard winters lately. However, I have had some plants that are not supposed to survive here, come back. I would love to give these a try! Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 28, 2012:

Hi Dave,

As you can probably tell from the photos, the regular sized oleanders get to be huge bushes eventually with a spread of approximately 5 to 6 feet or more and a height of 8 feet or even higher. Most often (at least where we live) I see them planted out against fences or in the medians between highways. If I were planting them against a house, I would hold them a good 5 feet or so out from the foundation knowing how big they eventually get. The dwarf varieties...perhaps 4 feet out. My mother had the dwarf varieties planted against her 6 foot fence as a hedge and they reached the top in height and we planted them about 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart from each other. TO BE SAFE, check with a good nursery as to their suggestions. Hope this helps!

Dave on May 27, 2012:

Hi Peggy, I have a question for you. How far do I need to have a oleander shrub from my house so I doesn't damage my foundation?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 09, 2011:

Hi Hanna,

Thank you for the compliment. If one takes enough sooner or later gets lucky! Ha! Now with digital cameras there is no reason not to take many photos and just delete the ones that are not up to par. In the old days development of film cost money so that was a consideration. Glad that you enjoyed this hub about the oleander shrub. Thanks for your comment.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 09, 2011:

Hello, Peggy, you are an absolute superb photographer. I feel like as if I could tough them. Thank you for this enjoyable hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 09, 2011:

Hi Judi,

The masses of oleanders is a beautiful welcoming site when driving into Galveston. I agree! Thanks for your comment.

Judi O from Texas on November 09, 2011:

Wonderful hub. The oleanders along I-45 heading south to Galveston were one of the first things I enjoyed when I moved to TX. I'd never seen them before and the colors were fabulous in mid-July!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 07, 2011:

Hello sasanka7,

Yes, supposedly if an animal or person ate a lot from the oleander plant, it could be poisonous. But I also heard that the leaves are bitter. Didn't try out that theory by sampling the leaves...obviously. Ha! We always had dogs and never had a problem. With as many oleanders as are planted around here, obviously the toxicity is no major problem. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 07, 2011:

Hello vasantha T k,

Oleanders do bloom freely and often. Nice that you also get to enjoy them in Bangalore. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 07, 2011:

Hello oceansnsunsets,

Glad to be able to introduce the oleander shrubs to you via pictures and information. Thanks for your comment.

sasanka7 from Calcutta, India on November 07, 2011:

Very nice and informative blog. I didn't know before whether it is a poisonous or toxic shrub but I agree that it is very hardy and evergreen. I have in our rooftop both white and pink colored oleander but it doesn't blossom like your house for obvious reason.

vasantha T k on November 07, 2011:

I like oleanders because they are always in bloom and they come in different colors.In my place Bangalore, these plants are found planted in front of the houses. It adds beauty to the house itself.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on November 06, 2011:

A Beautiful and great hub! This is a flower I am not as familiar with, so the photos and information were especially wonderful. Thanks for sharing! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 06, 2011:

Hi Rochelle,

Oleanders certainly serve a number of good purposes! Thanks for your information of how they are used in California.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on November 06, 2011:

Wonderful info about these hardy shrubs.

They are planted along the medians of some freeways in CA-- like the 99 through the central valley up through Sacramento. Being drought tolerant and able to thrive in substandard soil, they prove a nice screen and their tough flexible, dense stems are also a good crash barrier.

During the summer they are a beautiful blooming sight, as well.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 06, 2011:

Hi AliciaC,

That was news to me too that oleanders may be used in the fight against cancer. There is probably a cure for every disease if we only know where to look. That is the tragedy about so much of the rain forest disappearing at an alarming rate. Not only does it supply a good part of the oxygen that we need to breathe, but who knows what eventual cures may be disappearing right along with it. Thanks for your comment.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 06, 2011:

Beautiful photos about a beautiful shrub, Peggy! The pink flowers are my favorite - I love their delicate color. I was very interested to hear that oleander may help fight cancer.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 06, 2011:

Hi Cheryl,

Oleanders really are great hardy, evergreen and blooming shrubs for our climate...pretty too! Thanks for your comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on November 06, 2011:

Your garden is absolutely beautiful. I love Oleanders and their beautiful blossoms. I love the fact that Oleanders are hardy shrubs and can grow nicely in cooler temperatures. Great photos and interesting videos on the care of the Oleander shrubs.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 06, 2011:

Hi Mar,

Thanks for being the first to respond on this oleander hub. There are many of them commonly used for landscaping in our area and they are always so beautiful.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 06, 2011:

Dear Peggy,

EACH picture is gorgeous -- so hard to select a favorite! A beautiful and gracious flower, thank you for sharing it with us. Voted UP & UABI, mar.