Oleander: Hardy, Evergreen Southern Beauty (With Pictures)
Where we live in Houston, Texas...anyone residing here or passing through our fair city while on business or on vacation is bound to see a variety of colorful blooming oleander bushes which typically come in a variety of pink to red colors as well as white. There are also cultivars that come from the yellow side of the color chart, but by far the majority 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 special 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 also as plantings in the medians of roads.
Galveston, Texas...Houston's nearby Gulf of Mexico coastal city is actually nicknamed "the Oleander City" because of the great abundance of these radiant ornamental bushes in their city. The salty breezes do nothing to hinder or impair their growth and thick hedges can be the result as well as solitary splashes of color if utilized as a single specimen plant.
Nice photos of different colored oleanders set to music.
White blooming oleander bush
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.
If however we have longer lasting days of constantly 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 actually had some extremely 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, it seemed that even more grew back making the shrub even bushier in appearance when fully regrown to its maximum height of from 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 common wooden fences in this area.
The photo to the right shows a white blooming oleander shrub peeking over the fence in our current subdivision. It looks to be about twelve feet tall since the fences are typically at a six foot height.
White blooming oleanders
Oleander plant shows promise as cancer-fighter
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 really 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 go 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 at the same time 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 with regard to treating certain cancers. Ongoing research is still being done 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.
Our pink oleanders
Oleanders in our former backyard.
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. The house we purchased had never been lived in and there was no landscaping, thus 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...all within view of our living room.
Once we learned how easily they could be rooted 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 of the stalk and sticking them in a bucket of water (with or without root stimulator) soon roots would begin to form at which time they could be planted directly into the ground.
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 own gardens.
Oleander shrub in bloom
How to Care for an Oleander Plant over the Winter
Dwarf Oleanders Provide Color in Your Landscape
These southern beauties are frequently seen growing in gardens in the southern regions of the United States as well as southern Asia, southern 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 in the 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 apparently some varieties offer a sweet perfumed odor in addition to the resplendent flowers.
We planted a dwarf variety of oleander in my mother's back yard which got to be fence high...around six feet or so...and just as bushy.
Be sure if planting oleanders in the ground to leave enough space around them to branch out and grow remembering that when full grown, they are a large shrub.
Naturally people in colder 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 in order to thrive.
Oleander bushes of different colors
White oleander bush
If you live in a tropical or subtropical area and are looking for a hardy shrub as well as one that is perennial and one that also 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 because they keep munching on your plants, knowing that this evergreen shrub is also deer resistant might have you running to your local nursery to choose a favorite color...or approaching a friend who 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)
Oleander bush in bloom
© 2011 Peggy Woods
More by this Author
Prior to any leaves unfurling onto the branches of our redbud tree each Spring, suddenly it is ablaze with the color pink. Learn how to care for this beauty of a gardener's delight.