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Oleander: Hardy, Evergreen Southern Beauty (With Pictures)

Updated on March 1, 2017
Peggy W profile image

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


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
White blooming oleander | Source

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.

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
White blooming oleanders | Source

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

My hubby standing against our pink oleanders
My hubby standing against our pink oleanders | Source
Our pink oleanders located at our previous home in Houston.
Our pink oleanders located at our previous home in Houston. | Source

Oleanders in our former backyard.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The grouping of oleanders in one part of our former backyard.Same grouping of oleanders cut back in the Spring of the year.  They grow quickly and each stalk puts out even more branches so they get lush and full.
The grouping of oleanders in one part of our former backyard.
The grouping of oleanders in one part of our former backyard. | Source
Same grouping of oleanders cut back in the Spring of the year.  They grow quickly and each stalk puts out even more branches so they get lush and full.
Same grouping of oleanders cut back in the Spring of the year. They grow quickly and each stalk puts out even more branches so they get lush and full. | Source

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. 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

Oleander Shrubs

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 can be pretty planted next to one another.
Oleander bushes of different colors can be pretty planted next to one another. | Source
White oleander bush
White oleander bush | Source

Hardy Shrubs

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)

Blooming Oleanders
Blooming Oleanders | Source
Oleander bush in bloom
Oleander bush in bloom | Source

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Judi,

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

    • profile image

      Judi 6 weeks ago

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 9 months ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 9 months ago from UK

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 13 months ago from Houston, Texas

      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: http://oleander.org/culture/

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

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