Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a shrub or small tree that blooms in summer with large, striking flowers in shades of red, white, light yellow, and pink. Because of its dense branching and rapid growth rate it is a popular hedge. Planting an oleander hedge is an excellent way to hide utilities, chain link fences, and other eyesores in the landscape. It also makes an attractive specimen plant if planted singly or in a garden border. An oleander shrub is a poisonous plant.
While it can reach twenty feet, oleander takes well to pruning and is typically kept at six to ten feet. Tolerant of dry soils and hot sun, an oleander bush is an excellent plant for the desert, but can thrive in warm, humid climates as well.
Growing Requirements and Care for Oleander
For the best flowering, plant oleanders in full sun, but in very hot climates they bloom more reliably in light shade. Oleanders tolerate a range of soil conditions, from dry sandy soils to moist clay soils. They grow best where the weather stays above freezing, although they can tolerate short periods of below-freezing temperatures.
Depending on how an oleander flowering shrub is to be used and the size of the cultivar, the ideal planting distance ranges from five to ten feet. In the right climate oleander is easy to grow and requires no special care beyond annual pruning and feeding. They can also succeed in partial shade.
Oleander can be grown as a potted oleander provided that the container is large enough.
Prune after flowering to stimulate new branches, control size and shape, avoid leggy growth, and encourage next year’s flower buds. Remove suckers, which can interfere with flowering, and dead branches.
Propagate an oleander shrub by taking cuttings of healthy, young stems in summer and rooting them in a mix of sand and peat.
Oleander Pests and Diseases
Oleanders generally have no serious insect or disease problems. In humid climates aphids and scale insects may be a problem. Caterpillars can strip oleander leaves in just a few days.
All parts of oleander are poisonous. They contain a toxic chemical that can cause illness, skin irritation, or even death if eaten in enough quantity. Fortunately the plant has an acrid taste that causes a gagging reaction in most people that causes them to throw up. Burning oleander also causes toxicity, so it should never be put in a burn pile, nor should it be used as a stake for roasting food over a fire.
Wearing gloves while working with oleander may prevent allergic skin reactions. Because of its toxicity, oleander is not recommended for playgrounds or other places children play.
Want to Learn More About Oleander?
Learn more about the history, folklore, and culture of oleander at these sites:
Lean all about Oleander from the International Oleander Society.
This site has great information about the Nerium Oleander.
Here’s a .pdf file about Nerium Oleander.
Alison Belfort says
I have two Oleanders in pots which I brought into my conservatory in advance of winter frost. They have not looked happy. They are still alive but have dropped some of their leaves..other leaves have curled. Is it too cold for them? Are they under watered or over? I brought them in last winter, which was harsher, but didn’t have these problems. The Conservatory is not overheated but not allowed to drop below 10 degrees centigrade.
Marcy Wolters says
look for ants and scale 1st just to make sure their not a part of it . They can cause such damage.
Check out the potting mix. Does it have mold or mildew? does it smell ? Pests?
Is it pot bound?
When was the last time you fed it?
Once a week water in pots is enough provided they are not in the sun which can dry out the pot.
They grow quite big so maybe it may need to be moved on.
Without actually looking at the plant myself I can only offer up what I can. Hope you find your problem.
Dickie Leng says
I have an Orleander plant whose leaves are turning brown and dry and eventually fall of the plant. I have made sure that it had enough watering although not too much each time. Can you please offer any explanation.
Colleen Needham says
I have a large oleander in a pot that I brought indoors for the winter. It’s doing well, but has developed pods which turn brown and break open, releasing fluffy material- seeds? I’m not sure if I should cut off these pods or not. Help?
Marcy Wolters says
I have the same problem. I brought my bush inside after having it in the garden. I put it in a big pot with plenty of the sandy soil that it was thriveing in outside. It did OK until about 2 months ago, then started schriveling up on the leaves. As it did this it put on those pod like things, that eventually fell off. I also wonder if these are seeds to propogate. Since you didn’t get an answer yet, I’m going ahead and plant as much of the pod I can get together to see what happens.
If anyone can answer these questions, please do!
I have had Oleanders in my yard for probably 40 years and have never seen them put on seed pods before. I don’t know if these are plantable or not, but like you I am going to try.
Gilbert Salazar says
We planted five oleanders in our flower bed where they get plenty of afternoon sun. Three (two pink and one red) flower OK. Two of them (white) have not flowered since planting two years ago. They are very healthy looking except for the flowering. They are pretty close to each other so the watering is the same. We have never fed them. What can be the problem and what should we feed them?
Do these oleander trees need lots of water????
I planted the tall type of oleander in my yard 4 of them,but i only have them space about 4 ft apart. Will this hurt the growth of them?
My Oleander is growing well and nice and green with plenty of flowering,but the branches are drooping . What is causing this? I only water once a week and when I do water it makes no difference the branches still droop. Do I need to prune them back ????
Hazel Hegerfeld says
Problem with caterpillars on my oleander.
I trimmed my oleander back a couple of years ago and have not had a bloom since. Also my leaves look sick. Before they bloomed and grew like crazy. What can I do?
My bottom leaves are turning yellow and then fall off. I have my plant in a pot. It’s been there for 1.5 years now. At the same time I am just now seeing the buds for the flowers to start blooming for the first time since I first gotten it. Please help me save it. Not really sure what to do.
Jerry C says
Can I maintain the height of Oleanders to 4 or 5 feet?