Beauty & Tolerance


Star-Tip 1067

Gardening Tips for successful and beautiful Landscapes and Gardens


Oleander (Nerium) is a beautiful, flowering shrub that will thrive with little care. Some varieties are large while others are petite. They are very heat and drought tolerant. Oleander is also tolerant of salt spray and wind. Severe cold will damage this plant, even more so the dwarf variety. Regular Nerium will grow to 12 to 15 foot in height, while the dwarf grows to 5 to 7 feet. The regular variety will grow at a rapid pace, producing 1 to 2 feet or more of growth per year. The dwarf will grow from 4 to 8 inches per year. Established plants that have been damaged by cold will re grow very quickly from the base.



Oleanders quick growth rate and thick multi-stemmed habit makes them ideal for use as a screen or informal hedge. They will flower from early spring until autumn with large clusters of single or double blossoms. In Southern Nevada Oleander will often flower nearly year round. Colors range from white through yellow, peach, salmon and pink to deep burgundy red. Some varieties (mostly doubles) are fragrant. The leaves are smooth, dark green, thick and leathery. They are long and narrow, usually between 4 and 6 inches long and an inch or less wide. The dwarf cultivars also have smaller leaves.



Placement and Care

Oleanders grow best in full sun and will tolerate even reflected heat from a south or west wall. They will tolerate shade, but may have a open shape. Oleanders are tolerant of many different soil types. Good drainage is important to keeping a healthy plant. They will struggle in areas kept too wet. Though they are very drought tolerant once established, they respond positively to occasional deep watering.

Oleanders can be allowed to grow naturally in their large mound form, or they can be pruned and trained to a small multi-stemmed tree or even topiary shape. They will bloom in on new growth so its best to prune them in the early spring. Remove dead flower clusters to encourage longer bloom. Oleanders will tolerate hard pruning in the spring to remove cold damaged or overgrown wood. Avoid pruning too late in the fall, as the new growth may not have enough time to harden before frost.

Most regular oleanders will survive temperatures down to 20 F and dwarfs to about 25 F, although their foliage will be damaged. If the tops are killed back by cold, they will recover quickly in spring as long as the roots were not damaged. Place mulch around the base of the plant for root protection in the fall.







Oleander is poisonous. Eating even small amounts of any part of the plant can kill. The taste of the foliage however is so bitter that most animals do not attempt to eat it. Contact with skin may cause irritation. Smoke from burning cuttings can cause severe reactions. Please read Star Note # 555 for information on this and other poisonous plants. Puppies and Children should always be watched for attempting to chew on unknown and poisonous plants. The greatest danger to children from poisoning is from household chemicals. Some folks report allergies to the plant, although the pollen is so heavy that it does not blow in the breeze. Check with your allergist if you have questions.


There have been many stories told of those who have been killed by ingesting this plant, though it is nearly impossible to get the names of any individuals affected. Nonetheless the fear of this plant is spread through conversations. The truth is that many plants are poisonous if eaten, and most of these are more likely to be inviting to eat, and much less bitter than oleander. Caution and training is much more practical and beneficial.




The oleander caterpillar is the most damaging pest of oleanders. Young oleander caterpillars feed in groups, skeletonizing young shoots. Mature caterpillars are highly visible up to 2 inches long, orange-red with black tufts of hair. A severe infestation can strip a plant bare of leaves in a few days. While even total defoliation will not kill an established plant, it will weaken it, and may make it more susceptible to other pests.


Aphids, mealybugs and scales may also occasionally be problems.


Another potential challenge is Botryosphaeria dieback, caused by the fungus Botryospaeria species. These fungi will cause branches and shoots to die and turn blackish brown. The disease is more likely to occur when plants have been subjected to drought stress or damaged by severe freezes. Prune out all affected branches, making sure that no discolored tissue is left in the cross section.


Watering them deeply and sparingly! Give them room to grow and avoid having them crowd a walkway. They are truly a beautiful plant to grace your landscape and keep the water bills low.




2007, Star Nursery, Inc. Copy Provided courtesy of Star Nursery www.StarNursery.com