Create Flowering Fences and Natural Boundaries with this hearty shrub…but beware…Oleander’s toxicity means planting with prudence

This versatile, fast growing and low maintenance evergreen shrub had been in Florida since the 1500’s.  Thriving in the summer heat, its’ fragrant, showy flowers bloom from April through September.  Although primarily used to create privacy screens, informal hedges and windscreens, oleander is also suitable for container gardening.  Because they are poisonous, you should avoid planting oleander where there are children and pets

Optimum climate

Grows well in warm subtropical regions

Bright sun is preferred, some shade is acceptable, but full sun is required for compact growth and free flowering

Can tolerate occasional light frost (temperatures to 10 degrees F)

Planting

Plant container grown oleanders during early summer, plants should be mulched to a depth of 3 inches

Tolerates a wide range of soil types and saline conditions

Young plants grow best in spaces where they don’t have to compete with other plants for nutrients

Roots become well established so avoid planting close to buildings

-Plant dwarfs at least four feet from the house

-Standard plants should have a six-seven foot clearance

-Allow at least ten feet for the largest varieties

-Where a heavy informal screen is desired, plant 5 feet apart

Watering

Although Oleander are very heat and drought tolerant, newly planted shrubs should be watered regularly to establish

Standard and large plants with stem diameters greater than one-inch benefit from regular irrigation for one year

Once established, they require little watering, although they will continue to flower for an extended period of time if you do water regularly

Water should be directed to the root system and foliage should be kept as dry as possible to limit leaf-scorch damage

Yellowing of new leaves indicates over watering

Fertilizing

Oleander will grow well with minimal applications of a complete fertilizer

If grown with well-fertilized lawns they require little or no additional fertilization

Pruning

Shrub can grow as high as 20 feet but is usually trimmed at six-ten feet

Shrubs have a tendency to become leggy, and should be pruned as needed to maintain a nice shape

First year- remove up to 1/3 of the oldest stems near ground level

Second year-remove one half of the remaining old stems and head back long new shoots from last year’s growth

Third year-remove the remaining old stems and head back the long new shoots

Prune the tips of young plants to stimulate the production of new branches

Oleander are prone to forming a thicket of suckers at the base-pull, don’t cut the suckers

Avoid late fall or winter pruning that can encourage frost sensitive new growth

Promptly deadhead spent blooms to prevent the formation of non-ornamental seedpods

Grow Oleander as a tree by taking three to four branches when they are small and twisting them around each other.  As they grow, prune the side branches and the plant will take on a tree shape

CAUTION!

Wash hands and arms thoroughly when finished working with the plant

Wear long sleeved shirt and pants; use long gloves and eye protection when doing major pruning and wash clothes before wearing them again

Pests

Aphids and Scale may be a problem

Can be attacked by furry oleander caterpillar (black and orange) that will strip a plant in a matter of days.

At the first sign of caterpillar infestation (check in March, July and December), hand pick caterpillars from the shrub and drop into a bucket containing a strong soap solution (that should kill the caterpillars)

Clip off stems and leaves that are infested

Caterpillars can be controlled with BT Spray (Bacillus thuringiensis) that only effects caterpillars and will not harm butterflies or helpful insects such as ladybugs

Professional strength Permethrin products (Dragnet) have proven effective against oleander caterpillars (1/2 ounce Permethrin concentrate per gallon of water)

Heavy infestations may require two to three applications,

Applications should be made at 10-14 day intervals to effectively kill different generations

Warning

Oleander is one of the most poisonous common garden plants and can be deadly, especially to young children.  The entire plant (especially the sap) is toxic

The known fatal dose is about 4 ounces; so getting a fatal dose is unlikely

Avoid fumes from burning Oleander; NEVER use the branches as firewood

Most animals can suffer an adverse reaction or death from oleander so if pets are found chewing on the plant call your veterinarian immediately

More than 400 varieties of oleander have been named.  Some of the more popular varieties in Florida include:

Dwarf (mature height 3-5 feet)

Cultivar Flower Color Flower Type Comments
Petite Salmon Orangish-pink Single May be hedged to 3 feet but will grow to 6 feet

Tightly branched

Petite Pink Pink Well suited to residential landscapes

Tall (Mature height 10-25 feet or more)

Sister Agnes

Soeur Agnés

White, cream throat Single Hardy, fragrant, large flowers
Atropurpureum Dark purple-red Single Hardy, large blooms
Calypso Deep pink Single Very hardy and vigorous, good blooming, cold tolerant
Carneum Plenum or Mrs. Roeding Salmon-pink Double Somewhat weaker growth, persistent blooms slightly weeping growth habit
Comfe Berthelemy or Commandant Berthelemy Red and pink with yellow margins Superposed corollas Large flower
Common Dark pink to red Single Unimproved natural variety, unscented
Hardy Red Bright red Single Large flowers
Hardy Pink Bright pink Single Large flowers
Isle of Capri Light yellow Single
Pink Hawaii Salmon pink, yellow throat Single Vigorous growth, an introduction used at Disney World
Roseum Rose pink Single Profuse flowering, vigorous
Variegatum Pink Single Vigorous, narrow gray green f foliage with marginal variegation
Variegatum plenum Pink with rose throat Double Dark green foliage with marginal variegation
White White Single