Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > May 2015 > OLEANDER--BEAUTIFUL, BUT DEADLY?


This beautiful Mediterranean shrub is not hardy in our area, but is frequently used as a container plant for summer patios.  Growing to 10 feet or more in a container, the oleander (Nerium oleander) is often trained as a standard or with a braided trunk.  The lance-shaped leathery leaves resemble the leaves of the olive tree (Olea), thus the species name.

White, red, pink, salmon, and pale yellow-flowered varieties bloom all summer when situated in a sunny location outside.  The oleander is used like Crepe Myrtles in southern Florida, lining streets, for hedges, or as garden specimens.  It can be kept over the winter in a sunny window inside, although it will probably shed much of its foliage.  Provide as cool a spot as possible.  Keep soil moist while outside in sun, but allow the soil to dry moderately inside over the winter.

One drawback to this pretty plant is its toxicity to humans and other mammals.  All parts are toxic if ingested, and contact with the sap may cause dermatitis.  My mother used to tell the story of her school friend who suffered a severe reaction to the smoke from a bonfire on which branches of oleander had been placed.   There have been very few reported accidental deaths from Nerium oleander, but grazing cattle and horses have been known to die from consuming too many leaves.  The plant should be kept from the reach of small children or chewing pets.  
Posted: 5/6/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
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