How to Grow Nerium — Oleander

Oleander Nerium

Nerium–commonly called Oleander–is an evergreen shrub that bears single or double flowers in various shades of white, yellow, pink, red, or purple from mid-spring to late summer. Nerium has narrow, lance-shaped leaves that are leathery and borne in opposite pairs or whorls.

Nerium is a good choice for informal hedges, shrub borders, and screen plantings. It holds up well as a street planting. Where Nerium is not hardy, it can be grown in a cool greenhouse and moved outdoors in summer.

All parts of Nerium are highly toxic if ingested; contact with the foliage can irritate the skin.

Nerium is a genus of one species. It is native to seasonally dry stream beds and margins in the Mediterranean and China.

Blooming white Nerium oleander in a garden
Blooming white Nerium oleander in a garden

Get to Know Nerium

  • Plant type: Evergreen summer- or fall-blooming shrub
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 5 to 7
  • Hardiness: Half-hardy
  • Height and width: 3 to 12 feet (1-3.6m) tall and wide
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast 
  • Form and habit: Broad and bulky 
  • Foliage: Large, narrow, lance-shaped, evergreen leaves
  • Flowers: Single or double blooms are funnel-shaped white, yellow, pink, and red
  • Bloom time: Mid-spring to late summer
  • Uses: Hedges, screens, xeriscaping, seaside, desert
  • Common name: Oleander
  • Botanical name: Nerium oleander
  • Family: Apocynaceae
  • Origin: Mediterranean to China

Where to Plant Nerium

  • Plant Nerium in full sun. Will tolerate light shade. Nerium thrives in the bright, reflected light typical of waterside or desert gardens.  
  • Nerium will grow in nearly any soil. Nerium will tolerate soils that are dry, salty, or waterlogged.
Pink and white blooming Nerium oleander
Pink and white blooming Nerium oleander

When to Plant Nerium

  • Set established Nerium plants in the garden in spring or fall.

Planting and Spacing Nerium

  • Space Nerium 3 to 12 feet apart depending on the variety.

How to Water and Feed Nerium

  • Nerium needs little to no water once established. Water oleander regularly until established. Water sparingly in winter. 
  • Nerium needs little if any fertilizer; give plants a slow-release fertilizer in spring.

Nerium Care

  • Prune Nerium by half in winter to promote new growth. To re-establish the form of rangy plants prune Nerium hard in winter.
  • Nerium is ordinarily broad and bulky but easily trained into single- or multitrunked tree.  
  • Nerium flowers on new grows, so cut some stems of smaller types back to the ground and remove selected branches of larger types.

Growing Nerium as a Houseplant

  • Grow Nerium where the temperature is average, light is direct and humidity is average to high.
  • In winter, plants benefit from cool temperatures.
  • Plant Nerium in a soilless growing medium and keep the medium evenly moist at all times.
  • Fertilize Nerium every two weeks while plants are growing and flowering.
  • Prune back plants after they have flowered and pinch growing tips to keep the plants compact.

Nerium Pests and Diseases

  • Nerium are susceptible to attacks by scale insects, spider mites, caterpillars, aphids. Prune off infested leaves and branches.
  • Backterial knot (gall) and dieback can also be tomorrow. 
  • Leaf spot can occur. 
  • Keep prungings, dead leaves away from hay or other animal feed; don’t use wood for barbecue fires or skewers. Smoke from burning can cause severe irritation.
Nerium Oleander leaves and flowers
Nerium Oleander leaves and flowers

Nerium Propagation

  • Take and root Nerium tip cuttings anytime in the growing season.

Nerium Varieties to Grow

  • Nerium oleander, Oleander, Rose bay, tall, erect to spreading shrub or small tree with lance-shaped, deep green to grayish green leaves, 2.5-8 inches (6-20cm) long. In summer, bears cymes of up to 80 pink, red, or white flowers, 1.5-2 inches (3-5cm) across. To 6-20 feet (2-6m) tall and 3-10 feet (1-3m) wide. East Mediterranean (possibly to West China); widely naturalized. Varieties vary in size from 3 to 20 feet tall. Some varieties are more sensitive to frost than others. Commonly grown varieties include the following:
  • ‘Double Sister Agnes’ has double-white fragrant flowers.
  • ‘Mrs. George Roeding’ is dwarf with salmon-pink flowers.
  • ‘Petite Pink’ is a dwarf with single pink flowers.
  • ‘Red Velvet’ bears dark red flowers.

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