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Travelers to Italy are familiar with this sight: Huge, sprawling bushes with delicate flowers in bright colors in gardens, on roadsides or simply in the great outdoors - the oleander is particularly widespread in Bella Italia, but also widespread in other countries around the Mediterranean. With us, the poisonous ornamental shrub is mainly cultivated as a container plant due to its lack of frost hardiness.

Oleander: An exotic shrub for tubs and gardens

The oleander - a brief overview

  • Botanical name: Nerium oleander
  • Genus: Nerium
  • Family: dogbane family (Apocynaceae)
  • Common names: rose laurel
  • Origin and distribution: around the Mediterranean to India and China
  • Growth form: woody, broad-bushy shrub
  • Growth height: between one and up to five meters, depending on the variety
  • Typical features: evergreen
  • Habitat: wild oleanders are mainly found on river and stream banks
  • Soil: on moist, humus-poor, calcareous soil
  • flower: mostly simple and in fives. But there are also double and double flowers.
  • Flower colors: pink, red, violet, white, yellow
  • Flowering period: continuous bloomers from May to October, weather permitting
  • Fruits: elongated pods
  • leaves: up to 20 centimeters long, lanceolate
  • Use: ornamental plant
  • Toxicity: yes, all parts of the oleander are highly toxic
  • Hardiness: no

The Mediterranean oleander grows wild along rivers and streams

In the wild, the wild (and usually pink-flowering) oleander thrives in the immediate vicinity of rivers and streams, preferably in very sunny and warm locations. These exposed sites are characterized by extreme dryness during the hot summer months and excessive wetness when the body of water bursts its banks and floods the shore area. The oleander has adapted perfectly to these living conditions: it easily survives the long periods of drought by developing very long roots that reach down to the groundwater and can thus provide for itself sufficiently. It is also one of the few potted plants that do not have any problems with waterlogging.

Oleanders in the home garden

Since oleander is not hardy and most varieties only tolerate temperatures of up to minus five degrees Celsius for a short time, the shrub should not be planted directly in the garden in our latitudes - unless you live in a region with rather mild winters. Instead, keeping them in buckets should be favoured, with oleanders outside. They are not necessarily suitable as houseplants. However, the very poisonous shrub needs a lot of care, has to be watered and fertilized regularly and a lot and is also quite susceptible to various diseases and pest infestation.


Oleanders winter best frost-free, but cool and bright with temperatures of around five degrees Celsius.

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