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Nerium oleander
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)
Nerium oleander



Origin and description

Oleander occurs naturally in Mediterranean regions with hot, dry summers and relatively cold, wet winters, as well as in some parts of Asia and in Japan. It is a small erect shrub with straight lance-shaped leaves. It can grow to 6 metres in the wild but rarely grows to more than 1.5 to 2 metres as an indoor plant. The colourful, scented flowers grow in clusters at the end of each stem. It blooms from spring to late summer. The flowers are typically pink but there are a number of cultivars with single or double pink, red, purple, yellow, salmon or white blooms.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Nerium oleander 'Variegata' has variegated yellow foliage and pink flowers.


Careful! This plant is highly toxic, and must be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

Common name

Nerium / Oleander

Latin name (genus)

Nerium oleander

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Apocynaceae

Growing conditions

Oleander requires plenty of light, even full sun year round. Place it near a south-facing window. In summer, if possible, move it outdoors to a sunny location with good air circulation. If you cannot move it outside, an indoor temperature of 20 to 24ºC is ideal, but it will also tolerate higher temperatures. To stimulate blooms, a rest period is essential in winter in a cold (12 to 14ºC, but never below 7ºC) but bright room.

Easy to grow?

Oleander is relatively difficult to grow because the plant must be allowed to rest in winter at cooler temperatures and requires a good pruning after it blooms.

Watering and fertilizer

In summer, plants that are moved outdoors require frequent watering because the soil will dry out rapidly. If the plant remains indoors, water with room-temperature water to thoroughly moisten the soil. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. In winter, cut back significantly on watering, while never allowing the roots to dry out. This plant must be fertilized regularly during the active growing period, i.e., from April to September, especially if it is outdoors. Every two weeks, apply a balanced indoor plant food or an all-purpose fertilizer like 20-20-20 at half strength. Stop feeding in winter.

Pruning and maintenance

Prune the plant immediately after flowering, before bringing it indoors in the fall. Cut the stems back to about half their length to maintain a compact shape and encourage more abundant blooming the following year. Be careful in handling oleander because every part of this plant is toxic. You should wear gloves when pruning and wash your hands after any contact.


Only young plants need to be repotted in spring in a slightly bigger pot. Once the plants are 1.5 metres tall or taller, repot them every two or three years using the same pot and cutting back peripheral roots every time. Use a well-draining potting mix, for instance a blend of indoor potting soil and a peat moss and perlite potting mix.


See also

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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