The oleander bush is a popular ornamental plant used extensively in the Southern states. Native to Morocco and much of the Mediterranean, this plant holds up well in warmer climates.
Several factors contribute to choosing oleander when planting ornamentals.
First, it is drought resistant, often needing no watering even in dry areas. This is a big plus in regions where water supplies are limited.Second, they are large bushes, often growing to the size of small trees, producing more coverage for each planting.
Third, they grow in a wide range of soils and require very little maintenance and care. Occasional pruning is usually all that is required.
Finally, they are really a beautiful bush, especially in bloom. The flowers are found in dense clusters at the end of the branches and are sometimes very fragrant. White, yellow, pink and even red oleander varieties can be planted and will produce a rich crop of flowers each year with minimum care.
The downside of oleander plants are that nearly every part of the plant is toxic, including the sap. Even the nectar of the flowers can be poisonous.
Oleander is considered one of the most poisonous of plants, particularly among those commonly cultivated in public and household gardens. This fact has worked it’s way into many a mystery story over the years, making toxins from oleander leaves and petals a poison of choice for fictional characters trying to off the husband or wife or uncle or partner that has done them wrong or is keeping them from the family fortune.
Oleander poison must be ingested to be toxic, and casual contact with an oleander bush is not dangerous. However, even a single leaf can be lethal to small children and pets, the most likely candidates for the consumption of oleander parts. As a result, it is not recommended to use oleander around children and animals.
Public works planters in California and other warmer states use this negative element to their advantage by making oleander bushes a common choice for median and roadside plantings. Not only do they require little care and stand up to the seasonal dry spells, deer and other plant pests instinctively give oleander a pass.