ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN
Oleanders are quite tall shrubs when grown outdoors. They are fast growing and have attractive foliage.
The great popularity of container gardening and the increasing use of specimen plants, including standards, have led to more and more indoor plants being put out into our outdoor gardens for the summer. The use of some of our larger house plants in our outdoor gardens has several advantages.
The long, narrow leaves of the oleander set off the attractive flower clusters which sometime become somewhat pendulous with the weight of several flowers as this white specimen has done. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
The flat-petalled flowers of oleander are attractive whatever colour they are, and are produced on the tips of the stems. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Firstly, moving some of our house plants outdoors for the summer means we have to purchase fewer plants to fill containers for use in the outdoor landscape. Secondly, our indoor spaces become less crowded during the summer as the often large specimen plants are removed from our interior spaces.
Finally, many of the indoor plants that we might use in our outdoor landscapes are tropical plants and thus contribute an exotic touch to our outdoor living spaces that we cannot always achieve with the usual outdoor plantings. As well, these house plants are usually full grown and quite mature — often even in bloom — so we do not have to wait for them to mature and gradually come into bloom so we do not lose any bloom time in our already short enough growing season.
Some of the house plants that we might put outside for the summer include hibiscus, palm trees, banana trees, and bougainvillea, and all of these plants will certainly add pizzazz to the garden. The oleander is a prime candidate to use in this way — I fell in love all over again with this plant this past winter, which we spent in Arizona.
Of course oleanders are used as year around landscape plants in such warm areas, but this past winter was unusually warm in Arizona and the oleanders bloomed profusely. The large bushes beside the place we stayed were in bloom when we arrived in early January and were totally covered with bloom when we left the end of March; they were gorgeous.
One of the attributes that we look for in plants we use for our outdoor living spaces is a lengthy bloom time. Oleanders have this characteristic in spades; they will bloom all summer here when placed outdoors in direct sun.
Oleanders do like sun, and whether they are indoors or outdoors, they must have at least four hours of direct sunshine every day to entice them into bloom. When moving a plant outside from the indoors, be sure to do it gradually so that it doesn’t get damaged and disfigured by too sudden an exposure to direct outdoor sunshine.
In our region we grow oleanders as potted plants and because these plants do not like to be crowded in the pot, they are best planted in large containers — which suits an oleander plant being used in the outdoors because a large pot will make the plant more stable and it is less likely to tip over on a windy day.
Re-potting is best done in the spring, using a good quality soilless mix which contains perlite and perhaps a bit of additional sand to supplement good drainage. Oleanders are heavy feeders so they should be fertilized every two weeks during the summer. Keep the soil moist — oleanders are are fast growing plants that take a lot of water, so frequent watering will be necessary.
The oleander, a member of the periwinkle plant family originating in the Mediterranean, is actually a shrub that has dark green narrow leaves that cover woody stems. Blooms, which are usually pink or white although other colours are available, art produced on the tips of new branches.
Because oleanders are fast growing, they can be pruned regularly each year. This practice will ensure that the plants are bushy and attractive and that there are lots of new stem tips from which flowers will develop. Pruning in the fall will both reduce the size of the plant for ease of indoor winter storage, and also ensure that there is ample new growth to produce flower buds in the spring.
Prune the woody stems by cutting off each stem just above a leaf node on a slant. Take care not to tear the woody stem — use a sharp knife and shape the plant so that it has a nice rounded form. The top ten centimetres of the cut off stems can be used as cuttings to start new plants
Oleanders are prone to attacks by aphids and scale. Both of these are easily controlled in the outdoor garden with frequent showers from the garden hose but can become more problematic in the indoor garden. Before moving the plant indoors for the winter, inspect it carefully for lurking insect pests and take precautionary action to avoid bringing pests indoors with the plant.
Using exotic tropical house plants, such as oleanders, in the outdoor garden will add beauty and a tropical touch to outdoor living areas. If you have such a plant in your house plant collection, consider moving it outdoors for the summer where it will flourish and be a focal point of your outdoor living space.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 8, 2014