How hardy are oleanders?

david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)October 17, 2004

I went to a talk a couple of weeks ago by David Francko, author of "Palms won't grow here", a book about pushing the hardiness envelope and growing "tropical" plants like palms, bananas, and oleanders in the ground even in the north (OK, he was talking about zone 6). I am not sure I am going to change my garden right away, but I am interested in growing a few of these.

And when I was at Goldner Walsh (a good local nursery) for their auction and plant sale yesterday, I could not pass up a good bushy "Nerium oleander, hardy yellow" for less than half price. It will stay in the greenhouse over the winter of course, I wouldn't plant it now.

But I wonder who has experience with these outside in zone 6, maybe even zone 5? Are they hard to grow as container plants? Long blooming? Tell me about your oleanders, please. I'd love to see some pictures.

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andreas_swe(6b-7a uppsala)

Here they start do die when the temp get below -10C, so I have to protect them..
My Neriums have flowered from july and they're still flowering after a night with -0.9C . They flower the hole summer, but they're as you know very toxic.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 4:57PM
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Oleanders will not live outside in my zone 5b - I bring them indoors at the end of October, where they promptly lose all their leaves, but that's ok, because they start re-leafing in March.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 7:00PM
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wilmington_islander(9A/Sunset 28)

For in ground, unprotected plants I would say it has to be at least a solid zone 8A...they are huge and everywhere in zone 8b. The leaves apparently get defoliated by the cold at 18-19 degrees and the plant begins to die @15 degrees. I have seen many that have taken repeated hard frosts in the low 20's with no damage whatsoever.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2004 at 9:26AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I would agree with Wilmington Islander's rough estimates of hardiness. They are often seen thriving in California's central valley, which in the far northern reaches as you approach Oregon can get considerable cold in winter. They are most definitely a risk to plant if you regularly drop below 20F in winter, but may come back from the roots from 15F if they are mature plants. Here in California, they tend to show freeze damage at 25F or lower, although this may be a function of not having fully hardened off in fall as we often stay warm until the first killing frost in more inland locations. I wouldn't advise this as a good safe landscape plant below USDA zone 8b.

They are very easy to grow as container plants, and if you can greenhouse them in winter and give them the full sun and heat they prefer in summer, they ought to do well as container plants. I would suggest that some of the dwarf cultivars, a pink and deep red are the two most common here in California, might be better choices to save space in the greenhouse. Maybe you should be thankful that they will never get 20 feet tall as they can here. You will also find that they are very subject to Oleander aphids(usually bright orange in color), which also attack Asclepiads/Butterfly Plants.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 10:57PM
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My oleanders of common variety, sold in Home Depot-like stores, were badly damaged at -4oC during several nights(leaves mostly, even in sheltered spot). Had to pot them and bring them inside a week ago.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 9:36PM
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mike_marietta_sc_z8a(z8a upstate SC)

Some oleander cultivars are more cold tolerant than others. In the southeast US climate, "hardy pink", "hardy red", and "double yellow" appear to be the most cold tolerant. I'm growing "hardy pink" and "double yellow" here, where they have taken 11F with almost no leaf damage. Compared with the typical less cold hardy cultivars, the cold hardy cultivars tend to be shorter and more broader in their growth habit. The flowers of "double yellow" are fragrant.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 8:09PM
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BrianB(9 N CA)

Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina carries many "tropical" plants that are relatively hardy. They've collected oleanders, palms and the like that have survived the most severe winters in the zones 7 & 8 of the South. Check them out. Not cheap, but they do have what you are looking for.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 1:28PM
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No matter how hardy the variety you can get, they are brutal with snow loads. The crushing weight of the snow severely deforms their stature. A common problem with evergreens.

Cheers, Barrie.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 9:57PM
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I purchased a bright deep red oleander a few years ago at Wal-Mart. It is beautiful but I don't want to take a chance of it dying even in my area. It does well outside until Christmas in south Virginia. But then I bring it into an unheated porch until April.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 9:00AM
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the double yellow variety is called Mathile Ferrier only blloms one time in the early spring time ..

another hardy one if you can find it ,is an orange variety called " FDR "

check out the international oleander society site in Galveston Texas

and enough of the poisonous thing about them ,,, there are many plants that are also poisonous ... don't eat them

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 6:09PM
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I grew 'Double yellow in New York which survived 4 degree temps with some damage. I found an oleander from Wal-Mart in a New york yard that was planted on the north side of a house. it was untouched after a mild winter with a low of about 11 or 12 degrees! The variety was not listed on the tag. I may try oleanders again in my 7b climate in lower Cape May County, New Jersey.
Good luck!
p.s Yes! I grow palms here!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2005 at 9:46PM
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You may find some Nerium oleander that is suitably hardy for your garden, HOWEVER, these a plants are terrible with snow loads. They will lay over and stay that way long after the snow is gone. An overhead canopy would solve that problem.

Cheers, Barrie.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2005 at 2:51AM
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diggerdane(z6 MI)

Zone 6 in SW Michigan, have wintered over yellow oleander from Plant Delights. No protection, dies back to ground, regrows weakly early summer, has never bloomed. I'm beginning to wonder ... what's the point?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2005 at 5:58PM
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the double yellow oleander ,. Mathile Ferrier,,is the hardiest ,,however it only blooms once early in the season and the buds are formed the previous summer ,,should it ever bloom for you ,,it is the most fragrant of all ,,, oleanders are related to plumerias

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 11:44AM
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I have successfully overwintered mine with regular lows of 25-30 degrees and not much higher in the day. Under these cold/dry conditions (I don't water them over winter, well, maybe once on a mild day) they hold all foliage and get right back into geer once they go out (mid March, depending on the weather). I take them in some time in early December (before hard freezes). The only problem I have is that mine is too big and cannot be put into larger pot! For those in a similar position, yes you can take cutting. I take cutting in July or August and put them in moist sand (they'll root).

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 5:42PM
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skoenlaper(z9 AZ)

My Oleander has come back this year, but of course we had a very warm winter this year. We will have to see what happens as far as blooming and all.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 12:09PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

My one oleander, an impulse buy on a trip to Sacramento, didn't survive record snows (although not record low temperatures that year) in 2004. There are enough other plants for me to fool with that I haven't gotten around to killing oleander a second or a third time.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 1:55PM
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Old thread but I tried a home depot pink (exact variety ownknown) here in z7. It held up fine to an exceptionally heavy snowload but started browning in February. By spring it was completely dead.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 12:46PM
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I've tried one in my garden here in relatively mild coastal Delaware (zone 8a), but it didn't make it this winter. However, 3 miles away in Rehoboth Beach there is a specimen out front of a B&B that has been there a few years. It gets more sun than my spot and is up close against the porch. I'll give it a try again this year with a similar, more protected spot in front of my porch.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 3:01PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I have an unamed double pink in a pot which has been thorugh 3 winters outside with temps down to -5C on rare occasions. However, my problem is that the summer isn't hot enough for it to open its flowers fully.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 4:56PM
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I bought a red one and planted it in the ground. I protected it with some x-mas lights and a frost cloth with a plastic trash bin and it survived with no damage. Now I think its starting to get ready to bloom again for the year, or at least make some new growth! They are pretty hardy plants, Mine went down to around 20F.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:44PM
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Here in northern italy, in the alps oleanders seem to grow fine. I've seen oleanders growing in a town near here where the sun doesn't come out from November to January because of the mountains. Temperatures very often fall below -15C there. I have Oleanders in containers that have overwintered fine every year with temps below -10C. Maybe the plants here are more used to the cold.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 8:45AM
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Here in Wichita Kansas I use Oleanders for summer color in my clients pots. They are fantasic, because they aren't truly tropical I usually put the ones I have overwinterred in unheated garages out long before true tropicals like Hibiscus can be brought out, often as early as late March, and always before the end of April. They don't start growing and blooming till the heat of summer sets in, but at least there is something attractive in their pots quite early in the season.

I always try to leave them outdoors until the latest possible date as well. Often until early or mid December. This eases them into a semi dormant state. They still have ( and keep ) all of their leaves. I usually just move the pots into an unheated garage or outbuilding. As long as the temperature in the garage remains above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and BELOW 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit the plants need little if any attention. I do however water the pots about once every 2-3 weeks. Just enough to keep the soil from completely drying out. Not too much, or you may encourage a break from dormancy.

I have done this for many people, over the twenty or so years I have been a professional gardener, and have had minimal losses. ( no losses whatsoever as long as they aren't too dry ) Some of these plants have become HUGE. One client has two white treeform Oleanders that are almost 10 years old and approximately 3.5" in diameter.

I have also, on rare ocassion had some of these plants overwinter in their pots outdoors. One particularly mild winter I had a large pink Oleander that I decided was too big to move indoors overwinter in a half whiskey barrel unscathed. It was as green in February as the ones in a clients heated greenhouse. Yes, some do go into greenhouses where they bloom all winter, and are covered with yellow aphids.

As yet I haven't tried planting in the ground, but with careful siting and a mild first winter I am sure I could coax them to survive outdoors in Wichita.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 4:51PM
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I live mid Vancouver Island Canada, I have 6 Oleanders 3 red and 3 white bought at Rona. The red ones began to look lose all the leaves mid november so I brought them inside and over the winter they became covered with crabby looking seemed as tho the bark opened up and the bugs came out..then the rest of the leaves died.I put them out in MArch and the leaves came back and they not sure what that infestation was. I want to plant them so will take the persons advice to put Christmas lights around them. Wondering if the Italian Alpine variety have a genus and perhaps I can find some of those.The scent is intoxicating and I think that is worth the babying:)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:46AM
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well I just planted my oleander on the east, out side, I'm going to rap them with new paper and plastic, mulch and a big box on top. wish me luck see you next spring

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:23AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7) about an old thread.
No oleander is truly hardier than about 7b at the very best, in the most sheltered spots; really it's more like 8a. And that's only for the hardiest cultivars. Even as far south as Virginia Beach they get killed to the ground about every 10-20 years. I think this winter would have severely damaged any non-hardy cultivars there, but they are seldom cultivated in borderline areas. The tender ones are so much nicer - larger, more fragrant flowers, longer blooming, etc. If you just want to grow one in a container, skip 'Hardy Pink' et al.

BTW The areas in the Italian Alps with oleanders do not go below -15C regularly, they are in fact zn 8 or even zn 9 or 10 near or on the lakes. (Isola di Brissago has a mature norfolk island pine!)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:19PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

And btw it was funny around Lago Maggiore, in typical residential gardens I saw the rather boring hardier oleanders. Probably because the Italian nursery industry produces them in large quantities for the whole north of the country, like Milan and the Po Valley, which are generally zn 8. However all of the famous area gardens had HUGE examples of the tender, double, fragrant more tropical seeming oleanders...proving the overall mildness of the climate. (the gardeners of Isola Madre told me the typical winter low is -3C)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:26PM
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