Oh! Oh! Oleander!
As spring warms into summer, one of the highest color impacts we enjoy along our roadways and in our landscapes has to be the bountiful, blooming oleander. Oleanders are characterized by summer blooming, heavily scented flowers that may be red, pink, white or yellow depending on cultivar. In our warm climate area, the leaves are evergreen throughout the entire year.
Botanically known as Nerium oleander, it is in the dogbane family. Most commonly known simply as oleander from its superficial resemblance to the unrelated olive, one can see hundreds of these showy shrubs thriving along El Dorado Hills Boulevard.
I still remember my first visit to California and how amazed I was with the super scale awesomeness of the highway corridor plantings of countless miles of the prolific blooming oleander shrubs. While oleander plants can grow up to 20 feet in ideal conditions, they are more commonly seen at heights between 6 to 10 feet.
Oleander is a perfect choice for roadway landscapes as they thrive in bright, sunny conditions and are tolerant of a range of soil types, including heavy clay soils and salty soils. Drought tolerant and resilient, oleander plants require minimal maintenance and respond well to occasional pruning. The ideal season for pruning is September or early October. The more you prune the oleander, the more flowers it will produce and the bushier it will become.
Oleander requires very little water to survive. Watering it once or twice a week is usually more than enough and the shrubs handle drought conditions very well with adverse effects primarily seen in reduced bloom and growth rate.
It should be noted however that all parts of the oleander plant are highly toxic and should never be ingested. With this important consideration, oleander should not be grown in close proximity to areas frequented by children or pets. People with sensitive skin should avoid handling the plant as irritation may be experienced.
Overall, oleander is one of the most common plants in Europe and America and certainly a summertime showstopper in El Dorado Hills with its abundant riot of color.
Brent Dennis, a landscape architect and garden designer, is general manager of the El Dorado Hills Community Services District.