Oleanders are so well known to both northern and southern gardeners, they need little introduction or description. They are grown everywhere in the South, and at one time ranked with hydrangeas as northern house plants. For some obscure reasons, oleanders (Nerium) faded from popularity some years ago, but they are now making quite a comeback.
Give these plants good loamy soil, full light, and plenty of fresh air. After flowering, cut the plants back and rest them for a few weeks. If cuttings are wanted, take them of mature wood when you cut the plant back sharply; pruning to shape the plant may be done at any time.
Oleanders may be grown in bush shape or trained as standards (like a tree rose). In the latter, plants are topped at whatever height is desired, and good crowns will develop the same season. However, owing to the weight of the large flower heads, which are borne in terminal clusters, it is not advisable to allow the plant to flower the following year, as the branches will not be strong enough to support the blooms.
I have very little room for duplication of indoor plant material, but I am so enamored of oleanders, I have two plants. The larger one is a bush, and has double pink flowers. From this I have taken innumerable cuttings, which root in plain water as easily as willow cuttings. My other plant I am training as a crown standard, and already I can see the space-saving advantage of this form for house use. When the plant is allowed to flower, it will have white blossoms. Oleanders have single or double flowers, and in addition to the white, range through shades of pink and rose to an almost-purple color.
If you can’t go in person to a southern nursery and look for unusual plants to use indoors, why not do your “exploring” via catalogs and online? Those from southern growers offer endless possibilities… one I was reading recently describes Anise Tree and Banana Shrub, both of which I hope to try soon. Sweet Olive is one I want to grow next year, if I have room for them. In “scouting out” new house plant possibilities, look under “shrubs,” “trees” or “vines,” note which are evergreen, and pick up the ones that sound most interesting. Don’t be afraid to try trees; when confined to a pot, they will remain a reasonable size for a long, long time.
by K. Walker