Don’t Eat the Oleander Plant!

I love oleanders! In my yards, I have had every kind of oleander that grows in Southern California. But I have learned: whatever you do, don’t eat the oleander leaves or flowers!


The oleander is a tough durable shrub that is inexpensive and easy to grow in most situations. Abundant, beautiful flowers are produced in many colors and some varieties are delightfully fragrant. New homeowners appreciate oleander’s satisfyingly fast growth rate and ability to quickly green up a bare lot. But, again, the warning: don’t eat the oleander!

This fast growing evergreen shrub can reach up to 20′ tall, but is usually seen trimmed at 6-10′ . It forms a rounded mound to about 10′ wide. It is a tough, versatile plant with showy summertime flowers in white, red, pink, salmon and light yellow. Leathery, lance shaped leaves range from about 4-10″ long, depending on variety and are a bright green.

Oleanders have a tendency to become leggy – overgrown individuals should be pruned as needed to maintain a nice shape. A popular variety is ‘Petit Salmon’ which is a dwarf that grows to only 4′ tall.

There are several white flowering varieties, like ‘Sister Agnes’ which is a favorite. It is a large plant with deep green leaves. Grow it in shrub borders and partial shade at the edge of woodsy areas where the white flowers show their best. The light yellow double flowered variety, ‘Luteum Plenum’ is another favorite.

Nerium oleander is native to northern Africa, the eastern Mediterranean basin and southeast Asia. Oleander prefers dry, warm climates and may naturalize in such areas. (That’s why they’re used so much in freeway/highway landscaping.) But, surprisingly, Texas claims to be the state with the most oleanders! (I thought California had the most.) Galveston, Texas even has jubilee festivals for oleanders!

But, here’s the warning again! I learned this the hard way when my expensive parrots were leaning out of their cages to nibble on the nearby oleanders.

>Oleander is toxic — do not ingest. Contact with skin may cause reaction. Avoid smoke when burning cuttings. Do not use in playgrounds or other areas frequented by young children and pets. >

It’s that way with much of the world’s philosophy these days. It “sounds” good, even logical. But it doesn’t square with what my Guidebook says. And if it contradicts The Bible, well, sorry. I don’t swallow it. I remember the Apostle John told us we were to test all things because there would be false teachers and prophets around us. (1 John) Boy, did he see that one coming!

Just as I should check if a beautiful plant is toxic before I purchase it, I should test beautiful sounding theories before I swallow them. Simple rule, I’d say. I know it keeps me from walking away in deception from the One I know I can trust!

(c) 2009 April Lorier

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

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