The Nerium Oleander is an evergreen shrub belonging to the Apocynaceae family, classified in the genus Nerium. It is possibly native to Asia, but it’s naturalized and spontaneously grows in the Mediterranean area, where it’s cultivated as an ornamental plant. In Italy the Oleander is also known as “Mazza di S. Giuseppe” (literally “St. Joseph’s cudgel”), or “Ammazza l’asino” (literally “Donkey killer)”, since it is a very poisonous plant. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful plant that is grown in the whole peninsula for the bright colour of its flowers.
It grows rapidly, it is very resistant to drought and saltiness, and it can be grown in any kind of soil, even if poor and loose; Oleanders are actually found naturally along riverbeds, environments where there usually are sand, gravel and rocks.
Oleander is a widespread and popular plant, so one can find many different cultivars and, as years go by, flower colours and shaped have been brought in. For example, it is today easy to find double-flower cultivars or bright-yellow or salmon flower cultivars in nurseries, despite many people still prefer the simple flower variety. This happens because the double-flower variety has a disadvantage: it is not self-cleaning, so its flowers get withered or rot on the branch most of the times, forcing gardeners to intervene periodically. Single-flower verieties, on the other hand, lose their petals, so they always have a clean aspect.
Being native to Anatolia, Oleander prefers mild climates with 5 °C as a minimum temperature, and hot and sunny positions. This is why it can be grown outdoors, with no shelter, only in the regions of Central and Southern Italy. It is, on he other hand, better to shelter it if grown in northern regions.