A Detailed Guide to Growing Desert Rose

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Summary: Adenium plant care involves balancing sunlight, water, and fertilizer. In hotter, sun-drenched conditions, increase watering frequency. Reduce water during cooler temperatures. Fertilize actively growing Adeniums in spring and summer for optimal health and blooming.

For best results! Adenium obesum care (Desert Rose) starts with giving plants full sun for 6 hours or more daily.

desert rose plant blooming adenium obesum flowers up closePin
Trumpet-shaped flower of the Adenium Obesum

Fertilize monthly with half-strength 20-20-20 liquid plant food during the spring and summer growing seasons. Do not feed in winter. Keep the soil moist, not wet. Reduce watering in winter.

The Adenium obesum is a low-maintenance succulent. It features a unique trunk shape (caudex) and vibrant, gorgeous trumpet-shaped flowers. The blooms come in a variety of colors and combinations.

Desert rose plants make excellent warm-weather additions in USDA Zone 10-11 to your patio, deck, or landscape. It will grow as a houseplant with reduced flowering.

This article shares care details to help you care for this attractive sun-loving plant. Read on to learn more.

A Rose By Any Other Name

There are several species of Desert Rose. These Adenium species grow across the Arabian Peninsula throughout eastern and northeastern Africa.

Many cultures enjoy Adeniums, giving the plant a handful of common names. These include:

  • Desert Rose
  • Mock Azalea
  • Desert Azalea
  • Impala Lily
  • Kudu lily
  • Sabi Star
  • Dwarf Bottle Tree

Check out the Black Desert Rose.

Scientific names of Adenium species include:

  • Adenium arabicum
  • Adenium coetaneum
  • Adenium honghel
  • Nerium obesum synonym for Adenium obesum

All these different common names refer to the Desert Rose plant. The Adenium belongs to the Dogbane family, Apocynaceae / Asclepiadaceae, which includes:

The sap of plants in the Dogbane family can be irritating at least or toxic at worst. The Desert Rose is poisonous, as are its Oleander cousins.

Keep your Desert Rose away from children and pets.

Handle Adenium with caution, wearing rubber gloves when pruning. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after any interaction with the plant.

Learn more about repotting Desert Rose here.

Adenium Obesum Is Not A Rose?

The Adenium Desert Rose is not a rose at all. It is a deciduous succulent plant. There are several recognized Adenium varieties available for sale.

There are numerous and unidentified variations among wild species. Scientists speculate that a single species is divided into a few sub-species.

Even though the plants come from the same kind of species, these sub-species can vary a lot in appearance and habits from one environment to another.

Adenium obesum grows in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The plant’s blooming period is quite lengthy. Adenium plants can do well during cooler weather if maintained in a warm, bright setting.

The trumpet-shaped Adenium flowers vary in size and shade depending upon care and environment. Typically the desert rose flowers are about two inches across in shades of white, pink, and red.

Cuttings from Adenium obesum tend to form thick trunks quickly.

Unlike a true rose, Adenium is drought tolerant because it stores water from the rainy season in its thick, bulbous roots and swollen base trunk.

In its native lands, the rains come during the summer, and then it is dry during the cooler winter months.

These desert rose plants range widely in size. Adenium specimens can grow as tall as 6′ feet. But, desert azaleas make excellent container potted plants or interesting-looking bonsai plants.

The growth form of wild Adenium obesum varies based on factors such as:

  • Water availability
  • Hours of Sunlight exposure
  • Soil conditions
  • Proper care

It can grow as a short, plump tree, a bushy shrub, or a tall, leggy plant.

Adenium bonsai - flowering desert rose plantsPin
Adenium obesum growing as a flowering bonsai plant

Adenium Obesum Care & How To Grow Desert Rose?

There are five varieties of true Desert Rose. All are natives of arid or semi-arid climates. But all varieties can adapt well to tropical and semi-tropical settings.

These desert-dwelling plants adapt to any situation as long as the plants receive plenty of sun, warm temperatures, and a well-draining potting mix.

In hot climates, the Adenium plant thrives outdoors all year round.

These plants thrive in direct sun with temperatures ranging from 70° to 100° Fahrenheit.

In North America and other regions, temperatures often drop below 40° Fahrenheit for extended periods.

When the weather begins to cool, you must bring your Adenium plant indoors for the winter. In these cooler climates the plant goes into a dormant period.

When the warmer months arrive, move your Adenium outdoors. Spring and summer are when the plant blooms abundantly with vibrant flowers.

Adenium blooms are long-lasting. The bright flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Video: Adenium Care Growing & Flowering

Desert Rose Adenium Obesum Plant: A Sun-Lover

The desert rose grows well in desert settings blooming beautifully with bright sun.

Adeniums also do well with bright morning sun or bright afternoon sun but have fewer flowers. Keeping these plants in the shade causes them to grow with elongated, weak stems.

Bright, full sunlight stimulates flower production. But desert roses take a break from blooming during the hottest and rainiest months of the season. This results in two blooming periods.

You’ll see flowers begin to develop in early spring. With plenty of full sun or bright light, your Adenium should bloom steadily until mid-summer.

At this point, flowering will stop for 6-8 weeks, only to resume in the early autumn months. When the weather begins to turn cold (55° degrees Fahrenheit or lower), give your Adenium a good pruning and bring it indoors.

In a bright, warm environment such as a greenhouse, Adeniums can remain active throughout winter.

If you bring your plant into your house for the winter, it will probably stay in a semi-dormant state until spring arrives. Just keep your desert rose plant in a warm room with bright, indirect light during this time.

Water Requirements: Moderately in Warm Weather – Sparingly in Cool Weather

The Desert Rose enjoys a nice, warm rainy season. When cool weather comes, you’ll need to cut back on watering.

Think of your Adenium as:

  • A tropical plant in the spring and summer 
  • A cactus in the autumn and winter

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the roots must never become waterlogged. During the growing season, check the soil every few days in container plants. No excess water!

When the desert rose Adenium soil is completely dry, water slowly and carefully. Saturate the soil, but do not soak it. The soil should be moist, not wet.

There should not be any standing water. Use well-drained soil and let the potting mix dry out between waterings.

If you grow your plant outside, put the Adenium on a slope so the water drains off after heavy rain.

The Desert Rose is drought tolerant. When grown outdoors and established, it may not need watering. If there’s an extreme drought, water deeply with a slow drip during the coolest part of the day.

For more, read our article on Desert Rose Watering Frequency

Video: Tips On Caring For Desert Rose

Desert Rose Fertilizer

During the growing season (spring and summer), it’s a good idea to give your desert rose a light feeding of fertilizer. You can use a slow-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer that mixes with water.

When your desert rose starts waking up from its winter rest in the spring, give it a diluted feeding once every couple of weeks.

  • During summer, reduce fertilizing to once a month. 
  • As the weather cools, stop feeding so the plant can wind down for the winter.

If you bring your Adenium plant indoors for the winter, consider giving it one weak feeding in mid-winter. Feeding is not necessary as the plant is likely in a state of semi-dormancy.

Pruning Adenium: Is Regular Pruning Necessary?

Adenium plants can grow quite large. A combination of pruning and smaller pots will keep them a manageable size.

A regular pruning schedule during the growing season helps keep your plant fresh, vigorous, and well-groomed.

Pinch back or prune unruly growth and stem tips above the leaf node during the growing season.

Before moving the plant indoors for winter, prune back excessive growth. Pruning helps make the rest period more effective for the plant.

It is easier to keep a smaller, more compact plant indoors during winter.

Good trimming is a smart idea before putting the plant back outdoors for the growing season.

Trim off any dead or damaged vegetation. Cut back straggly branches to improve the plant’s shape. You can use these branches as cuttings to create new plants.

Cut off any dead or damaged plant parts and trim back any branches growing in an unattractive way. You can even use these branches as stem cuttings to create new plants.

What Kind of Container Is Best for Desert Rose?

Adeniums make beautiful potted plants. Many people prefer to grow desert roses in terra cotta clay pots instead of plastic pot to keep the plants on the drier side.

You can use containers made of almost any material when planting Impala Lily. Make sure the container is sturdy. Adeniums have aggressive root growth that can cause weak plastic containers to burst.

The container must have drainage holes at the bottom regardless of the material. If you use a saucer, do not allow water to accumulate in it.

A porous container is better for air circulation to the roots than non-porous materials.

Because of this, experts often recommend using terra-cotta containers or well-made wooden planters. Another option is hypertufa, a lightweight, porous material made from concrete, sand, peat moss, or coco coir. Check out this Hypertufa recipe.

When it comes to planter shape, low and wide planters are better than tall and thin ones. A lower and wider container encourages root spread and provides a more stable base for the plant.

Planting desert rose in a tall and thin container causes the roots to grow in a carrot shape. A carrot-shaped root structure may not give the plant enough stability to stay strong.

The carrot-shaped roots may be beneficial if you want to create a thick and attractive caudex.

It’s possible to start an Adenium cutting in a tall and thin container. Later on, transplant the cutting into a short and squat container to expose a significant part of the interesting root mass. Here’s a video that demonstrates how to do it.

Video: Adenium Transplanting – Desert Rose Bonsai style

How Often Should You Repot Desert Roses?

Desert rose plants grow at a slow rate. We recommend repotting your Impala lily once every two or three years. Repotting more often is not required.

Avoid using an oversized container. A large pot may encourage excessive root growth. 

Excessive root growth can reduce the number of blooms your plant produces. The reason? The plant puts more energy into growing roots.

Choose an attractive container that gives your plant one or two extra inches of growing space on all sides. The extra space will allow its root mass to grow comfortably.

Be sure to remove all the old soil from the roots thoroughly. Replace the soil with a fresh, new, nourishing potting mix.

Use a cactus potting mix or create your own cactus soil for the best growth of desert rose succulents. Create a cactus potting mix like you would use for other succulent plants. More on Desert Rose soil.

Adeniums want well-draining soil to prevent stem and root rot.

Related: Growing Buddha Belly Plant (Jatropha podagrica) is similar to Adenium

Propagation Of Adenium Obesum Plants From Cuttings, Seed

Easy Desert Rose Plant Propagation From Cuttings

When starting an Adenium from a cutting, the “new” plant will not develop a thick, interesting root structure above ground. The caudex will develop below the soil level and can later be exposed without harming the plant.

Starting from a cutting offers various advantages. One advantage is the ability to graft cuttings with one flower color onto plants of a different color.

Additionally, many cuttings can be grafted together to create an artistic arrangement.

Adenium Grafted On Oleander

Adenium is sometimes grafted onto an Oleander stock in Europe. Grafting enables Desert Roses to grow faster and produce more flowers.

Video: Grafting Adenium

Video: Combining Adenium Twigs

Starting Adenium Obesum From Cuttings: The Basics

If you have a plant sending out long shoots, pruning is a good idea to guide and control plant growth.

Utilize the pruned sections to create unique and captivating new plants.

Video: Growing An Adenium Bonsai

Long stem cuttings at least 6″ inches long are ideal for rooting. After pruning the desert rose plant, sort through the shoots and select the best ones.

Lay the cutting out on a newspaper or a paper towel. Allow the cuttings to dry for 48 hours in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight.

After two days, prepare a pot or container with a gravelly, well-drained potting soil mix. 

You can use a commercial cactus or succulent mix. Or, create your own mix by combining equal amounts of potting soil, coco coir or peat moss, sand, or very fine gravel.

Remember to put a layer of coarse gravel in the bottom of the container for good drainage.

Dust the cut end with a rooting powder and poke the cutting into the planting mix. Use a spray bottle to thoroughly mist the potting mixture until it is evenly moist soil.

Mist the soil every couple of days to keep it consistently moist. Avoid saturating the soil.

Remember to avoid overwatering your new desert rose, as this can lead to the risk of root rot.

Place your developing plant in a warm, bright location, either indoors or outdoors, and keep a close eye on it.

If you are using an indoor location, be sure to turn the growing plant every day or two, so it will get even sunlight. Otherwise, it will tend to bend toward the sun.

If you are growing your Adenium as an indoor plant, rotate it every day or two to ensure even sunlight exposure.

When the desert rose begins to sprout new leaves, you’ll know it is well-established enough to move the young plant to a sunnier place.

Mature, well-established Desert Rose plants enjoy bright, full sunlight. 

You can plant Adeniums in the ground. But, it is better to grow them in containers to make moving them indoors easier in the winter.

How to Harvest Desert Rose Seed Pods?

Propagating Desert Adenium from seed has a special advantage. It guarantees that the plants will grow with a thick, bulbous trunk and fat above-ground caudex base. This unique feature makes these plants interesting and attractive.

The Caudex takes several years to develop, so be patient.

You can buy Adenium seeds online or from specialty nurseries. Make sure to get fresh seeds. The fresher the seed, the better your results will be.

If you have several plants for cross-pollination, harvest seeds from your plants at the end of the growing season. Then, plant these harvested seeds in the springtime.

To find seeds on your plants, look for the development of bean-like seed pods. These pods usually appear in pairs.

As the desert rose pods ripen, the pods will begin to look swollen. At this point, place a net bag over the ripened pods and secure it with a twist tie, twine, or a rubber band. The net bag will prevent the seeds from flying away when the seedpod bursts.

When the pod bursts, gather the seeds and remove the dandelion-like fluff from the ends. After that, plant the gathered fresh seeds right away for the best results.

Video: Adenium Seeds Harvesting And Growing

How To Sow Desert Rose Seeds

To plant Desert Rose seeds, combine peat moss or coco coir and sand or perlite in equal parts. I like to use Perlite.

Use a shallow pot or a tray placed in an area with bright indirect light. Using a warming pad will keep the growing medium at a steady temperature of 80° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

Related: Details on Growing Desert Rose Seeds

Evenly sprinkle the seeds over the growing medium surface. Next, cover them lightly with a thin layer of sand.

Use a spray bottle to saturate the growing medium evenly with water. Repeat the process every other day until the seeds sprout.

Expect sprouts to appear within three to seven days. Keep misting the sprouts every few days to ensure the seedlings are lightly and evenly watered.

Seedlings should be large enough to transplant into individual containers in about a month.

Turn Your Adenium Obesum On Its Head!

If your desert rose Adenium has become unmanageable or fallen into disarray, you might want to start over with seeds or cuttings. Or be creative and turn your old plant upside-down.

Turning an Adenium upside-down can create an interesting presentation in an artistic container.

Here are the steps:

  • Prune the twigs and branches back fairly close to create an upside-down Adenium. 
  • Leave several short stems for new growth.
  • Prepare a container like you would when starting cuttings or repotting a Desert Rose.
  • Remove your plant from its original container and wash the root ball. 
  • Trim back long, straggly roots for a better appearance,
  • Pot the plant upside down with roots sticking up and the top of the plant underground.
  • Take care of the Adenium as you would a right-side-up Adenium.
  • Within a couple of weeks, you’ll see sprouts emerging from the sides of the root.

Soon, you will have leaves, blossoms, and a dark mass of roots with tendrils that have adapted for photosynthesis. These tendrils may turn slightly green.

In the video below, you’ll see the interesting upside-down planting technique demonstrated and an explanation of how and why it works.

Adenium Root Rot and Other Common Pests and Problems

Rotting roots is the most pervasive problem for Desert Rose. These plants retain water in their thick roots. When caring for an Adenium obesum, avoid over-watering at all costs.

Dwarf bottle trees do not like to stand in water. Instead of giving them too much water, it is better to give them too little water.

Remember to water sparingly and ensure your plant’s soil drains well.

Pests that attack desert cactus rose plants include:

More on Desert Rose Pests and Diseases

If your plant has a problem with one of these pests, treat it with neem oil insecticides to control the pests.

Where Can You Get An Adenium Desert Rose Plant?

These interesting plants are now available at mainstream garden centers. The most common variety, Adenium obesum, is available at many stores that sell plants.

Online or at nurseries focused on succulents and cacti, you can find other Adenium varieties like:

A single specimen of these tough desert species can give you lots of gardening enjoyment. 

Enjoy Adeniums in many ways:

  • Plant them in your garden
  • Keep them in containers
  • Create bonsai versions
  • Graft them together or with oleander
  • Plant them upside down to create interesting shapes and displays

Adenium Desert Rose plants can live for a long time and flourish in their natural habitat for many years.

The Adenium plant:

  • Grows in the spring
  • Enjoys the warmth of summer
  • Goes through changes in autumn
  • Rests during winter

Think of your Adenium as a tropical plant during the spring and summer months. But in autumn and winter, treat it like a cactus.

As you take care of and enjoy your Adenium plant in all the different seasons, you might start to feel a special bond with it, like you do with a good friend.

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Originally posted 2023-07-14 17:33:57.