How to Grow and Care for Desert Rose Plant: Comprehensive Guide
You might think that because desert roses are native to arid regions, they’d be tough and require little maintenance to thrive. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
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The Desert rose plant or Adenium obesum, is a low-maintenance succulent plant that has a bonsai appearance with beautiful colored flowers that can sustain the harsh environment. It can be grown as a houseplant or an outdoor shrub in gardens. Soil moisture and light exposure are the two most crucial factors for the healthy growth of desert roses.
Let’s learn more about desert roses and how you can keep them thriving.
What Is a Desert Rose?
Desert rose, or Adenium obesum, is a succulent plant and most sought after among plant lovers due to its weird trunk and bright-colored flowers. It possesses thick stems, swollen caudex, and an open crown of grey-green leaves. During summer, the desert rose, or a satisfied succulent produces dozens of showy and bell-shaped flowers— deep pink or pink with white centers and white. The branches are smooth and grey-green to brown, with terminals arranged spirally.
Desert roses can be grown as an indoor bonsai plant or upside down due to their unusual growth habit. For example, to achieve the upside-down growth of desert rose, prune off the extra branches and twigs, and remove the plant from the pot or container.
Wash off the roots to remove root balls and re-pot them as the head in the soil and roots are upside.
Over time, leaflets, leaves, and even blossoms will emerge from the root masses, converting the plant into a unique and beautiful centerpiece.
The adenium genus belongs to the Apocynaceae family, native to warmer climates—Africa and Arabian Peninsula. This family hosts evergreen and drought-deciduous succulents with bizarre growing habits.
Among Apocynaceae members, the desert rose (Adenium obesum) plant is the most available and extensively cultivated variety. It can be grown as indoor and outdoor flowering plants depending upon the region's temperature where it is grown.
The Desert rose plant is easy to grow and maintain. Thanks to its bulbous trunk, it can tolerate hot and dry conditions. This succulent plant stores water in its swollen stem and roots to survive the drought conditions—an adaptation to tropical plants' way of life.
Quick Desert Rose Care Guide
Adenium obesum or A. obesum var obesum
Desert rose, Mock Azalea, Impala Lily, Sabi Star, or Fat Adenium (due to thick trunk)
Apocynaceae or milkweed
Succulent shrubs or trees
Sub Saharan Africa (Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, and Swaziland) and Arabian Pennisula (Yemen)
Slow-growing but long-living
Summer (June to August)
Up to 5 feet
6 to 10 feet
Moderate water use
Neutral to Acidic
USDA Hardiness Zones
Toxic to humans, pets, and birds
Pink, white, red
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How to Grow Desert Rose
The desert rose is the easiest to grow and maintain. As long as you think you are dealing with two different plants with varying needs at different times of the year (summer and winter). When desert roses are in full growth during summer, they have food requirements similar to a tropical plant. Adenium obesum needs frequent and abundant water and fertilizer applications.
While during winter, they need a dry rest and undergo a dormant stage. At this season, desert roses require cactus treatment with little watering only on bright days.
The desert rose can grow in both indoor and outdoor environments. For example, you can keep them inside in extensive container gardens as indoor plants throughout the year by modifying growth conditions. Or in outdoor pots as flowering plants during springtime, but keep in mind to bring them indoors during winter because they are prone to frost injury.
The desert rose plant is a slow-growing succulent that can grow in interior spaces throughout the year. It takes little care and gives rewarding results in the form of colorful trumpet flowers.
All desert plants need is direct sunlight and temperatures around 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. So by maintaining the growing conditions to their needs, the desert rose can be grown as a houseplant for the entire year, including winters.
The ideal time for the desert rose plant outdoors is the early spring and summer season. At this time of the year, the outdoor environments are dry and warm, optimum for the growth of Adenium obesum.
During the winter months, bring back the container gardens indoors to prevent frost injury. Also, the cooler temperatures are for the desert rose dormancy.
How to Care for Desert Rose Plant
Adeniums are famous among ornamental plant lovers because they bring aesthetics to interior spaces because of colorful flowers. Whether growing desert roses in indoor or outdoor pots, the following are the key factors to keep in mind while adding desert rose succulents to your windowsill garden.
Since Desert Rose are drought tolerant, tropical succulents and store water in their swollen stems making it a great option for those that forget to water their plants!
Overwatering is not ideal for Adenium obesum growth and development because it attracts the invasion of pests. As the fall or cooler periods approaches, restrict or cut back the watering. Water moderately to keep the soil moist in summer and spring when growth is at its peak during warmer days. Be sure to allow the soil to dry between every watering.
Reduce watering during winter time.
During winter, the watering of Adenium obesum once a month from October to February is acceptable because they have a deciduous dormant time of three to four months for better flowering and growth in the spring.
Like all succulent plants, the desert rose needs full sun for healthy growth and flowering. They start spring growth in February and go on until early Fall. Once the transition begins, the desert rose should be in the brightest location of the garden or windowsill to get maximum sunlight.
The full-day sunlight (at least 6-8 hours+) provides desert rose with ideal conditions to grow and thrive. If the desert rose plant is kept in shaded areas or locations, it develops abnormal growth with weak leaves and no flowers.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
Adenium obesum is very sensitive to cool and frosty climates. Do not expose your desert rose plants to cool temperatures below 50°F for more extended periods. Try to maintain the temperature 60°F or higher because the desert rose plant thrives best at this temperature. Even they can tolerate temperatures up to 100 °F, but the blossoming stops at this temperature.
So, the ideal temperature for Desert Rose growth is 65°F to 90°F.
The desert rose plants adapted to grow and thrive best in warm and dry weather. So, the humidity is not very important for them to grow and start flowering.
Avoid placing your Desert Rose near air conditioners or exterior doors, windows.
Desert Roses are sensitive to drastic environmental changes. Avoid placing near exterior windows, doors, and air conditioners.
During the growing season of the desert rose plant, supplement it with liquid fertilizers weekly. Use any good quality and balanced houseplant fertilizer for healthy growth and bloom for desert roses.
Only apply the half of liquid fertilizer recommended on the label.
🌱 Best Soil For Desert Rose
All adeniums do not like wet soils and prefer well-draining soil. All the species of the desert rose plants, particularly Adenium obesum grow well in a porous or regular potting soil mix supplemented with perlite, sand, or pumice. Most importantly, try to maintain a slightly acidic soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0. You can amend with peat moss or coffee ground tea to help increase acidity.
Furthermore, the desert rose plant container should be chosen carefully because larger pots will lead to excessive root growth with few blooms. While re-potting the beautiful desert rose, be sure not to use the old soil; it may contain the eggs or larvae of pests.
😎 Pruning and Maintenance
Prune off the extra growths and frost-damaged leaves and branches during winter to help the plant dormant. Also, perform pruning and trimming before the growing season to keep the plant fresh, healthy, and at a desirable size.
The regular cuttings and pruning help the plant to bloom faithfully. While cutting the nodes, twigs, and branches, sterilize the pruning equipment with bleach or alcohol.
To prune the desert rose:
Sterilize the pruning tools with bleach or alcohol solution and sterilize them in between cuttings
Wear gloves and cut back the long branches that are crossing with other branches, and make the cuttings above leaf nodes or where the stem is joining with another stem.
Prune off the long shoots to the same length as the other plants with the help of sharp knives
Remove any leaf or branch with white fuzz (mealybugs) or fine webs (spider mites) and discard them. Inspect the leaves for irregular discoloration, which may be a sign of fungal disease.
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How to Propagate Desert Rose
All adeniums lack self-pollination and require different clones to produce healthy, viable seeds. Moreover, it requires hand pollination to ensure the fertilization of male and female reproductive parts to produce disease-free seeds. It is also essential to learn the trick of successful hand pollination.
Grow Desert Rose Plant From Seeds
Once you can have healthy, viable seeds through hand pollination, the growth rate is higher through seeds. Fresh seeds germinate rapidly in three to seven days with solid stems.
Suppose you can get healthy seeds from any reputable stores. Then, remove the seedpods, dust the seeds with fungicide and sow in a porous and well-draining soil mix. Maintain the temperatures at 85 degrees Fahrenheit for rapid germination.
Within one month, seedlings will appear with four to six true leaves. The benefit of seed propagation is that plants will flower the same year with full sun exposure, watering, and liquid fertilizer applications.
Propagate From Desert Rose Plant Cuttings
Among enthusiast gardeners, the easiest propagation method is by cuttings, such as tip cuttings. In this method:
- Step 1: Cut the tip of a leafless branch up to 5 inches.
- Step 2: Dip it in a fungicide and root hormone solution for almost three to five hours.
- Step 3: Place the tip cuttings in a damp 75/25 Perlite and Canadian peat mix.
- Step 4: Inspect the cuttings and mist with root hormones to speed up the root and trunk growth.
Observe the new growths and leaves, and remove and discard any weak and wilted fresh leaves.
How to Repot the Desert Rose
Repotting in the desert rose plant is essential to keep it root bound or restrict the growth. It is best to repot the desert rose once or after every two to three years. The best time for repotting is later winter and early spring or when the new growths appear. Root bounding of plants will slow down the growth and encourage more flowering.
While reporting the slow-growing succulent, make sure;
Select a container that provides excellent drainage (ceramic pots are perfect).
Shake off the old soil from the roots and remove dead or damaged roots (ensure the ground is dry while removing the plant from an old pot).
Place the plant in its new container with a new and nourishing potting mix. Allow the plant to dry for a week.
After a week, water the plant and ensure the water is draining well.
Avoid waterlogged or soggy soil (have a balanced amount of perlite in the soil mix to enhance the aeration) because moist soil will negatively impact the root health.
Common Desert Rose Problems & Pests
There are two principal considerations for a healthy desert rose: sunlight and soil moisture. When two conditions are not ideal, the desert rose plant reduces its vigor against insect pests and microbes.
The most common problems are:
Waterlogged soils are responsible for root rot in desert roses, especially when plants are dormant during the winter months. With a tropical succulent like Desert Rose, it's very easy to overwater. Symptoms of root rot include mushy base, leaf drop, and stunted growth.
The constant watering of dormant plants stops the oxygen supply and leads to brown, dead roots. You will need to take your plant out to inspect the roots in this case, trim the dead ones, and re-plant in fresh soil mix.
Read our in-depth root rot treatment guide.
If you're facing root rot today, read our more in-depth root rot guide here.
Yellowing Leaves or Leaf Drop
Yellowing of plant leaves is usually an early symptom of developing root rot. If you're seeing this, now is the time to stop root rot in its tracks. Make sure you let the soil dry in between waterings and stay on the more cautious side of underwatering. Fungal pathogens are responsible for root rot (due to excess moisture). Regularly monitor your plants during the growing and dormant season.
If you find any damaged or symptomatic leaves, cut away with a sterilized, sharp knife to prevent further spread. Apply the fungicides as a foliar spray, neem oil, and soil drench. Repot the desert rose in a new pot with fresh soil (having a balanced perlite and peat mix).
Spotting on Leaves
Spotting on desert rose plant leaves is due to powdery mildew (fungal infection). It is more prevalent during cool, damp nights and warm days (spring season). This irregular spotting impacts leaves' cosmetic value and damages the flower buds.
Mist the plants with neem oil spray to kill the spores of powdery mildew fungus. Maintain proper space between your indoor plants for better air circulation. It will also prevent the infection of powdery mildew.
The most common pest problems in desert rose are aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. The infestation of these pests causes unusual spotting on the lower side of leaves. Due to the feeding damage, the desert rose loses its strength against harmful pests and dies.
Spray your desert rose with high-pressure water to get rid of aphids and spider mite infestations. It will wash off the pests. Repeat the water sprays until the problem is gone.
Use AzaMax and insecticidal soap as a soil drench or foliar spray to kill the infestation of spider mites within two days. For a more natural solution, you can use neem oil. Also, prune off the frost-damaged leaves and branches because they are more susceptible to attack.
5 Tips on Desert Rose Care
A good plant care for desert rose involves two key factors: full sun and moisture content in potting soil.
Carefully choose whether you want to grow your desert rose bonsai indoors or outdoors. Keep in mind the local climate conditions of your region.
Light watering is acceptable during the growing season and once a month during the winter or dormant.
Always select the containers or pots with good drainage. Ensure the growing media contain good drainage material such as coarse sand or perlite.
Inspect the desert rose plant regularly, whether grown as a houseplant or outdoors. To keep the pests away, cut off the damaged or weak leaves and mist with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Always keep your desert roses in suitable locations to get the maximum sunlight and occasionally propagate them with healthy and balanced growth media.
Discover and Shop the Right Plants at Neverland
Plants bring happiness to our lives. Not only this, but plants have excellent healing properties for us. They clean our air and decorate our work desks and outdoors. One such plant is the desert rose.
The desert rose plant needs little care and produces bright colored flowers ranging from deep pink to pink with white centers and white. It can tolerate warm climates and can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Moreover, the desert rose can easily be propagated through seeds and cuttings; new growth appears in the spring season.
The only caution you need is to provide the proper potting soil mix and protect the desert rose from spider mites.
To get this fantastic plant, please visit Neverland.
Common FAQs for Desert Rose
How Big Does a Desert Rose Plant Get?
The desert rose plant has a bonsai appearance. Under the right climate conditions with optimum watering, light, and liquid fertilizer, it can grow up to nine feet tall and 4 feet wide. While in interior spaces, the container-grown desert rose only grows up to a few feet in height and width.
When Do Desert Rose Plants Bloom?
The bloom time for desert rose plants is summer, when they get six to eight hours of sunlight with adequate liquid fertilizer applications.
When Do Desert Rose Plants Produce Seeds?
This slow-growing succulent takes six to seven months to flower and years to produce seeds. Plants may take seven to eight years to produce viable and healthy seeds.
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