Desert Rose Plant Care

Adenium obesum

Desert rose plant care consists mainly of keeping this succulent plant warm and in bright light. If Adenium obesum does not receive sufficient light, it becomes leggy and vulnerable to insects.

The east African desert rose grows to a height of 18-36 inches with an equal spread. The trunk is a swollen, water storing caudex like that of the ponytail palm .The leathery leaves are dark green and glossy.During the summer months, long pointed flower buds open into pink blooms that look like small mandevilla flowers.

How to Grow Desert Roses

Desert rose flowers.

This is a tropical plant that is only hardy outdoors in USDA zones 10 and 11. Gardeners in other zones must grow them in pots and protect them from any frost.

Unless you have a greenhouse, this is problematic. Adenium obesum needs full sun in order to grow well and develop a pleasing form.

I am currently overwintering a desert rose plant in my south facing living room, not six inches from a nearly floor-to-ceiling window. This is the brightest spot in my house. The light is too bright from me to read in.But it’s not bright enough for this plant.

Desert rose plant growing in a pot at Bok Tower Gardens.I’ve had to stake the stems to keep them from sprawling.And I’m wiping it down with rubbing alcohol on a weekly basis in an attempt to keep ahead of the scale and mealy bugs which have taken up residence on the leaves and stems.I am watering it regularly because the sun is on it all day and dries the soil out quickly.

I’m withholding food until it goes back outside in the spring.

During warm weather, the plant can be fed at half strength every week.

Tip: Add a teaspoon of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and water them with this once in a while.

Over watering, especially in winter, is to be avoided for fear of rot setting in.

Desert Rose Disease

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The biggest challenge in desert rose plant care is preventing trunk rot which comes mainly from over watering and planting too deeply. Pot these plants in a loose mix. A clay pot might be best if you are the type who tends to be generous with the water.

When repotting, set only the roots into the soil. Keep the trunk setting on top of it.

Desert roses don’t need very deep soil. As they grow and you need to pot them up, try to find wider but not deeper pots. If you must use a deep pot, fill it half way with pebbles so there won’t be so much soil to stay wet and imperil the plant’s small root system.

Desert Rose Propagation

Desert Rose, Kenya, East Africa

If you master desert rose plant care, you will end up with a large, symmetrical plant that flowers beautifully throughout the growing season. You will certainly want more of these plants.

After the flowers drop, you may notice long seed pods forming (it does not happen every year on every plant). Let these dry on the plant before breaking them open to collect the seed inside.

Soak the seed in water for a couple of hours before sowing it on the surface of pre-moistened potting mix. Mist the seeds to settle them onto the mix. Cover the flat with plastic and set it in a sunny window. Keep it warm and the seeds will sprout in less than 2 weeks.

A rack of desert rose “babies”.The other way to reproduce desert rose plants is by taking cuttings.Let the cut ends dry for a couple of days before placing them in moist soil.Beware of the poisonous sap.Cutting grown plants will not develop the swollen base that these plants are known for.Seedlings will develop a caudex but the flower color may not be the same as that of the mother plant.Desert rose plant care can be somewhat demanding but many collectors feel that the interesting shape and gorgeous flowers of this plant make it worth the effort.

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