Adenium, popularly known as desert rose, is a genus of perennial flowering plants native to Africa & Arabian Peninsula. The Desert rose plant is famous worldwide for colourful flowers and the broad, swollen shape of caudices. It can grow up to 3 to 9 feet tall & leaves are leathery, fleshy, ovate and spirally arranged up to 4 inches long.

Flower colour varies from red, pink, white to yellow. However, some species of adenium, such as Adenium boehmianum, A. multiflorum, and A. obesum contains toxic cardiac glycosides in their sap. That’s why in Africa, tribal communities use them to make arrow poison for hunting.

There are around 12 species & numerous varieties of desert roses that you can grow in your garden. This beautiful plant’s care requirements differ slightly from most commonly found tropical plants. As it is native to semi-arid regions, therefore it can survive with minimal watering for longer durations.

To get best growth & flowering, you can follow the following guidelines to care for adeniums.

Adenium Care Guide

  1. Climate: It can grow well in semi-arid or hot, dry tropical climates. Desert rose can not tolerate temperature below 15o Celsius, hence you need to keep them indoors during chilling cold winters. Average temperature ranging from 21 to 26o Celsius is good for growing adeniums.
  1. USDA Zones: You can grow them as perennials in USDA zones 10 to 11.
  1. Planting Season: Avoid planting desert rose plant during winters. The best time to start growing them is during spring season, which generally starts in February. During this time, new growth starts.
  1. Soil & Potting Mix: Adeniums love to grow well in well draining sandy soil. In heavy or waterlogged soil, this plant can easily get infected from root rot disease. For best growth, prepare potting mix with 50% cinder media + 50% river sand. Or you can also use 25% soil + 25% cocopeat + 25% river sand + 25% cinder media. But, avoid mixing any organic compost (can encourage root rot) in the potting mix.

    Pot For Adeniums: Premium Pots For Your Needs

    One of the best potting mix you can use can be prepared by mixing 20% cinder media + 20% pebbles + 20% bricks pieces + 40% dung manure + 20% soil. Also add one teaspoon of limestone dust in the mixture. You can try any one of the mentioned potting mix for this plant.
  1. Sunlight: Keep desert rose plant under bright direct sunlight. However, during hot summer days, you can shift the plant under bright indirct sunlight.
  1. Watering: Frequency & amount of watering totally depends on local climate & soil conditions. Only apply water when top layer of the growing medium seems completely dry & make sure that water drains out perfectly from drainage holes present at the bottom of the pot. Apply water around the base of the plant not on foliage parts.

    During winters, avoid watering frequently.
  1. Fertilizers: You will have to feed this plant during active season which is from the end of February to September. During winter, avoid adding fertilizers as they remain dormant. With the onset of new leaves on the plant, apply 1 gram of NPK (12:61:0) diluted in 1 litre of water on the plant after every 14 days till the mid of April.

    When you start noticing new buds in the plant, apply 1 grams of NPK (0:52:34) diluted in 1 litre of water after every 14 days. To get heavy flowering, you can use 1 grams of NPK (0:0:50) diluted in 1 litre of water. Once in a month also add 1/2 teaspoon epsom salt diluted in 1 litre of water around the base of the plant.

    To promote good flowering you can also apply 1 teaspoon bonemeal once in a month around the base of the plant.
  1. Pruning: It is done to get new branches & promote flowering in the active season. Pruning methods in adenium vary according to its age & size. Prune 2 years old plant just above its caudex with the help of gardening shears. Apply water thoroughly 2 days before pruning, but avoid watering after pruning till emergence of new leaves.

    In mature plant, prune branches from where the branche colour has turned grey. Avoid pruning from the region where the plant part is still green. You can prune them during September or February.

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How To Propagate Adenium Plant?

adenium seeds
Seeds of Adenium, Photo by pisauikan on Unsplash

You can propagate desert rose plant by seeds, graftings, or cuttings. But you should avoid prpagating them from cuttings, as it does not yield good caudex size. The best method is to propagate by seeds, but it can lead to genetical diversity. To propagate exotic varieites, you should try grafting propagation method.

  1. When To Propagate: You can propagate them anytime during active season, the best time is from End of February to May.
  1. Propagation Medium: Use river sand as the propagating medium or potting mix, fill them in paper cups. Do not forget to make drainage holes at the bottom.
  1. Propagation By Seeds: To propagate adeniums from seeds, sow 2 to 3 seeds in each cups, cover them with thin layer of river sand. Apply water & keep the germinating cups in indirect sunlight. Only apply water when river sand seems completely dry. Within 4 to 7 days seeds will start germinating.

    After emergence of 4 to 5 leaves, apply 1 grams of NPK (19:19:19) in 1 litre of water around the base of the plant once after every 15 days. You can transplant them after 120 days.
  1. Propagation By Grafting: Generally, you can try tablet/flat grafting or V grafting to propagate this plant. The easiest method is tablet grafting. For grafting you need a scion (plant variety you want to propagate) and a rootstock (Adenium obesum) of at least 2 years age.

    Select a healthy branch on rootstock which is at least 1/2 to 3/4th inches thick. Make a flat cut on the rootstock with the help of a sharp knife. Now, select a healthy branch of scion which is nearly of same size as the rootstock. With the help of sharp knife cut 1 to 2 inches long scion having 1 to 2 nodes. Place the bottom end of the scion on the rootstock so that no space is left between them.

    Place a clean transparent plastic strip over the scion and pull down the strips tightly pass the grafting point. Pack the ends with help of ropes, tapes, or rubbers. Keep the grafted plant under shade for 14 to 21 days. Once new leaves emerges in the scion, reomove the plastic strip and move the plant under direct sunlight gradually.

F.A.Q. On Adeniums

what type of soil is best for desert rose?

Desert rose plant loves well draining sandy soil. You can use potting mix prepared by mixing 50% coarse river sand + 50% cinder media to grow this plant.

what do desert rose seeds look like?

Desert rose seeds are present inside a bean shaped seed pot. Seeds are small, brown in colour & are attached to fluffy pappus.

Are adenium poisonous to cats

Sadly, yes, Adeniums are poisonous to cats. They contains toxic cardiac glycosides in their sap.

How often to water adenium in summer?

Watering depends on local climate & soil media. If soil is sandy and well draining then you can apply water once after every 3 days. During flowering, you will need to to water more frequently.

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