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Looking for the next wicked, cool succulent? Check out Adenium Obesum or the Desert Rose!


The Desert Rose is a unique looking succulent native to the semi-arid regions of Arabia and the eastern and western parts of Africa. This plant is a type of caudiciform or “fat plant” because of its thick bulbous base. When grown indoors, a Desert Rose can be 2ft - 5ft tall and 1ft - 3 ft wide. Desert Rose plants have beautiful flowers and sparse small leaves. The 1″- 2″ saucer shaped blooms are quite a conversation piece and can be red, pink, or white. The fat, bulbous trunk is partially or completely buried in the soil.


Desert rose has become a popular ornamental garden plant in USDA zones 10 to 11. The rest of us in cooler zones will have to resort to growing Adenium indoors, giving the plant a vacation in the summer on the patio or deck. Desert rose plant care can be difficult and requires some knowledge of the life cycle of the species. Follow some basic Adenium desert rose growing tips for healthy plants that won’t disappoint with full crowns of richly colored tubular flowers.


All succulent plants have some sort of water storage system, be it leaves, stems, or roots. In desert rose, the trunk swells to conserve moisture for times of drought. A nice fat trunk is an indicator of plant health. A skinny stem can indicate that the plant requires more moisture.


An interesting bit of desert rose plant info is its natural resemblance to a bonsai plant, with a short stature when mature, and tidy canopy perched atop the graduated stem. Although the desert rose plant is a carefree succulent, it won’t bloom unless you mimic its native region’s conditions. Many growers seem to have trouble caring for desert rose plants, but these can truly be easy to maintain if you keep in mind the water, temperature, and lighting needs of Adenium.

Light - Desert rose succulents like bright light, so place it in your most sunniest spot in the house, a southern window exposure provides enough sun for the plants to flourish and bloom. In the garden, choose a sunny location that has some protection from noonday sun, as this can scorch the foliage.


They can also do well with bright morning sun or bright afternoon sun but may not flower as heavy. If kept in the shade, these plants become leggy and weak-stemmed.

Temperature - The Desert Rose is a sun lover and blossoms in the prolific outdoors. It requires 70°F to 100° F to grow well, and like most succulents, cannot survive in cold temperatures. If you live somewhere that isn’t arid year-round, always move your desert rose inside when the climate changes.

Make sure the temperature where you keep your Desert Rose doesn’t drop below 60 degrees. Avoid air conditioning and cold drafts! This allows plants to bloom more vibrantly and healthily in springtime.

Water  - When it comes to watering, think of your Desert Rose as a tropical plant in the spring and summer and as a cactus in the autumn and winter.


The fat bulbous base of a Desert Rose stores water, so always allow the soil to just about dry out before watering. If the soil becomes excessively dry, the plant becomes dormant; once you give the plant a little water, it quickly starts growing again.


The one thing that will kill these plants quickly is improper watering. They are succulents but are used to rainy periods during which they grow, followed by a dormant, dry period. Match your watering practices to these needs for best success. Keep soil moderately moist in spring and summer. In the fall and winter when the amount of sunlight the plant receives lessens, it may go into a dormant period and even lose its leaves. Cut way back on watering in the winter, and treat the plant as you would a cactus. Water it only when the soil is completely dry, about once every two or three weeks.

Humidity - Basic household humidity is sufficient for Desert Rose to grow well and look good.

Soil - The key to keeping your Desert Rose happy is to give it lots of drainage-- typical succulent potting soil with pumice or sand provides plenty of space for water to drain. You can also put layers of gravel above and below the soil to prevent your succulent from rotting. I like mixing my soil for this plant with 1/2 potting soil, 1/2 sand.

Fertilizer - Feed a Desert Rose plant with a fertilizer for flowering plants. The plant food should be lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous (10/20/10) to promote flowers. Feed monthly from late spring until early fall. Always dilute your plant food to one half the recommended strength. Do not feed the desert rose during winter.

Flowering - Even though bright sun stimulates blossom production, the Desert Rose takes a break during the very hottest and rainiest months of the growing season. This results in two periods of blooming. You’ll see flowers begin to develop in early spring. With the right amount of light, your plant should bloom steadily until mid-summer. Blossoming will cease for 6-8 weeks only to resume in the early autumn months.

Re-pot - Desert Rose are relatively slow growing, and they should not need repotting more often than once every two or three years. Be careful not to move it up to too large a container as this will encourage root growth and may detract from the number of blooms your plant produces plus is a recipe for disaster as larger pots retain too much water.


I prefer to grow my Desert Rose in a shallow, terra cotta pot which will allow the soil to properly dry between watering.

Maintenance - Remove dying leaves to maintain good looks. You can prune a Desert Rose any time during the year. Flowers develop on the new growth so pruning well before the plant blooms encourages more branching and more flowers.

Pests - Aphids, spider mites, and mealy bug can all be a problem. If a Desert Rose becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength. DO NOT use Neem oil on a Desert Rose! I killed mine this way...the oil sets up and suffocates the leaves.


The most pervasive problem for Desert Rose is root rot. The importance of avoiding over watering cannot be overstated. These plants retain water in their thick roots. They do not need or want to stand in water, so it is far better to err on the side of underwatering when it comes to watering. Remember to water sparingly and make sure your plant’s drainage system is working properly.

Propagation - You can propagate your Desert Rose with both leaves and cuttings right at the start of the growing season.

Winter Dormancy - When the weather begins to turn cold (55 degrees Fahrenheit or less on a consistent basis) give your plant a good pruning and bring it in the house.

In a very bright, warm environment such as a greenhouse, Adenium can remain active throughout the winter months. If you bring your plant into your house for the winter, it will probably stay in a semi-dormant state until spring arrives. During this time, just keep it in a warm room with bright, indirect light, and really reduce watering to a minimum.

Special Notes - The desert rose is highly toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and humans, so it’s best kept away from pets and children.