A Desert Rose plant, Adenium Obesum, is a lovely, unique – looking, slow growing succulent plant native to the semi-arid regions of Arabia, the eastern and western parts of Africa, and Madagascar. It’s quite the conversation piece, especially when in bloom, and is very easy to care for. A Desert Rose plant is in the Adenium genus and a member of the Dogbane family, other plants in this family include Vinca (periwinkle), Oleander, and Plumeria.
Desert Rose Plant Description
A Desert Rose plant is a type of caudiciform or “fat plant.” All caudiciforms have a caudex, a thick, bulbous base and fat, swollen trunk and stems. The interesting shape of the caudex can make a Desert Rose plant look like a natural bonsai without any effort on your part. When grown indoors, a Desert Rose plant is about 2ft–5ft tall and 1ft-3 ft wide. It produces sparse, small, leathery green leaves and beautiful 1″-2″ saucer- shaped flowers at the ends of the branches. The flowers are usually red, pink, or white, and the plant is quite a conversation piece when in bloom. The fat, bulbous trunk is partially or completely buried in the soil. It’s important to remember that a Desert Rose contains a toxic sap that will irritate your skin, eyes, and mouth, and should never be ingested. In Africa, the sap is used to make poison arrows for hunting large animals.
Desert Rose Plant Problems
No flowers: Not enough light, too much fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small., or the plant is still too young to flower
Yellow leaves: Usually due to over watering. The thick leaves stores water and gets soft when the plant needs water or too much direct sun
Green leaves falling off: Soil has gotten too dry
Shriveled, wrinkled caudex: This usually occurs when the plant needs water but can also be an indication of over watering and root rot.
Quick Care Tips for a Desert Rose Plant
Bright, indirect light
Allow the soil to practically dry out before watering
Feed monthly from May to October
Prefers warm temperatures above 60°F (15.6°C)
Use a soil that drains quickly
Keep in a small pot to prevent over watering
Leaves fall off a Desert Rose plant when it is over-watered. This is a succulent plant that requires very little water.
Here are a few hints that might help your Desert Rose plant develop a thicker trunk. When you re-pot your Desert Rose, lift the root ball higher in the new pot so that the top part of the roots is exposed. Feed with a good fertilizer high in phosphorus. This should help the trunk of your Desert Rose become more bulbous.
You need to aggressively prune your Desert Rose plant if you want it to look better. Cut back two or three of the stems almost to the main trunk, and place the plant in bright light. The new growth should start within three or four weeks. Once the new growth starts to develop, cut another two stems back. Check our Glossary under propagation/ plant cuttings to see how you can use these Stem Cuttings to start new plants.
A Desert Rose plant requires a great deal of bright light to flower. It also need to be fed with a fertilizer high in phosphorous, that’s the middle number on a plant food package (10/20/10), in order to bloom. A Desert Rose flowers more in the spring and fall than in summer and winter.