Desert Rose Plant Care – How To Grow Adenium Plants

The Desert Rose plant, or botanically Adenium obesum, is a species of flowering plants that belong to the Apocynum or dogbane family. The Adenium genus contains six subspecies after the latest reclassifications in the 20th century.

Although at one point the genus Adenium was attributed to 12 species, many of them have since been regarded as common variations or subspecies or the now six official subspecies, hence the modern list containing only six names, including the Adenium obesum or Desert Rose.

Desert rose (Adenium) flowering growing in a clay pot in full sunPin

The Desert Rose is also known as Japanese frangipani or Bangkok kalachuchi in Thailand.

Moreover, other species also have generic names such as Impala Lily, Sabi Star, Mock Azalea, or Dwarf Bottle tree.

Sometimes these names are also used in reference to the Desert Rose plant, even though it wouldn’t be accurate.

The genus is spread across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

The Desert Rose is known to be particularly widespread in between Senegal and Somalia, and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Growing The Desert Rose Plant

Although called Desert Rose, Adenium obesum is not a rose, neither does it resemble one.

The plant can reach impressive heights of well above 9 feet but most likely you’ll get around 3’ feet tall.

The leaves are arranged in a spiral pattern and can grow up to 6” inches long and around 2” inches wide.

The flowers are tubular and spawn five petals. The flowers always feature both red and pink accents with red favoring the outer portion of the petals.

The inside of the petal is often light pink or white under some conditions.

The Desert Rose thrives in temperatures of up to 90 degrees fahreinhite.

The plant prefers bright conditions though this doesn’t mean it can only be grown outside.

With proper lighting and temperature control, it does equally fine indoors. [1]

Like most houseplants in temperate regions, the Desert Rose and all its related species don’t like overly moist soil.

Good drainage is not just preferred but mandatory. The plant stores plenty of water in its swollen trunk.

Grooming is necessary during the growing season and before winter hits.

That’s because if you want to keep the plant indoors, it’s easier to have a smaller plant to work with.

How To Propagate Adenium

There are three ways to propagate Desert Rose:

  • Seeds
  • Grafting
  • Tissue culture

As a homeowner, using seeds or seedlings is fairly easy as long as you have the right soil.

Planting the seeds or seedlings in the spring is usually best even when you want to grow them inside. [2]

Caring For The Desert Adeniums

In order to grow a healthy Desert Rose plant, plant in soil or potting mixture designed for cacti – well-drained, aerated not compact, with plenty of room for the roots to develop.

Consider pruning the plant if it’s kept indoors.

This is even more important if you’re thinking about moving the plants outside and bring it back in for the winter.

Watering needs to be reduced during the winter. A smaller plant is easier to tend to.

Nutrients shouldn’t be provided during the winter even if you keep the plant inside.

Adenium Pests, Diseases, Or Problems

The Desert Rose is highly attractive to various pests. Scale, spider mites, and mealybugs might give you a hard time.

One of the main reasons why most Desert Rose plants die is overwatering. Pests and winter feeding come after that.

To control pests apply neem oil or insecticidal oil.

Desert Rose Tips and Tricks

A simple trick to check the plant’s health is to examine the trunk.

If the trunk is thick and swollen, it means it has no problem retaining plenty of moisture for periods of drought. This is always an indicator of good health.

If you grow your Desert Rose outside, make sure it gets some protection at noon.

Although the plant enjoys direct sunlight, the leaves can still scorch if it’s too bright and hot outside.

Keeping an eye out for pests is important and if you spot an infestation in time, it’s easy to get rid of.

You can swipe the plant with cotton balls soaked in alcohol to remove and kill insects while also making the plant unappealing to them for a short time.

The plant’s roots produce a highly toxic sap. It is often used to lace arrowheads for hunting large game.

Due to the toxicity of the plant, you may also want to consider using gloves when planting or repotting it.

Best Ways To Use Adenium In Design

The bright flowers make the Desert Rose a very vibrant addition to any garden or interior flower arrangement.

When grown indoors, watching the plant may be most satisfying.

While it flourishes with plenty of sunlight and it grows much taller outside, during the winter the plant tends to drop its flowers and leaves.

Buying Tips

As previously stated, a swollen trunk is always a good sign. Look for that when picking out a Desert Rose for your landscaping needs.

A skinny stem doesn’t indicate ill health or a very young plant, it just indicates that it’s incapable of retaining water.

You won’t find Desert Rose plants in all home improvement stores but you should be able to buy them at landscaping supply stores or other gardening stores.

You should also be able to order small seedlings and seeds online.

Make sure you ask for cactus potting soil mixture too if you’re planning to grow the Desert Rose inside your home.

What Are The Most Popular Desert Rose Species And Varieties?

The classic red and pink Desert Rose or Adenium obesum is the most popular choice for use as household plants.

However, the Adenium arabicum and Adenium swazicum also enjoy plenty of popularity due to their impressive flowering characteristics and their resemblance to bonsai trees.


Although not a beginner-friendly household plant, the Desert Rose is not hard to tend to if you put in the time to learn its needs.

It features very vibrant colors and reaches maturity fairly fast which means you don’t have to wait a long time before you can show off your decorative and gardening skills.

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