How to care for Desert Rose or Adenium obesum

How to care for Desert Rose

Many are familiar with the succulent Adenium obesum or “Desert Rose”. This ornamental plant fascinates at first sight. And during the flowering season it is impossible to take your eyes off of it. Surely many people would like to get hold of this amazing tree. But how to grow this plant indoor? Our article will help you to understand all the subtleties of caring for Adenium obese and will acquaint you with interesting facts about this succulent.

Classification and description of the caudex plant Adenium obesum

Plant сlassification
Scientific name: Adenium obesum
Synonyms: Cameraria obesa, Nerium obesum, Pachypodium obesum, Adenium arboretum
Common name: Desert Rose
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Acpocynaceae
genus: Adenium

This species of the genus Adenium was described by Johann Jakob Remer and Joseph August Schultes in 1819. The epithet of this species obesum emphasizes its large caudex. Common names for this small tree are Desert Rose, Sabie’s Star, Impala Lily, or Layette Azalea. Adenium obese is native to Senegal, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, and the Arabian Peninsula. The succulent is naturalized in Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka and Thailand), widely cultivated around the world as a home ornamental tree.

Description plant Desert Rose

Adenium obesum is a succulent shrub or small bottle tree belonging to the family Apocynaceae. It can grow up to 0.39-16.40 ft (0.12-5 m). The succulent is easily recognized for its thick branches and swollen caudex with a spreading crown. “Desert Rose” is partly evergreen and can lose its leaves during cold or drought stress.

Photo of Adenium obese in the mountains
Photo of Adenium obese in the mountains of Africa (

In a plant growing in the wild, the caudex root can reach up to 15 ft (6 m) in length, but is usually much smaller. When growing indoors, the caudex of this succulent is much smaller. Most of it is underground with a distinct swollen base at the ground surface, which can reach up to 3 ft (1 m) or more in diameter. The upper part of the caudex may be globular or conical, with a smooth pale gray-green or brown bark.

The branches of Desert Rose are smooth, grayish-green, pubescent at the top, usually straight, may be twisted and irregularly arranged, often spreading.

Spirally arranged leaves clustered toward the shoot tips, odorless, obovate, fleshy, leathery in texture. Leaf coloration is dark green to bluish-green, paler green and duller underneath. Leaves measure 2.0-5.9 inches (5-15 cm) long and 0.39-3.15 inches (1-8 cm) wide.

The fetus is a double follicle 4 inches (10 cm) to 9 inches (22 cm) long, resembling bullhorns. The two follicles are connected at the base. When they mature, they split on one side, releasing the seeds.

Desert Rose blooms

Adenium obesum can bloom all year round, even sometimes in winter, but it blooms during the dry periods of spring and fall. Flowers often appear before leaves, and for some time the crown is decorated with flowers only, and only later new leaves appear under the flowers.

Desert Rose blooms

The monophyllous flowers are very showy and are often arranged in dense tassels that are above the leaves. The tubular flowers are 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) long and outer 2-3 inches (4-6 cm) in diameter with five petals. The colors range from red or pink to white, often with a whitish blush.

Although bright sun stimulates flowering, ‘Desert Rose’ takes a break during the hottest and rainiest months of the growing season. This results in two periods of blooming. Flowers begin to bloom in early spring. With the optimum amount of light received, your plant should bloom steadily into midsummer. When the heat wave sets in, flowering will stop for 6-8 weeks and resume in the early fall months.

Adenium obesum poison

The plant contains copious, sticky white sap that leaks from a broken stem as well as from other parts of the plant such as leaves, roots. All parts of the plant are very toxic to humans and pets alike. Ingestion of the milky white sap secreted by the plant can actually cause death. Aware of this characteristic, African tribes used the sap to poison their arrows to kill large animals.

Warning. Be sure to wear long-sleeved clothing and use gloves before doing anything to the plant (transplanting, pruning or propagation). Try to keep the pot with the flower away from children and pets.

Desert Rose or Adenium obesum indoor care: detailed guide

Under natural conditions, the plant celebrates spring, rests in the summer heat, comes to life in the fall and hibernates in the winter. These features in its life need to be taken into account when caring for it. We will describe in detail how to grow this indoor flower and give some tips.

Soil Requirements of Desert Roses

These hardy desert dwellers will adapt to almost any climate as long as they are provided with well-drained soil. Add pumice, perlite, sand, and brick chips to regular soil or a quality succulent soil mix. It is worth knowing that Desert Rose rarely uses the top third of the soil. Often this area serves as mulch or simply as a support for the caudex.

When planting, make sure that the bulk of the roots are below the surface of the soil.

What kind of pot to use

You can use containers made of almost any material, but it is better to use ceramic pots. Do not choose a very deep pot, as this can promote the formation of an elongated underground caudex (carrot-shaped). The pot should have several drainage holes to allow excess water to drain away quickly.

photo of a succulent Desert Rose in a pot
A shallow pot will do a great job of helping Adenium caudex form.

Make sure the container is sturdy because the aggressive growth of Adenium obese roots can tear fragile plastic containers. If you are using a saucer, you should not allow water to stagnate in it.


The Desert Rose tree is sensitive to sub-zero temperatures. When growing indoors, the minimum winter temperature should not be less than 41 °F (5 °C). But the flower can do well in the heat up to 104 °F (40 °C). The succulent Adenium obesum needs a dry and cool microclimate at 50 °F (10 °C) in winter. If this temperature is maintained over a long period of time, the plant will bloom abundantly in the warmer months. Where the year-round temperature is sufficiently warm and without spikes, the Adenium discus can bloom continuously. In a very bright and warm environment, such as a greenhouse, the plant can remain active during the winter months. If you bring it indoors for the winter, it will probably remain in a semi-dormant state until spring arrives.

Remember. A sudden change in temperature can cause the plant to partially shed its foliage.


Bright filtered light is best. In places where the light is not as scorching, the pot with the flower can be kept outside in the open sun without protection from the rays.

Adenium pot outside
Try to take the pot with the plant outdoors in the summer.

In the shade, the plant begins to stretch out and flowering stops. When the temperature starts to drop and the day becomes short, you should move your Adenium indoors.

Worth knowing! Caudex is very susceptible to sunburn.


Water the plants preferably early in the morning until the soil is well wet, allow excess water to drain from the bottom of the pot. Never allow plants to dry out too often, as this will cause them to go into an early dormant state. Many succulents often don’t get enough water for normal growth and flowering, so keep them active and growing by supplying them with everything they need. During the growing season, check the soil every few days. It is important to remember that Desert Rose roots should never get waterlogged. Water moderately during the winter months, just like another common succulent.

Succulent information

Fertilize the Adenium Desert Rose.

During the growing season, it is advisable to fertilize occasionally with slow-release compound fertilizers or water-soluble liquid fertilizers. In spring, when the plant is awakening from its winter dormancy, a diluted fertilizer can be given once every couple of weeks. In summer, reduce the amount to once a month. Close to winter, stop feeding so that the plant can survive the winter.


The desert rose does not tolerate cold weather. Once the temperature reaches 50 °F (10 °C) , the plant will begin to shed its leaves and go into dormancy.

Photo of a blooming Desert Rose

Keep the plant indoors in the winter and reduce the frequency of watering. The succulent can be left alone until spring. As soon as the temperature starts to rise, increase the frequency of watering, move the pot with the plant closer to the window.


The desert rose does not tolerate cold weather. Once the temperature reaches 50 °F (10 °C) , the plant will begin to shed its leaves and go into dormancy. Keep the plant indoors in the winter and reduce the frequency of watering. The succulent can be left alone until spring. As soon as the temperature starts to rise, increase the frequency of watering, move the pot with the plant closer to the window.

How to make Desert Rose bloom

This succulent is highly sensitive to water and sunlight. Excessive watering and lack of sunlight can cause a delay in flowering. In addition, when transplanting, sometimes the plant needs a little time to take root in its new habitat. As a result, it may not bloom for a while.

If your Adenium obesum doesn’t bloom, make sure it gets enough sunlight and fertilize it regularly (especially if it was recently transplanted into a new pot). With plenty of direct sunlight, it should start blooming in a short time.

How to prune a Desert Rose?

Since this tree can grow quite large, a combination of pruning and feeding is very important to keep it at an acceptable size for you. It needs regular pruning to keep your plant beautiful, well-groomed, and to shape its crown. Be sure to trim the branches above the leaves to be more likely to form several new branches.

How do I shape the crown of an Adenium?

During the growing season, pinch or prune unnecessary branches. Before moving the plant indoors for the winter, trim off excess branches – this will make the resting period more efficient for the plant. In addition, it will be easier to keep the compact tree indoors during the winter months. Pruning in the winter often does not produce reliable branching.

Before sending the plant back outside or on the balcony for the growing season, it’s a good idea to do a good pruning. Cut back dead or damaged vegetation. Cut off cluttered branches to improve the crown of the plant. You can use these branches as cuttings to grow new plants.

How to transplant a Desert Rose correctly

These plants are relatively slow growing and should not be transplanted more often than every two to three years. Be careful not to plant the flower in too large a container, as this will encourage root growth and may reduce the number of flowers the Desert Rose produces.

Before transplanting, choose a ceramic pot in which your plant’s root system will be a few inches larger for further stem growth. Be sure to shake off the old soil from the roots and replace it completely with a fresh, new, nutritious soil mixture.

Further steps are simple – we put a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot, sprinkle a little soil in the container and set the caudex. Next, add soil, trying to fill all the voids and lightly tamp it. Check the tree for stability. You can moisten the soil so it settles.

After the first 3 years of life, lift the tree every time you transplant, exposing more and more of the underground caudex and roots.

Propagation methods of Adenium obesum

Experienced florists use two methods of propagation: cuttings and seeds. Let us consider both methods in more detail.


If your plant has long shoots, pruning is recommended to shape the crown and control the growth of the plant. You can use the cut branches to propagate new plants.

The advantage of cuttings is that you can do many interesting things, such as grafting cuttings of succulents that bloom with flowers of one color onto plants that bloom with flowers of a different shade.

In Europe, you can often find Adenium discum grafted onto the rootstock of Oleander. This method of grafting allows the Desert Rose to grow faster and produce more flowers.

Twigs at least 5 inches (15 cm) long make ideal cuttings for rooting. After pruning the plant, choose the best branches. Lay them out on newspaper or a paper towel in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight and let them dry for 48 hours.

Cuttings of Adenium deseum

  • Prepare a pot or container with a well-drained, sand-based soil mixture. You can use an earth mixture for cacti and succulents, or shape it yourself using equal amounts of all-purpose soil, coconut fiber or peat moss, sand, and very fine gravel. Do not forget to put a layer of gravel or expanded clay on the bottom of the container for good drainage. Some flower growers dip the cuttings in water until the roots appear.
  • Treat the cut end with Kornevin and stick it into the soil. Use a watering can to thoroughly soak the planting mix. Moisten every couple of days to keep the soil moist, but don’t let it get wet. Desert rose does not like overwatering, and the roots will rot quickly.
  • Place the pot with the seedling in a warm, lighted spot indoors or outdoors and keep a close eye on it. If you’re using the room, be sure to turn the young plant over every day or two so it gets even sunlight. Otherwise, it will bend toward the sun.

When the cuttings begin to put out new leaves, it means it is well enough to take root. Adeniums can be moved to a sunnier location. Mature, well-rooted Desert Rose plants will grow beautifully in bright sunlight. A young seedling grown from cuttings will not have a thick, interesting root structure above the ground at first. The caudex will develop below the soil level and can later be exposed when transplanted without harming the plant.

Adenium propagation by seeds

The advantage of propagating a flower from seed is that you will get a plant with a thick base of the above-ground part of the caudex – this makes these plants interesting and attractive. The caudex will take several years to form, so you have to be patient.

Many hybrids are propagated primarily by grafting onto rootstock from seedlings.

You can buy Adenium obesum seeds online or from specialized nurseries, but the seeds must be fresh. The fresher the seeds, the better the germination results will be. If you have several plants to cross-pollinate, you can collect Desert Rose seeds from your flowers at the end of the growing season and plant them in the spring.

Notice the seed pods that resemble bean pods. They usually appear in pairs. As the pods mature, they will become swollen. At this point, you can put a small pouch over the pods and secure it with string or a rubber band. This will prevent the seeds from flying around when the pod bursts. When the pod bursts, collect the seeds and remove the dandelion-like down from the ends. For best results, plant fresh seeds immediately.

How to Sow Adenium Seeds

  • Before planting the seeds, first prepare a nutritious soil mixture consisting of 50% peat moss or coconut fiber and 50% sand or perlite. Use a shallow container or tray. The seeds can be soaked beforehand.
  • Spread the seeds evenly over the surface of the soil and lightly cover them with a thin layer of sand. Use a sprayer to evenly saturate the nutrient medium with water. Repeat this process every other day until the seeds germinate.
  • Place the container with the seeds in a place with bright indirect light. Keep the soil at a constant temperature of 78-84°F (26-29°C) to allow the seedlings to germinate.

Photo of Desert Rose sprout from seed

Expect the seedlings to emerge within three to seven days. Continue to spray them every couple of days. The seedlings should be large enough to be transplanted into individual containers (after about a month).

Diseases and pests of Adenium obesum

The most common problem for Desert Rose is root rot. This plant retains water in its thick roots. They cannot tolerate stagnant moisture in the soil. Remember to water sparingly and make sure your plant’s drainage system is working properly.

A fungal disease called anthracnose is sometimes a problem for adeniums. If brown spots appear on your plant’s leaves and then they turn yellow and fall off, anthracnose is probably the problem. Again, don’t despair. The disease usually occurs in early summer or fall and goes away on its own. Just reduce watering and collect the fallen leaves to remove the fungal spores. Your plant should recover well.

Pests that can bother the flower: aphids, spider mites, mealybugs. If you find that your plant has a problem with one of these pests, an insecticide treatment should remove them from the flower. Another solution for pest control is to use neem oil.

Desert Rose care yellow leaves

When you detect leaf yellowing in a succulent, it may be the first sign of root rot. At this point, it’s best to stop the progression of the disease. Reduce the frequency of watering and allow the soil to dry out. The plant may need to be removed and replanted in a new pot with fresh substrate.

It is advisable to cut off yellowed leaves with a clean, sharp knife. Treat the leaves with fungicides or neem oil.

Popular varieties of Desert Rose

There are not many subspecies of this species, but there are many hybrid varieties, the main difference of which is the coloring of their flowers. Let’s describe the most popular of them.


Adenium obesum subs. boehmianum or Adenium boehmianum

A small peculiar species with a silver colored caudex.

Adenium obesum subs. boehmianum или Adenium boehmianum

Flowers are pink to dark reddish in color, varying greatly in size, appearing with the leaves, averaging 2-3 inches (6-7 cm) in diameter. The leaves are broad, grayish green. It is a slow-growing flower and almost always drops its leaves during dormancy.

Adenium obesum ssp. swazicum or Adenium swazicum

Another name is Lily Impala. It is a dwarf shrub 1-2 feet (20-70 cm) tall with an enlarged stem and several branches, sometimes partially underground.

Adenium obesum ssp. swazicum или Adenium swazicum Mature plants have massive roots and thick stems, but the caudex is only noticeable in young ones. The flowers are spectacular, ranging from pink or purple to dark reddish-purple, usually darker at the throat, appearing with the leaves.

Adenium oleifolium or Adenium obesum subs. oleifolium

This variety is a soft-tipped shrub up to 1 foot (35 cm) tall, forming a dense mass of rather fleshy leaves and stems.

Adenium oleifolium или Adenium obesum subs. оleifoliumThis small species can be distinguished by its long, narrow leaves, often folded along the middle vein. The flowers are spectacular, pale pink to red, more intense around the edge, appearing along with the leaves.

Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum or Adenium socotranum

Endemic to the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean. This variety is the largest plant of the Adenium obesum species, forming a massive conical trunk with a caudex over 10 feet (over a meter) tall and up to 7 feet (1.4 m) in diameter, and the entire plant reaches 13 feet (4 m) in height.

Adenium obesum ssp. socotranum или Adenium socotranum

The leaves are up to 5 inches (12 cm) long, dark green with a white midvein and light colored large veins. In late spring it blooms pale pink to a darker shade of pink.

Also worth noting are several hybrid varieties that differ in their flowers.

Adenium obesum black swamp – the main difference of this hybrid is the almost black flowers. Most hybrid varieties are designated by numbers. In the photo you can see several flowers of different varieties.

Adenium obesum black swamp
Adenium obesum black swamp

Most hybrid varieties are designated by numbers. In the photo you can see several flowers of different varieties.

Фото нескольких сортов Адениума

What is the difference between Adenium obesum and Adenium arabicum

Many rare plant lovers often confuse these two species of Adeniums with each other. How do you distinguish between them? To do this, you first need to look at their caudex. Adenium obesum is smaller and thinner than Arabicum.

Фото листьев Адениума обесум и арабикаSecondly, the leaves of Adenium arabicum are smaller and more rounded, while those of obesum are long and large. Thirdly, Adenium arabicum blooms pink, while descombe is covered with a huge number of inflorescences of different colors, from white and red to burgundy and soft pink.

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