Minhbach's Weblog

April 29, 2012

Adenium Obesum /Desert rose

Filed under: Flowers, Garden — Tags: — minhbach @ 6:45 am

Obesum flower

Adenium Obesum Desert Rose ‘Lipstick’

Desert Rose is one of our favorite plants. Native to arid areas of Africa including Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda is a popular houseplant in temperate regions. Desert Rose is a succulent bush with thick fleshy branches. Adenium obesum is both beautiful and resilient. The ‘obesum’ name refers to the large fat base of the plant. Adenium obesum plants deserve far more appreciation. Desert Rose is excellent in pots especially for people who “kill everything” because Adenium lives with little care and can take a good deal of neglect.

Always at its best with some attention, your Desert Rose will become larger, more interesting and more valuable every year. Large specimens can cost $1,000 for older plants with large bases and a multitude of branches.More branches mean more flowers which are extremely attractive. 5-petaled bell-shaped or tubular flowers of varying sizes are borne at stem tips, in clusters of 3 or more. The leaves are a glossy green and semi-deciduous, depending on your care and your climate outdoors. Adenium obesum can reach 1-3m tall, though most cultivated hybrids and varieties grow between 0.5-1.5m tall and bonsai, much shorter.

Because Desert Roses are so lovely, many people wonder “How do I grow a desert rose? or “Is starting Adenium seeds difficult?” Growing a desert rose from seed is not hard at all. It simply requires a little knowledge.
Desert Rose plants from seeds develop vastly the best character with no two plants alike in shape. When your seed pod is fully ripe on the plant, it will split open revealing seeds with beautiful “wings” so that seeds will quickly blow away
Seeds like those above (naturally fresh ripe) should be planted ASAP for maximum germination percentage. As with all seeds, plant at depth of seed in high quality pro mix (peat moss based) sterile soil. Keep soil top lightly moist .

Once the seedlings appear, water only from below. In about a month, the seedlings will be large enough to transplant to a permanent container.

If you are starting Adenium seeds, you can expect that the seedlings to bloom in the same year, which is nice as the flowers are what makes them so lovely.

Position Desert Rose in full sun or some afternoon shade for best flowering, but use even less water in partial shade conditions. Select an acid soil mix with plenty of peat moss and organic elements and coarse sand. Be certain the soil mix and the pot drain very well.
If left without added water and no rain for a long time or after a cold night, your desert rose can lose most or all of its leaves. Never fear, they will re-grow after watering or after warm weather returns.
Desert Rose responds amazingly well to food so use plenty of time release pellet food Growth will be much faster and flowers will be more prolific as well. With a very well drained soil and pot and with quality fertilizer available, you can water often to stimulate maximum growth and flowering. Do not wet leaves.
Flowers are best during the spring and fall months, but flowering can occur any month of the year.

Little ‘secret’ how to create a weird shape of base
Lift the plant a bit every time you re-pot it, so the upper parts of roots will be a little exposed. The plant will form more roots that will go down. To make your plant develop a large swollen base/trunk, you need a good quality fertilizer. Fertilizer requirement for swelling up trunks is also used to increase flowering. It shouldn’t be too high in nitrogen, the middle number should be the highest. Never apply fertilizer directly on roots and do not liquid feed when a plant is thirsty: always water first slightly to avoid root burn and leaf drop.

Care tips
Care tips
I have had exceptional year-round success with the adenium so I thought I would pass along my technique.

I grow all succulents (actually, all my plants) in a mixture containing one part each of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. This fast draining, fast drying mixture is especially suited to the adenium since the plant is very subject to root/trunk-rot. Because this mix contains little in the way of nutrients, I feed my plants every time I water them with 10-20-10 (Peter’s, MiracleGro), one tablespoon per gallon of water. I also grow all of my plants in clay pots because they allow air absorption/water leaching and they also permit any excess fertilizer to leach as well (yeah, the pots get a little fuzzy looking but I brush off the fuzz every couple of months or so. For adeniua, I add approximately one-quarter cup, more or less, of small pebbles to one cup of my potting mix. I got this tip from folks who grow adenia in bonsai fashion (they rely on the pebbles for better anchorage since they use shallow, often rectangular pots, allowing the roots to grow off to the side). I use small, polished pebbles that are used in fish tanks (plain pebbles, not the colored ones). One other very beneficial tip from my bonsai friends: DO NOT embed the trunk in the potting soil. Re-pot your plant such that only the roots are in the soil with the trunk seemingly resting on top of the soil. This greatly minimizes the possibility of trunk rot, to which the adenia are prone.

Although I live in the SE NM high-desert, I grow all of my plants indoors year-round in order to control the environment and enable better pest control. In the summer, I set the adenia in a west-facing window, in the winter, south-facing.

In order to accommodate the massive trunk, I place adenia in 8-inch pots. However, I fill the pots one-half full with large stones (I have also placed an inverted small pot inside the large pot). You might get the same environment if you used an azalea pot. By so doing, I have a pot wide enough but not one filled with potting mix – allowing faster drying/draining of the mix.

When I water all of my plants, I completely encircle the pot, wetting the mixture evenly, and continue to do so until the excess water flows from the bottom. The adenium is the only exception to this rule. With the adenium, I lightly water all the way around the pot once and stop. It’s hard to say but I would estimate that my adenia get 3/4-quarters of a cup of water; no more than a cup. I do not water again until the mixture has completely dried out as measured with a moisture meter. With all of my plants, I use a moisture meter, allowing most to completely dry out between waterings. This routine works well for all the succulents I have (hoya, crassula, and a variety of cacti) . It also works very well for plants that, supposedly, like to be in a moist mix (ficus, e.g.). My rationale is this, I have NEVER had a plant die because I underwatered it; overwatered – yes! Using the moisture meter also avoids such silly advice as “water once a week.” Depending on the time of the year, growing season, light, humidity, clay v. glazed pot, and size of pot, plants dry out in an irregular fashion. I only water when they are dry.

My technique also eliminates arbitrarily imposed rest periods. Plants that demand rest (hoya, e.g.) will take in much less water over a long period of time; a moisture meter will let you know when to water. Others, like the adenia, simply keep on chugging along putting out leaves and blooming year-round.

Finally, all plants adapt and I find that if I am consistent, mine thrive using my method. In the case of the adenia, I no longer lose plants to rot – and that’s a good thing.


Leave  fall/brown:  too much or too litle water.

Water: when watering, water around the inside of the pot, close to the edge, on the top, not near the actual plant itself







1 Comment »

  1. Great advice. Ive got some 4 month old seedlings. Its autumn here now in Uk and ive removed them from an unheated greenhouse to a south facing window indoors. Thanks for sharing your advice

    Comment by Averil — September 29, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

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