Desert Rose - Adenium Obesum

Desert Rose - Adenium obesum.... all you need to know!

Desert Rose, is the common name for Adenium obesum and this popular plant is also a favorite amongst bonsai enthusiasts. It is a beautiful, drought-tolerant succulent native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

It's easy to fall in love with this stunning Adenium beauty, and even though it has rose in its name, it is not actually a real rose. However, it has beautiful vibrant desert rose flowers in a wide range of colors including pink, red, white, and yellow vibrant trumpet-shaped blooms that are sure to turn heads.   

In ideal conditions, this slow-growing desert rose plant can grow up to 10 feet tall. It takes a few years to reach full height by growing at a rate of 12 inches per year. 

In this comprehensive guide from Planet Desert, we will explore the many fascinating features of the desert rose and provide tips and advice you need to keep your Adenium Desert Rose Succulent thriving. Plus, we'll also provide a helpful buyers' guide so you can find the perfect specimen for your needs. So, let's dive in and discover everything there is to know about this gorgeous succulent desert rose care! 

 Care and how to grow  

There are five varieties of true Desert Rose plants, and all are native to arid or semi-arid climates, yet they can all adapt well to tropical and semi-tropical settings.  

Indeed, these rugged desert dwellers adapt to almost any situation as long as they have plenty of sun and warmth, and well-draining soil.  

In very hot climates, Desert Rose is happy and prolific outdoors all year round in USDA zones 11-12 (happy indoors other than these zones). These plants love to be in the direct sun with temperatures of at least 70°F, but they can do very well in temperatures of up to 100° Fahrenheit.  

In North America and other settings where the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time.  

Desert Rose Flowers  

The desert rose is known for its striking flowers, which are typically pink or red and can be up to 3 inches in diameter. The flowers of the desert rose are trumpet-shaped and have five petals that are arranged in a star shape. The flowers of the desert rose are highly fragrant and attract a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.  

The desert rose flowering plant thrives well in desert settings and will bloom exquisitely in full, bright sun. They can also thrive in bright morning or afternoon sun, though they may not flower as profusely. These plants get lanky and weak-stemmed if kept in the shade.  

Even though the bright sun stimulates blossom production, the Desert Rose takes a break during the 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 desert rose should bloom steadily until mid-summer.  

At this point, blossoming will cease for 6-8 weeks only to resume in the early autumn months. Give your desert rose plant a good pruning and bring it inside when the temperature drops to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or less frequently.  

The blooms are long-lasting and are attractive to hummingbirds and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. When the weather begins to cool, you must bring your Adenium indoors to enjoy during the winter. 

Light Requirement 

The desert rose plants can withstand full sun, but it prefers to grow in areas with some partial shade. Learn to adjust your adenium desert rose to avoid burns if the location where you have the plant is exposed to a lot of sunlight.  Gradually increase the exposure until it can handle the full sun. 

It's critical to remember that during a heatwave or periods of extreme heat, your desert rose could still sustain sun damage or get sunburned. You can protect the plant in this situation by moving it indoors or to a shaded area.  

In a very bright, warm environment such as a greenhouse, Adenium can remain active throughout the winter months. If you bring your desert rose plant into your house for the winter, it will probably stay in a semi-dormant state until spring arrives. Simply keep it in a warm room with bright, indirect light during this time. 

Water moderately in warm weather and sparingly in cool weather  

The Desert Rose enjoys a nice, warm rainy season, but when cool weather comes, you’ll need to cut back on watering. Some say it is best to think of your Adenium as a tropical plant in the spring and summer and as a cactus in the autumn and winter.  

The most important thing to remember is that the roots should never become waterlogged. During the growing season check the soil every few days in container plants. When the plant is completely dry, water slowly and carefully. Saturate the soil, but do not soak it. The soil should be moist, not wet, and there should be no standing water. Use well-drained soil and allow the soil mix to dry completely before watering again. 

If you plant directly into the landscape, be certain to position your Adenium desert rose plant on a bit of an incline so the water can drain off after heavy rains. The Desert Rose growing outdoors is amazingly drought tolerant and may not need watering once established. In times of extreme drought, water deeply for several hours during the coolest part of the day, occasionally with a slow drip.   

Desert Rose fertilizer & optimal soil 

When it comes to choosing the right soil for your adorable adenium desert rose it's important to be cautious. This is because the amount of moisture in the soil can be the primary reason for the early death of most succulents and cacti. Like many other succulents, with desert rose it is important to avoid excess moisture because this can promote root and stem rot.  We believe the best option is to use our specialty potting mix that contains over 5 natural substrates and organic mycorrhizae to promote the development of a strong root system that helps your succulent to thrive.  

During the growing season, it is a good idea to provide a light feeding of a balanced fertilizer (NPK) 5-10-5, or a water-soluble liquid fertilizer from time to time. In the springtime when the plant is rousing from its winter rest, you can give a diluted fertilizer once a year. As the weather cools, stop feeding so that the plant can wind down for the winter.  

If you bring your Adenium plant indoors for the winter, you may want to give it one weak fertilizer in mid-winter; however, this is not necessary as the plant is likely in a state of semi-dormancy.

Our favorite Desert Rose Varieties  

1. Adenium obesum – Desert Rose 

The dazzling Desert Rose, also known as 'Adenium obesum' native to Southwestern Africa. It is frequently used as a desert rose bonsai plant! It's easy to fall in love with this stunning beauty.  It is characterized by its unique swollen trunk, vibrant flowers, and thick, fleshy leaves making it an excellent choice for xeriscaping gardens or indoor cultivation.

 Adenium obesum – Desert Rose

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2. Adenium Arabicum 

Adenium obesum var. arabicum, also known as the Desert Rose, is a stunning succulent native to the arid regions of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. This plant is the most popular variety of Desert Rose and is characterized by its thick, swollen trunk resembling a miniature baobab tree and beautiful clusters of vibrant flowers that range in color from pink and red to white. Its fleshy leaves are arranged in a spiral pattern, adding to its unique aesthetic appeal. It is commonly used for bonsai. It is monoecious and self-sterile, with shiny, fleshy leaves and drought-tolerant leaves.

 Adenium Arabicum

3. Adenium obesum subsp. swazicum:   

It is also referred to as the summer impala lily. This variety of desert rose plant enjoys warm weather, is a dwarf that typically has a few short stems, and doesn't grow larger. If you have a plant sending out long shoots, it's a good idea to prune as a way of guiding and controlling plant growth.

Adenium obesum subsp. swazicum

4. Adenium obesum subsp. socotranum:  

This Adenium socotranum is a sun loving tropical species that is indigenous to the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean between Yemen and Somalia. The developing plant has a trunk and is mostly known as Desert Rose grafted plant. In the spring and summer, when the plant has no leaflets, colorful flowers appear.

Adenium obesum subsp. socotranum

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5. Adenium obesum subsp. somalense:   

 Originally from Eastern Africa, this sun-loving desert rose plant is a sight to behold with its twisted branches and narrow blade-like leaves that reach towards the sky. It's not just its unique appearance that makes it stand out though - this beauty has a swollen, typically twisted trunk that adds character and charm. And let's talk about those trumpet-shaped flowers! They come in colors red, white, or pink, making them a feast for the eyes against their arid surroundings.

Adenium obesum subsp. somalense

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6. Adenium obesum subsp. shada:  

This evergreen succulent shrub is a true showstopper with its broad and leathery dark green leaves. And check out that enlarged basal caudex - talk about impressive! It's native to some of the hottest climates out there, so this little guy can handle whatever heat comes its way. Plus, it produces blooms with five petals that are typically red or pink in color with a white throat - No wonder it's frequently cultivated as a bonsai in semi-arid climates.

Adenium obesum subsp. shada

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Is regular pruning necessary?  

Because these plants can grow quite large, a combination of pruning and under-potting is essential to keep them at a manageable size. A regular pruning schedule will help keep your plant fresh, vigorous, and well-groomed.  

During the growing season, pinch back or prune stray growth. Before bringing the plant indoors for winter, prune back excessive growth as this will make the rest period more effective for the plant. Additionally, it will be easier to keep a smaller, more compact plant indoors during the winter months.  

Before putting the plant back outdoors for the growing season, a good trimming is a smart idea. Trim off any dead or damaged vegetation. Cut back straggly branches to improve the plant’s shape. You can use these branches as cuttings to create new plants.

What kind of container is best for Desert Rose?  

Many lovers of Adenium grow their plants or look to repotting desert roses into terra cotta clay pots instead of plastic to keep them on the dry side.  

You can use containers made of almost any material when planting Desert Rose. Just make sure the container is sturdy because Adenium's aggressive root growth can burst flimsy plastic containers. Any growing container must have drainage holes in the bottom. If you use a saucer, make sure there is no water in it.  

A porous container material is preferable to a nonporous material for better air circulation to the roots. For this reason, many experts recommend using terra-cotta containers instead of plastic ones, plus the shallow terra-cotta bowl makes a nice presentation. Well-made wooden planters might also be a good idea.  

In terms of planter shape, low, wide planters and containers are preferable to tall, thin ones. A lower, wider container will encourage root spread and provide a more stable base for the plant.  

If you plant an adenium in a tall, thin container, the root structure will be more carrot shaped and not provide much stability. This can be beneficial if you want to grow a thick, attractive caudex. 

It is possible to start an Adenium cutting in a tall, thin container and then transplant it later into a short, squat container leaving quite a bit of the interesting root exposed. Adenium is an ideal plant to consider for bonsai. An interesting fact about Desert Rose is that the Adenium obesum can grow as big as an elephant's foot or as little as a bonsai.

To create a desert rose bonsai, get a special bonsai pot, or a small pot that will restrict root and plant growth by restricting plant growth, they grow less tall and become a bonsai. The term "bonsai" refers to the traditional art of growing decorative, dwarfed kinds of trees and shrubs in trays, pots, or other containers. Adenium bonsai truly means "planted in a container" and is a symbol of love, fertility, and health.

How often should you repot Desert Roses?  

These plants are relatively slow growing, and they should not need repotting more often than once every two or three years. Be careful not to provide an oversized container as this will encourage root growth and may detract from the number of blooms your plant produces.  

Select an attractive container that gives your plant’s root mass one or two extra inches for growth all the way around. Make sure to shake the old soil off the roots and completely replace it with fresh, new, nourishing soil mix. 

Like other succulent plants, plant the desert rose succulent using a cactus potting soil. These plants want well-draining soil to prevent stem and root rot.  

Propagation of Adenium plants from cuttings and seeds  

When you start Desert Rose from a cutting, the resulting plant will not develop a thick, interesting root structure above ground. The caudex will develop below the soil level and can later be exposed without harming the plant.  

The advantage of starting from a cutting is that you can do lots of interesting things such as grafting cuttings that produce one flower color onto plants that produce another color. You can also graft several different cuttings together to form an artistic grouping.  

In Europe, you sometimes find the Desert Rose grafted onto an Oleander stock. The Oleander graft combination allows the Desert Rose to grow faster and produce more flowers.

The basics of starting Adenium obesum from cuttings:  

If you have a plant sending out long shoots, it’s a good idea to prune as a way of guiding and controlling plant growth. You can use the pruned sections to create brand-new, interesting plants.  

Cuttings at least 6 inches long are ideal for rooting succulent stems. Sort through the shoots after pruning the plant and select the best ones. Place them in a warm, dry area away from direct sunlight, and spread them out on a newspaper or a paper towel. Let the cuttings dry for 48 hours. 

After two days, prepare a pot or container with a gravelly, well-drained potting mix. You can use a commercial mix intended for use with cactus and succulents or make one using equal amounts of potting soil, coco coir or peat moss, sand, and/or very fine gravel. Remember to add a layer of coarse gravel to the container's bottom for proper drainage.  

Dust the cut end with rooting powder and insert it into the planting mix. To thoroughly soak the planting mixture, use a spray bottle. Mist every couple of days to keep the soil moist but be sure not to allow it to become thoroughly drenched. Desert Rose does not like to be waterlogged, and the roots will quickly rot if you allow the soil to stay too wet.  

Place your developing plant in a warm, bright; still, area either indoors or outdoors and keep a close eye on it. If you are using an indoor location, be sure to turn the growing plant every day or two so it will get even sunlight. Otherwise, it will tend to bend toward the sun.  

When it begins to sprout new leaves, you’ll know it is well-established enough to move the young plant to a sunnier place. Mature, well-established Desert Rose plants enjoy bright, full sunlight. They can be planted directly into the ground outdoors, but because they are tropical and not cold-hardy at all it is usually better to plant them in containers to make moving indoors for the winter easier.  

How to harvest Desert Rose seed pods?

The advantage of propagating Desert Rose from seed is that you can be sure of growing plants that develop the thick, bulbous, fat base above-ground caudex that makes these plants so interesting and attractive. It will take several years for the Caudex to develop so be patient!  

You can buy Adenium seeds online or from specialty nurseries; however, be careful to get fresh seeds. The fresher the seed, the better your results will be. If you have several plants for cross-pollination, you can harvest desert rose plant seeds from your plants at the end of the growing season and plant the seeds in the springtime.  

For seeds on your plants, look for the development of bean-like seed pods. These usually appear in pairs. As the pods ripen, they will begin to look swollen. At this point, you may want to place a net bag over the pods and secure it with a twist tie, twine, or a rubber band. This will prevent your seeds from flying away when the seed pod bursts.  

When the pod bursts, gather the seeds and remove the dandelion-like fluff from the ends. Plant the fresh seeds right away for the best results.  

How to sow Desert Rose seeds? 

To plant seeds, start with a growing medium of 50% peat moss or coco coir and 50% sand or perlite – I like perlite. Use a shallow pot or a tray placed in an area with bright indirect light. You may want to use a warming pad to keep the growing medium at a steady temperature of 80 to 85°F.  

Evenly sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the growing medium and cover them very lightly with a thin layer of sand. Use a spray bottle to saturate the growing medium evenly with water. This process should be repeated on alternate days until the seeds sprout. 

 Sprouts should appear within three to seven days. Every couple of days, keep misting them to keep them evenly and lightly watered. Seedlings should be large enough to transplant into individual containers in about a month.   

Medicinal Value of Desert Rose  

Desert rose adenium has been used to make traditional medicines all over the world. The entire local Adenium obesum species is significant and has historically been utilized in medicine to cure a variety of illnesses. 

The paste of the entire desert rose plant is used mostly to cure sexual problems in Omani culture. Desert rose is a helpful plant having anti-cancer, anti-parasitic, and anti-microbial qualities. Additionally, it can strengthen the immune system, lessen discomfort, inhibit garden pests, treat tooth infections, heal wounds, and can treat nose illnesses.  

Please consult with a healthcare expert before consuming this plant as the proper dosage is unknown.

Desert Rose pests and problems

The most pervasive problem for Desert Rose is root rot. Over-watering should be avoided at all costs. 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.  

Pests that may bother Desert Rose plants include:  

  • Aphids  
  • Spider mites (tetranychus urticae)  
  • Mealy bugs  
  • Several types of plant insect scales. If you find your plant has a problem with one of these pests, treatment with neem oil insecticides should provide a proper remedy.  
  • Oleander caterpillars may also cause problems for Adenium. If you notice caterpillars on your plant, pick them off by hand (wear gloves) and treat the plant with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as quickly as possible. These caterpillars can quickly defoliate your plant but don't give up. Once the caterpillars are in check, the plant will quickly regenerate with fresh, dark green leaves. 
  • A fungal disease called Anthracnose is sometimes a problem for Adenium. If your plant’s leaves develop tan lesions and then turn yellow and fall off, Anthracnose is probably the problem. Again, don’t despair. This disease usually occurs in the early summer and/or in the autumn and resolves on its own. Just reduce watering and rake up the fallen leaves to remove the fungus spores. Your plant should recover nicely.  

A single specimen of one of these rugged, long-lived plants can provide a wealth of gardening enjoyment. They can be planted in the landscape, maintained as container plants, kept as bonsai, grafted together, grafted with oleander or even planted upside down to create visually fascinating shapes and displays.  

Long-lived Desert Rose is the sort of plant that becomes a member of the family. In the wild and in ideal settings, these plants can survive and thrive for centuries.  

In areas with cooler climates, the care needed by these interesting plants provides a touchstone for the transition from season-to-season.  

The plant enjoys the warmth of the summer, rests in the autumn, and hibernates in the winter. As you care for and enjoy this interesting botanical specimen through the seasons and years, you will surely grow to think of it as a good friend.

FAQs - Desert Rose Post 

Is desert rose an indoor plant?  

Desert rose (Adenium obesum) is a beautiful indoor plant that requires bright, direct sunlight for 4-6 hours daily. It thrives near a south-facing window or under grow lights. It prefers warm temperatures, with a minimum of 60–65 °F during the winter. Well-draining soil is essential, and watering should be thorough but allow for drying. With proper care, you can grow adenium obesum indoors to add exotic beauty. 

Is the desert rose plant poisonous?  

The sap of the desert rose (Adenium obesum) plant can be toxic and should be avoided as it can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction in some people. The sap can also be harmful if ingested, so it is important to keep the plant out of reach of children and pets.

When handling the desert rose, it is a good idea to wear gloves and take care not to get the sap on your skin or in your eyes. With proper care and attention, however, the desert rose can be a beautiful and rewarding plant to grow and enjoy.  

Is desert rose a lucky plant?  

In Chinese cultures, the desert rose is considered a lucky plant that brings good fortune and prosperity to the home. In Feng Shui, for example, the desert rose is believed to attract positive energy and promote wealth and success. The plant is also sometimes associated with love and romance, and it is said to help create a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere in the home.

While there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, the desert rose is a beautiful and unique plant that can add a touch of exotic beauty to any space, and it is certainly a plant worth growing and enjoying for its own sake.  

Why is a desert rose called a desert rose?  

A desert rose is called so because of its unique resemblance to a blooming rose, despite growing in arid desert environments. The name also reflects its ability to thrive and survive in harsh desert conditions, making it a symbol of resilience and beauty in the midst of adversity.    


  • Judi Seifried

    I love my desert roses. But fear root rot because of rain wondering would I be better off planting then in the ground verses pots. They are blooming gorgeously… I love them … I have pink white rose and a lovely combo flower very unusual… I want deep purple if I can find one… thank you for all the great information

  • Frances Kurlinski

    Re: STEVE STATHOPOULOS – I’m in Ellenton FL. Same here. I’m not reporting based on the above article says 2 years? The root base is not as wide as I’d like to put into bigger pots. But I did put them in 4” pots to begin with (about 3 1/2” wide). Getting ready to put them on the south side of the house. I did read elsewhere if you want to bonsi the plant put them in a smaller than 4” pot. Yours is in a smaller so they may become bonsi if you don’t move them up. If you don’t get your answer here contact the plant clinic in your area:
    UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County
    Twin Lakes Park, Green Building
    6700 Clark Road, Sarasota, FL 34241
    Hours In-person: 9am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday
    Phone 941-861-9807

    Good luck!

  • Steve Stathopoulos

    I transplanted the seedlings into small clay pots about 2 1/2” across the top. They’ve been in those pots for about 8-9 months. Should I replant them now into a slightly larger clay pot? I live in sarasota florida in zone 10 We’re starting to get temperatures in the high 70s to low 80 with nighttime temperatures in the low 50s to mid ,60s.

  • Leeland

    This was so informative and succinct. I have been lucky enough to keep a Plumeria alive and blooming. I am going to try this. I really appreciated the part advising that pot should only be 2/3" larger. Which in my mind means it is happy being almost root bound.

  • Marian Brown

    Thank you for your information, very helpful to a new adenium obesum owner, mb

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