Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil
Desert rose plants look like some kind of a mix between a tree and flower. That’s because if you look at the bottom side of the plant, you’ll notice its thick, winding trunk.
But, once you get to the top, all you’ll notice are the captivating bright colored flowers.
So what is it?
It’s actually a succulent. And, its fat truck is where it stores the water that allows it to withstand long periods of dryness.
Learn how to take care of this beautiful plant below.
About the Desert Rose
Contrary to what its name suggests, the desert rose is not a rose. Instead, it’s a deciduous succulent. As such, it sheds its leaves during the cooler winter months. And, it stores water in some area of its plant. In this case, it’s in its trunk and roots.
In fact, you can tell how healthy a particular desert rose is by looking at its trunk. The thicker, fatter the trunk is, the healthier it is. In contrast, a thin trunk is a sign that it needs more water.
The desert rose is native to regions of Arabia and Africa. Thus, it likes warm and dry conditions. It is also used to poor soil that doesn’t retain water well.
But what makes it stand out is its strikingly beautiful flowers which often come in shades of red, pink, white, and yellow.
Better yet, these flowers bloom for long periods of time. And, they’re very attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.
That said, these succulents can get fairly sizeable, growing to between 2 to 5 feet tall indoors. And, up to 6 feet outdoors as they age.
The good news is, the desert rose is easy to grow. As long as you know what they need, they don’t require a lot of maintenance, be it water or fertilizer.
Desert Rose Plant Care
Desert Rose Light Requirements
Like most succulents, the desert rose does best with full sun. It needs at least 6 hours of bright, direct sunlight.
As such, it’s a good idea to place it near a south-facing window. That way it receives exposure to both morning and afternoon sunlight.
But, if you live in an area where the noontime or afternoon sun can become especially intense, you may want to give it some extra protection. That’s because very harsh rays from the sun can scorch its leaves.
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Desert Rose Temperature & Humidity
The desert rose is native to tropical regions in Southern Africa and Arabia. As such, it’s used to very hot conditions as well as gritty, sandy soil that doesn’t have a lot of organic matter.
That makes it right at home in USDA zones 10 and 11, where the temperatures are relatively warm.
Ideally, they do best when the mercury is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In fact, they thrive in 90 to 100-degree conditions.
But, it’s a different story once things start cooling down. They’ll start struggling when temps drop under 50 degrees. And, won’t be able to survive for too long when temperatures are below 40 degrees.
Needless to say, desert roses can’t tolerate very cold or frost conditions. They’ll literally freeze to death.
Thus, if you live in cooler areas, you’ll want to bring them inside during the cooler months.
But, even then, you’ll want to keep them fairly toasty. That’s because these plants are deciduous. As such, they’ll drop their leaves during wintertime. By keeping the thermostat at 60 degrees or higher, you might be able to keep them from doing that.
However, they’ll do great outside during the summertime. So, you can bring them back out and display them in the patio or with your garden then.
As you would expect, the opposite is quite true for very hot climate regions.
These succulents are drought tolerant. They’re able to survive long periods of dryness since they’re able to store water in their thick roots and trunk.
Desert Rose Watering
Besides frost and very cold temperatures, the other thing that will kill your desert rose is overwatering.
In their native regions, the desert rose is used to rainy periods where they grow. Then, followed by dry periods when they’re dormant.
As such, following this cycle of regular, moderate watering during spring and summer. Then, scaling back during fall and winter works very well.
But, you do want to keep it hydrated enough during its dormant period. That way, it’s less likely to shed its leaves.
In each of these cases, always allow the soil to dry out before adding more water. That way, you don’t risk giving it too much.
As for soil, pick up a good succulent and cactus mix that’s slightly acidic (pH of around 6.0).
Because they’re native to drier conditions, it’s important to make sure that the potting soil you get is well-draining.
This prevents it from retaining too much water that won’t make your desert rose happy.
Desert rose don’t need a lot of feeding. And, when you do, it will be during its growing season.
During spring and summer, when the plant is in its active growth stage, you can feed it with liquid fertilizer or one that’s slow release. Do so about once a month diluting the concentration by half.
Then, as the weather starts to cool, you can stop doing so in order to allow it to start winding down for the winter where it will be dormant.
Desert Rose Pruning
Desert roses are slow growers. They don’t grow more than 12 inches in a year. But, they can get fairly large.
Indoors, you can expect them to grow to between 2-5 feet tall and about 1-3 feet wide in diameter. When grown outdoors, they can get to between 5 or 6 feet tall as they age.
The bulk of the upper portion of the plant is made up of its bright, red flowers. Its bottom is dominated by its thick, fat trunk.
As such, pruning helps keep it looking well-groomed and tidy. Along with underpotting, pruning also helps you manage its size. That way it doesn’t get too big for your home, patio, or garden.
Above all, regular pruning helps promote growth. This keeps your plant looking fresh and vibrant.
Like most plants, there’s more than one way to propagate adenium. Which one you decide to go with depends on what you’re more comfortable with.
Although, in the beginning, it’s a good idea to try them both. That way you’ll know which yields more success for you.
Propagating Desert Rose from Cuttings
One of the most common ways to propagate adenium is via branch cuttings. As the name implies, you’ll be cutting the tip of a branch and use it to grow a new desert rose plant.
Here’s how to do it.
- Take a cutting from a branch.
- Let the cutting dry out. This will take about 1-2 days.
- After drying, wet the end of the cutting then dip it into rooting hormone.
- Insert that end of the cutting into a growing medium. You can use a mixture of soil with sand or perlite. One of the latter two will allow the potting mix to drain water better.
- Water daily.
- Within the next 2-6 weeks, you should see it start to take root.
Desert Rose Seed Propagation
Besides branch cutting, you can likewise propagate adenium from seed. Here, you’ll need to go to your garden center and buy some seeds. As such, it’s not free like the method above.
Here’s how to propagate desert rose from seeds.
- Start with fresh seeds. Doing so will improve its germination rate. They’ll also germinate faster.
- Fill a container with well-draining planting media like sand and soil mix.
- Put the seed into the medium and cover the seed with the growing medium.
- Water daily.
- Keep the growing tray somewhere where the temperature is between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Soon enough you’ll see seedlings appear.
- In about a month, they’ll be ready to be transplanted to a container.
Since they’re slow-growing, you won’t need to repot too frequently.
In most cases, you’ll only need to do so once every 2 or 3 years.
But, you may even want to hold back on repotting. This helps keep it from growing too big. Keeping your desert rose in a smaller or undersized pot helps keep its size manageable, if that’s your goal.
The thing you don’t want to do is put it in a larger container with extra space. This will encourage its roots to grow more.
When this happens, it will redirect its energy and focus to its root system and away from blooming. As a result, you’ll see fewer flowers blossom.
Last but not least, it’s important to be aware that the desert rose is a member of the Dogbane family. As such, when bleeds, its sap is poisonous to both humans and pets, causing skin irritation.
So, if you happen to come into contact with it when pruning or other means, make sure to wash your hands immediately.