The Q&A Archives: Care Of Desert Rose

Question: I have 3 desert rose plants and need help on
care and pruning them. These are not true roses
as we know them, they appear to be in the suc-
culent family. I got my first plant in Florida,
the next two I got in NC at Wal-Mart of all
places. Can not find any information on care
and growing them. I know that the scientific
name is a long word starting with an "o". Any
help would be greatly appreciated. These are
very beautiful plants.

Answer: Adenium obesum is the Desert Rose. A native of East Africa, the desert rose will grow from 6 1/2 to 10 feet in the wild. It has fleshy leaves and beautiful 2-inch pink open-trumpet shaped flowers. It is a succulent, and forms more of a bush than a tree. It needs lots of light and fresh air, so keep it in a bright location in winter. In summer, if possible, move outdoors to a sunny or partly shaded location.

The plant likes warmth (never below 54 degrees); however, in the winter, keeping it cool (between 54-61 degrees) gives the plant a needed rest. It needs little water during winter, especially when kept cool. Increase water during growing and blooming periods. The total watering needed is similar to crassula, portulaca and other succulents, and it will lose leaves if overwatered.
Feed monthly during spring and summer with a liquid fertilizer. Fish emulsion is also reported to work well.

Root prune and repot every two years, after the winter rest period, in a mix of 2 parts bonsai soil, 2 parts peat, and one part sand. It can tolerate being pot-bound.

Do heavy pruning after the rest period, but new shoots can be pruned regularly. The sap is poisonous, so clean hands after pruning, and avoid getting sap into open wounds. Unfortunately, like many of these milky-sapped trees, it bleeds profusely, so heavy pruning should be avoided when possible, for both its sake and yours!

Propagation is similar to jade trees - cuttings need to be dried for 3-4 days before planting in a sand-peat mix.

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