Adenium obesum, also known as Desert Rose, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 12b outdoors and everywhere in the United States as a houseplant, is not actually related to the Rose genus (Rosa). It is a fleshy-stemmed plant that produces copious red, pink, white or combination flowers almost year round. Despite its loveliness, however, new growers should be prepared for a slow life cycle.
To propagate Desert Rose, you can take a cutting from an existing plant, dip it in rooting hormone, and root in a damp combination of 75 percent perlite to 25 percent Canadian peat. Plant when roots and new leaves appear, and don’t bother with cuttings whose leaves have wilted. Desert Rose also grows well from seed, though only if seeds are viable, which many nursery stock plants are not. Grafting and air layering are also possibilities, but are generally too difficult for the home gardener.
Desert Rose has a slow growth rate, which for trees and shrubs generally means it gains less than 12 inches (30 cm) per year, often only reaching 14 inches (35 cm) after three years. Usually plants top out around 4 feet (1.2 m), though older ones may gain heights of 6 feet (1.8 m) or more after decades of growth. After successfully starting Desert Rose from seed or planting a cutting, it may not bloom for months or even years afterward. However, plants successfully grown from seed are usually more vigorous than cuttings, and therefore may bloom in as little as 12 months, thereby reaching sexual maturity.
Dying Desert Rose
Well-cared for Desert Roses should live for decades, so you don’t normally need to worry about yours dying. However, temperatures below freezing will kill the plant. So will overwatering, as plants are susceptible to root rot. Be aware that in the winter both indoors and out, the Desert Rose may drop all its leaves and flowers as it rests. This is normal and should not cause you alarm.
Culture and Care
To keep your Desert Rose growing and blooming well, provide it with a lot of bright, direct light — at least six hours a day indoors, full sunlight outdoors. Plants in shade will not flower well. Water regularly, but do not allow soil to become soggy, and withhold water entirely during the winter. Desert Rose prefers temperatures between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 35 degrees Celsius), and dislikes temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). If you live outside of the Desert Rose’s hardiness zone ranges, you may keep it indoors during the winter and move it outside when the weather warms up.
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