Desert Rose: How To Care For Adenium Plants

If you love roses but don’t relish the upkeep, plant adenium or desert rose. With beautiful flowers and no thorns, it’s an easy-care succulent.

Bright Pink Desert Rose Flowers
desert rose
(Image credit: Noppol Mahawanjam)

Desert Rose: Complete Guide To Growing Adenium

Adenium plant care is much simpler than that of roses, and the unique structure of the plant itself is worth the effort, even when it’s not in bloom. The colorful adenium flowers are artfully layered like roses, but unlike traditional rose plants, the desert rose is actually a succulent.

Quick Facts

  • Botanical name: Adenium obesum
  • Height: Possible 10 feet (3 m) but 2 feet (.61 m.) in containers
  • Spread: Similar
  • Sun exposure: Full or partial sun
  • Soil requirements: Well draining, gritty
  • Hardiness zones: USDA 10-11
  • When to plant: Spring

Desert Rose Care

Adenium is more commonly known as desert rose. The Adenium flower is a spectacular bloom that stems from a succulent plant. Although a succulent, desert rose sports no thorns and hasn’t got fleshy leaves. It is a “caudiciform” plant, a term that refers to its thick trunk that stores excess moisture.

The blooms are pink, red, and white, often bicolored, and have 5 petals. New hybrids have been developed that boast flowers of purple, yellow, and orange. Most often grown as a container plant, desert rose can grow into a small tree in nature, but container constriction keeps it around 2 feet (.61 m) tall.


The adenium is native to sub-Saharan Africa and Saudi Arabia. In these ranges, they receive plenty of natural light. Desert rose houseplants need bright light indoors. They should be moved outside in spring where they thrive in full or partial sun. Young plants prefer some filtered light. Overall they like full sun in the morning and filtered afternoon light.


As natives of desert areas, desert rose care requires a careful watering schedule. During the summer and in high temperatures they need more water than the winter months when the plant is dormant. On average, container plants will need a deep soak 2-3 times per week. Allow the water to percolate from the drainage holes, but do not allow any to remain in the saucer under the container. Near the end of the growing season, begin to taper off water. During the winter months the plants need little to no water, although young plants should be kept moist. If plants brought indoors drop their leaves, suspend all watering until new ones begin to form.

Temperature & Humidity

The Adenium plant is hardy into United States Department of Agriculture zones 10-11. They have little cold hardiness and need to come indoors when temperatures drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C.). Temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.56 C.) in spring will trigger new growth. The average indoor home temperatures are suitable for desert rose plants.


Adenium plants need well-draining soil. Commercial potting soil works as a container base but should be amended with half as much coarse sand, gravel, coconut coir, pumice, or perlite. Any container with plentiful drainage holes is suitable for planting desert roses, but those that are unglazed will help prevent any moisture accumulation. In warmer regions, where the plant can go into the ground, the soil will need to be assessed for drainage. Where needed, mix gritty materials into the sand to provide adequate drainage.


Once regrowth resumes in spring, begin a program of houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength and apply this monthly during the growing season. Mature plants will produce more flowers if they’re fertilized with a formula higher in phosphorus and potassium, and lower in nitrogen. Suspend all feeding from fall through winter. Limestone or gypsum are often recommended as a top dress to promote sturdy trunk and stem formation, as well as necessary calcium.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

Root rot is the number 1 issue with desert rose plants. Provide adequate drainage and be sure the top surface of the soil is dry before watering. Do not allow water to sit in the saucer under the container. Outdoor plants may exhibit distorted leaves if aphids, scale, mealybugs, and spider mites attack. Use horticultural soap or spray household alcohol to combat these pests.

How to Grow Adenium From Seeds

Adenium requires 2 clones to develop a viable seed. Outdoor plants can pollinate through pollinating insects. They are tricky to pollinate by hand. Seeds will germinate quickly, within 3-7 days if planted in a moist, gritty medium. The seedlings need moderate light and water even during the winter. The best time to plant seeds is in spring. The resulting plants will not be true to either parent.

Pruning Desert Rose

In addition to seed propagation, Adenium may be grown from cuttings. This method will result in a clone of the parent plant. Leafy cuttings need to be dipped into rooting hormone and planted into an appropriate medium. Enclose the container in plastic and keep the cutting warm, moderately wet, and in medium light. Rooting generally takes place within a month. This will result in faster plants as compared to seeding. More experienced gardeners might want to try grafting. This is where a rootstock is grafted to a scion, and often results in a whole new cultivar.

Repotting Desert Rose

Like most succulents, a desert rose prefers a small container. This is also a great way to keep its size smaller. Re-pot the plant in the same type of soil it enjoyed previously. Select containers that are only just slightly larger than the caudex.

Adenium Varieties

Here is a short list of the most commonly found desert rose varieties.

Adenium multiflorum- flowers only in winter

Adenium swazicum- flowers in late summer into fall

Adenium boehmianum- blooms in late summer to fall

Adenium obesum- the most common variety

Adenium arabicum- often trained as a bonsai

Adenium socotranum- quite rare but sought after by collectors

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.