How To Care For Adenium Obesum (Desert Rose) In-Depth Guide

It’s hard to find many house plants that are more naturally beautiful than the Adenium obesum, also known as the desert rose.

This lively and vibrant plant may have originated in the hot climates of Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but it has gone on to capture the interest of houseplant lovers all around the world for just how sweet and colorful its appearance is.

While there are a few considerations that you will need to keep in mind when caring for one yourself, raising this plant isn’t too difficult, and is well worth doing if you want a plant that grows gradually and at its own pace, but will be extremely vibrant and eye-catching once it starts to mature.

How to care for Adenium Obesum Full In Depth Guide

If you are interested in potentially picking up an Adenium obesum plant for yourself and are curious about how you can raise it, and any potential dangers that come from keeping them around, keep reading as we provide the full breakdown of this incredibly unique plant.

What Family Does The Adenium Obesum Belong To?

The Adenium obesum belongs to the dogbane family, and more specifically, is part of the Nerieae tribe which is a part of the Apocynoideae subfamily.

It was initially described as a genus when it was first discovered back in 1819, but in reality, its features resemble a succulent shrub or a small tree more than anything.

The dogbane family is actually comprised of many different trees, shrubs, stem succulents, vines, and herbs, and is actually another name for the wider flowering plant family, Apocynaceae.

For this reason, many people will actually keep the Adenium obesum as part of a bonsai since the shape and structure of the plant fits perfectly, not to mention that the pink flowers mimic the cherry blossom bonsai tree in its appearance.

Adenium Obesum Desert Rose in a pot

Appearance Of Adenium Obesum

The most striking feature of the Adenium obesum plant, and the main reason so many house plant enthusiasts adore it so much, is its vibrant pink, red or white flowers which blossom when it is provided with the right temperature and humidity.

It has a bulbous stem with branching stems growing from the top of the swollen base . 

The leaves, which appear at the tip of the stem, will grow to around 4 inches long on average and take on a leathery green color, which contrasts the bright pink, red, and white flowers that the plant is so well known for.

As it matures, the Adenium obesum will grow to a maximum of 3-9 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide, making it very thick-stemmed compared to most house plants.

The flowers will only grow about 2 inches in width, putting them on the smaller side. With that being said, because of how eye-catching their colors are, the flowers still remain the most recognizable part of the plant.

Each of the plant’s flowers contains five spreading petals and protruding stamens, which help to add color to the flowers while also giving them their gentle and soft appearance.

Best Climate For Adenium Obesum

The Adenium obesum thrives in climates that are very warm and humid. It requires this immense heat for most of the year in order for it to bloom. It usually grows fastest when exposed to outdoor temperatures of between 70 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

This all comes down to where the plant originated, that being countries that have plenty of gritty soil and extremely high temperatures for most of the year.

While the flowers of the Adenium obesum bloom in the summer and during the hotter months, in the winter, the plant will become dormant.

In fact, the Adenium obesum has a fairly unique blooming schedule that it has integrated into its growth cycle where it will bloom for several weeks throughout the spring and summer.

With proper care however, many of these plants will bloom for a few weeks longer than this, or even all year round.

How To Care For An Adenium Obesum Plant

How To Care For An Adenium Obesum Plant

There’s no doubt that the Adenium obesum is one of the most beloved and highly-valued house plants out there, with it only growing in popularity with each passing year.

With that being said however, it is a very unique plant not only in its appearance, but also in terms of its growth pattern, so there are some considerations every owner must keep in mind to ensure their plant always remains at its healthiest throughout the entire year.

Type Of Soil

Succulent potting soil is usually seen as the best type of soil to use when caring for an Adenium obesum plant, especially when this soil is mixed with crushed granite or pumice since this will grant more than enough space for the water to drain out, which is extremely important for this plant so that there is no danger of the roots getting flooded.

Another good option is to apply a few layers of gravel above the soil in order to prevent the plant from rotting. The key to keeping this plant happy and healthy is to ensure it has plenty of drainage space so that it can absorb as much water as it needs to without ever becoming overwhelmed.

You can even add some sharp sand to your soil to add a little more drainage in case you don’t have some succulent potting soil readily available.

Cut Back On Watering

The Adenium obesum plant does enjoy good amounts of rain on the rare occasion that it appears in the warmer seasons, however, a big danger to this plant is the roots becoming water clogged, which can easily occur if an owner is watering the plant too much.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, you will want to check on the soil every few days, and when you are sure that it is completely dry and there’s no excess water remaining, then you can proceed to drizzle water over the plant slowly and carefully to make sure that the soil becomes moist rather than ever becoming too wet.

If you are growing them as an indoor plant, the Adenium obesum only needs to be watered either once or twice a week to keep them healthy. You can easily check if it’s a good time to give the plant some water by checking if the soil feels completely dry.

In the winter months, the plant will only require water every three to four weeks, meaning you won’t have to give it anywhere near as much as many other houseplants, saving you a lot of time and effort.

Fertilization

When choosing a fertilizer, you’re going to want to find one that contains high levels of nitrogen which will be applied to the soil just before the start of each of the plant’s blooming periods.

Throughout its growing season, it can also be a good idea to use a water-soluble liquid fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer which releases a small and steady amount of nutrients over a prolonged period, making them perfect for the Adenium obesum plant.

It can also be worthwhile getting your hands on a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus and potassium to use when the plant first starts to grow as this can allow it to develop at a much faster rate.

The Adenium obesum is known as being very low-maintenance in nature, so while the fertilizer is certainly important to ensure that the plant gets all the nutrients that it needs to grow at a steady pace, it doesn’t require as much as many other house plants do which can also make it far easier to care for.

It should also be noted that during the plant’s dormant period in the winter, you will not be required to use a fertilizer since the plant will become self-sufficient and require no extra nutrients from its owner until it begins to enter the new blooming period.

Temperature

As mentioned previously, the Adenium obesum plant is accustomed to hot climates, meaning it won’t be able to survive if it is kept in the cold for very long.

In fact, even if the temperature outside is very warm, simply keeping the Adenium obesum plant in the shade can be very dangerous for its well-being and overall lifespan.

Therefore, while the plant will thrive and grow fastest when it is exposed to temperatures between 70 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you ideally want to make sure it never goes below 60 since this is where it can become weak and frail, and grow even slower than it usually does.

If you live in an area that may not be reaching these temperatures in the warmer months, you might want to look at picking up a warming pad that can keep the plant growing at a steady pace and puts much less stress on you since you won’t have to constantly check what the temperature is going to be in the next few days to determine how fast the plant is going to grow.

Therefore, 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is an optimal temperature range that you are going to want to try and keep the plant at since if it drops below 50 for long enough, the plant will become weak and withered and potentially die if it is not provided with the heat it requires to remain healthy.

Repotting

All owners should be aware that the Adenium obesum is a very slow-growing plant that will only grow about 12 inches each year on average.

With that being said, if you are finding that the plant is already starting to expand and is potentially becoming a bit too big for the pot you originally placed it in, then it can be a good idea to consider repotting it so that it feels as comfortable as possible rather than becoming cramped.

When you are looking for new pots, always make sure that the size is at least 10% bigger than the previous one you were using, or 10% larger than the size of the plant itself, to ensure you give it enough room to breathe.

This also allows you to save a tremendous amount of money in the long term since buying a pot that is fairly spacious means that this slow-growing plant will be able to fit into its new home over the course of several months or even years, so you won’t have to go out and buy an entirely new pot every time you notice it starts growing again.

When you’re placing the plant into a new pot, make sure to shake off all of the existing soil so that it can adjust to the new and fresh soil mix.

Pests & Fungal Disease

Keep Away From Children And Pets

Aside from the issues of the soil becoming blocked if the plant is not granted enough drainage, another common issue that affects this plant is how susceptible it is to pests, specifically fungal gnats, mealybugs, and spider mites.

Therefore, it can be worth checking the underside of the leaves and flowers every few days just to make sure that there are no pests feeding off the plant since this can disrupt its growth while also damaging its exterior surface.

Oleander caterpillars are another common pest that loves nothing more than clinging to an Adenium plant. If you do spot any of these critters hanging around the leaves or the flowers, the best thing to do is simply remove them with gloves and use a pesticide afterward.

We would recommend using Bacillus thuringiensis since this is one of the most effective tools when dealing with insects and pests.

This type of plant can also fall prone to Anthracnose which is a fungal disease you can easily identify by taking a look at the leaves, and seeing if they have begun to change color.

If you notice that the leaves are turning yellow or developing tan lesions, this is a clear sign that the plant has developed Anthracnose.

This is not a cause for major concern, in fact, Anthracnose is very common and usually affects most plants during the summertime, and it usually fades away on its own.

The only thing you can do as an owner if you do suspect that this disease may have afflicted your plant is to reduce your watering and make sure that you remove any leaves that have fallen off the plant since these can contain fungus spores which can cause the infection to spread.

As long as you’re taking these necessary steps, the plant will be back to full health in no time.

Wear Gloves

It is true that the Adenium obesum plant contains harmful toxins within its saps, however, this can only become deadly if it is ingested.

With that being said, handling the plant at all can often cause skin irritation, and it’s a good idea to purchase some gloves and wear them whenever you are carrying the plant around or even just handling the soil beneath it.

Keep Away From Children And Pets

Additionally, while the owner of the plant will be well aware of the toxins that this type of plant possesses, children and pets will not be, so it’s always worth keeping the plant well away from them so that they are never able to grab it or lick it since this can have life-threatening consequences.

The Adenium obesum plant contains enough toxins to kill an elephant, so while you can safely move it around and care for it when wearing the appropriate equipment, it’s crucial to keep it out of the reach of anyone else in the house who may not be aware of how dangerous it can be.

Can You Propagate The Adenium Obesum?

You can propagate both the leaves and cuttings of the Adenium obesum right at the beginning of its growing season. Many people will do this in order to produce a grafting cutting which will produce a flower color onto plants that produce another color entirely.

Some people, especially if they are planning to use the plant as a bonsai, will also put several different cuttings together in order to alter the appearance of the plant to the way they would like it to look.

The best way to cut an Adenium obesum plant is to first take a cutting from the very tip of a branch before then allowing it to dry out for one to two days.

After it has fully dried, proceed by wetting the end of the cutting and then dipping it in rooting hormone which you can buy in gel, powder and liquid forms.

Rooting hormones are chemicals that are designed to stimulate root growth, making them the perfect product to use when you are creating plant cuttings.

Ideally, you want to be cutting stems that are at least 6 inches long, and once you have a few available, lay them out and choose which is the biggest and best for placing into the soil.

Place the cutting into a well-drained growing medium, such as soil mixed with sand or perlite, and it will start growing in no time.

You can grow the plant either indoors or outdoors, though if you are planning to grow it indoors, make sure that you turn it around every day or two to avoid the plant bending towards the direction of the sunlight – you want the plant to receive an even amount on each side as it grows.

Harvesting And Sowing Adenium Obesum Seeds

You can easily recognize seeds on this plant because they have a very peculiar bean-like appearance and will almost always sprout in pairs. Once you notice these pods starting to grow, secure them with a net bag before then using a rubber band to keep them sealed.

This is important to ensure that when the pods burst, the seeds don’t go flying out of the bag. When you notice that the seeds have exposed themselves and the pods have burst open, remove any excess or fluff that can cling to the seeds and then start planting them right away.

Fresh seeds will often grow a little faster, especially if they are given immediate care and attention as soon as they are placed in the soil, so you won’t want to waste too much time once you have them and are ready to start planting.

When you are ready to plant them, make sure that you place them in a growing medium that is made up of 50% peat moss and 50% perlite.

You can also choose to use sand instead if you wish, however perlite tends to be the better option since it is specifically designed to speed up seedling growth, and since these plants already take so long to grow, perlite is the best option for fresh seeds.

Make sure when you start spreading the seeds around the soil that you give them enough room so that they are evenly distributed and start lightly spraying each of them with water to initiate their growth.

Keep spraying them with water occasionally every few days. Remember that Adenium obesum plants don’t require much water at all, so doing this every two or even three days will be enough.

The most important thing is to ensure that you distribute the water evenly so that no seeds are outgrowing the others.

Within three to six days, the sprouts will begin to emerge, and after about a month, the seedlings will be big enough to be placed in a pot or container. Once the sprouts appear, make sure to keep watering them every few days.

Summary

The Adenium obesum is gradually becoming one of the most popular houseplants in the world, and there are many reasons why this is the case.

Aside from its downright dazzling pink and red appearance, the only area that can be fairly demanding when taking care of this plant is ensuring that it is always exposed to the exact right amount of heat.

Aside from this, it is a fairly low-maintenance plant, making it the perfect addition to any house. Just always make sure to wear gloves when handling it, and always keep it away from children and pets since its saps still contain deadly toxins.

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