When many people hear the word roses, they immediately think of the traditional roses sold by florists. But in actuality, three different types of desert plants are referred to as the "desert rose," including the desert rose (Adenium obesum), cliff rose (Purshia mexicana) and desert rose-mallow (Hibiscus coulteri). All three are found in arid locations and all have their own charms.
The desert rose is native to Egypt, Uganda, Kenya and Madagascar, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The plant is found on the savanna, along rivers and in even drier, sandier locations. Prized as a house plant, the flowers bloom in pink, white and red, with darker colors outlining each petal. Several hybrids are available for home growers.
The cliff rose is found in desert grasslands and in juniper stands in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah. The plant is categorized as a shrub and its size ranges from eight to 20 feet tall, according to "Desert Wildflowers of North America," by Ronald J. Taylor. The flowers are white and the centers are yellow, with reddish-brown stems and shredded-looking bark. The plant is an important food source for deer and other herbivores.
The desert rose-mallow blooms throughout the year, particularly from July through September. The shrub is found on rocky slopes in southern Arizona and New Mexico, western Texas and northern Mexico, according to "Sonoran Desert Wildflowers," by Richard Spellenberg. The flowers are either cream colored or yellow, and the color is lighter at the edge of the petal, becoming darker toward the middle of the flower. The center of the flower is red.