How to Care for the Desert Rose Plant

Overview

The desert rose is a subtropical, succulent plant that produces large flowers in shades of pink, red and white. Native to areas of Africa, the desert rose does well in warm climates, and can withstand periods of heavy rain and long drought. Northern gardeners can enjoy the desert rose as a potted houseplant all year round. The bright flowers and uncommon growth pattern of the trunk and branches make for an interesting and exotic houseplant.

Step 1

Fill a planting pot with a mixture of 2/3 light potting soil and 1/3 clean, coarse sand. Choose a pot that is only slightly bigger then the root ball. Too much room around the roots encourages moisture to build up and may cause root rot.

Step 2

Plant your desert rose so that the base of the trunk sits above the soil line. This will prevent the trunk from rotting. Some of the upper roots can be above the soil line as well.

Step 3

Water daily during the warm spring and summer months when it is sunny. If the weather is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, place your desert rose outside for fresh air and direct sunlight.

Step 4

Water every three to four days during cool or cloudy weather in spring, summer and early fall; too much water can cause the roots to rot. During summer rains, leave your plant outside, and avoid additional watering. Water only once or twice a month during winter, as it is important to allow the plant to go into a dormancy period when the natural light is low and conditions are cooler.

Step 5

Fertilize using a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer during the summer. Fertilizer can be applied every other day during the warm months. In the fall, discontinue fertilizing so that the plant can enter its dormancy period.

Step 6

Prune heavily to prevent the plant from getting scraggly or overgrowing its pot. Use sharp, clean shears and cut the branches back 1/3 of the way to the trunk. Prune in the fall and winter when there are no flowers on the tree.

Tips and Warnings

  • Desert rose sap is poisonous. Wear gloves when pruning and avoid skin and eye contact. If contact does occur, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Do not ingest.

Things You'll Need

  • Planting pot
  • Potting soil
  • Clean, coarse sand
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears

References

  • University of Wisconsin:Desert rose: The Hot New House Plant
  • University of Florida: The Desert Rose, Adenium obesum: nursery production.
  • KEW: Royal Botanical Society: Plant story: desert rose (Adenium obesum)
Keywords: tropical plants, drought tolerant, tropical house plant care

About this Author

Olivia Parker has been a freelance writer with Demand Studios for the past year, writing for Garden Guides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Parker is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts from Boston University Online.