A desert rose by another name is adenium, impala lily or even mock azalea. Ironically, adenium is not a rose and is propagated more in tropical areas rather than deserts. Either way, adenium obesum has an enchanting appearance with a showy floral display and an inverted conical root base that retains moisture.
Water the adenium infrequently. Ideally, the desert rose comes potted with a soil mixture that's up to half perlite, coarse sand or gravel, to facilitate fast drainage. Whatever water passes through the soil to the saucer needs to be dumped out, not left to sit. The soil should dry out completely before the plant is watered again.
Repot fairly frequently. The pot should be slightly larger than the root base. If the pot is too large, the soil will hold more moisture than the plant needs and can rot it. Desert rose tolerates being a bit root-bound and will limit its growth to stay comfortable, so if you want it to grow, give it a little bit larger pot every two years or so.
Place in a very sunny location. In some areas, this may mean that it's in a different window in spring than in fall and outdoors in the summer.
Restrict water during the dormant season. When the plant gets less sunshine and temperatures cool off, it goes dormant and simply rests. The roots don't absorb and are susceptible to rot. Conversely, in the summer, in very hot climates, it can be watered daily, as long as the water is draining off. Some growers recommend a completely dry dormant season, while others advocate monthly watering.
Encourage the adenium's funky root shape by lifting the root base up above the soil line when you repot it. The growers at Top Tropicals in Thailand use this technique for creating extremely gnarled and irregular root bases with fascinating shapes that bulge in all directions.
Fertilize weekly during the growing season, but avoid applying the fertilizer directly to dry roots. Growers recommend diluting the fertilizer or watering first and then fertilizing. The fertilizer should be high in phosphorous, meaning that the middle number is the highest.
Prune the ends of each branch when growth resumes in the late spring. Since the flowers are at the tip of each branch, encouraging more branches will result in more blooms. Be careful when pruning, though, as the sap is highly toxic. Wear gloves and avoid letting the sap touch your eyes or skin. If you do come into contact with the sap, immediately wash your hands thoroughly.
- Avoid using a plastic pot, as adenium roots are massive and strong, easily breaking flimsy plastic pots. A thick concrete or clay pot is best.
- Adenium sap is poisonous. Don't allow it to come into contact with your skin, eyes or mouth.
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