Desert rose (Adenium obesum) is native to regions of Africa and Yemen. It is in the family of dogbane, in which the majority of tropical plants are included. Desert rose prefers growing in warm conditions, so it is a good outdoor specimen in tropical and subtropical regions of the country. In cooler areas where temperatures dip below 40 degrees, it is best to grow it in containers. In prime conditions, desert rose has been known to live for a hundred years, still producing clusters of beautiful blooms in colors of maroon, pinks and white.
Growing Desert Rose Outdoors
Select an area in your landscape receiving either full sun, or partial sun, throughout the day. Desert rose requires sunny, warm locations to thrive at its best. Do not plant desert rose in the full shade.
Amend the soil with sand if it is thick and does not drain well. Add peat moss to sandy soil. The objective is to have a planting site that drains very well. Desert rose will not tolerate conditions where its roots remain waterlogged.
Select a planting area that is not prone to flooding. If the area occasionally retains water, you will be required to build a mound to lift the plant up. Form a pile of soil that is approximately 6 inches in height and 12 inches in diameter. Pack the soil down firmly, so the mound stays in place while watered. This will assure the root system remains dry in wet conditions, once planted.
Plant the desert rose at ground level, if the planting area does not have a tendency to retain water and become soggy. There will be no need to build a mound.
Dig a hole that is large enough for the desert roses root ball to fit in. Dig the hole no deeper that the container holding the plant. Remove the plant from its container, being careful not to disrupt the roots. Place in the hole at the same level it was inside of the container and pack the soil around it.
Water the desert rose well. Water the plant when the planting area becomes completely dry, during the warmer months. Restrict the watering to every few weeks during the cool months of fall and winter.
Fertilize the desert rose with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength, once per week. Cut back to once per month during the winter months.
Growing Desert Rose in Containers
Select an unglazed ceramic container or clay pot that is at least three times larger than the plant’s root ball and has a drain hole. The desert rose's root system requires a large area to spread out.
Fill the container with a lightweight potting mix that drains well. Dig a hole the size of the root ball and place the desert rose carefully into it. Pat the soil firmly down around the plant. Place the container someplace that receives full sun, preferably outside.
Follow the same watering and fertilizing steps for desert rose planted outdoors. Bring the container inside in the event of a freeze.