Name: desert rose (Adenium obesum).
Height: up to 2m in the ground, but more often pot-grown; ideal for bonsai.
Foliage: elongated, mid green, tough; deciduous.
Climate: sub-tropical to tropical, arid; warm temperate frost-free climates; tolerates cold nights.
Soil: prefers well-drained, gritty soil, but tolerates richer loams.
Position: sunny open spot; light shade from hot midday/afternoon sun will reduce leaf scorch.
Flowering: single rose-like flowers in variety of colours and combinations, predominantly pink, white and red.
Feeding: use a long-term controlled-release fertiliser sparingly.
Watering: water when conditions are hot and dry; good drainage is essential. Don't water over dormant period.
Desert rose is a succulent, but unlike most succulents, it doesn't have swollen leaves. Instead, it has a swollen, belly-like trunk known as a caudex, which acts as a moisture store. It more closely resembles a bottle tree or baobab than a typical succulent. As the plant ages, the caudex expands and may divide to form a buttress (see the bonsai example above).
Its branches and stems look like those of a frangipani. Its leaves are smaller and mid-green. Desert rose flowers are very like those of oleander, allamanda and frangipani in shape. They have five equally sized and spaced petals surrounding a central yellow "eye" with each on its own short stem. Colour ranges from pink through to deep red, with many variations and combinations available. Flower size will depend on growing conditions, but is on average around 5cm across.
Growing desert rose from seeds can be tricky. The plant does set seed after flowering, but the resultant seedlings are variable. For a true-to-type plant, take stem cuttings when dormant or buy a named variety.
Desert rose can be planted outside in the garden in warm to tropical and arid climates, but it is most commonly grown as a potted plant or bonsai. It is not an "indoor" plant – it can be taken inside for short periods while in flower, but prefers being outside in a warm, sunny spot, out of chilly winds.
Like other succulents, desert rose does need regular watering, especially in hot, dry weather.
Promote flowering with a water-soluble or liquid fertiliser in spring and summer, diluted to about one third of the recommended strength on the label.
A long-term controlled-release fertiliser can be added around plants in the garden and pots once a year. Again, use it sparingly.
When grown in the garden, desert rose responds well to light pruning to keep it shapely, in much the same way that a frangipani is pruned. Cut back only in the dry season to avoid infections entering cuts.
A bonsai desert rose should have its tips nipped out every few months, but do take note of where flowers appear from and don't trim back past these points before flowers have appeared.
Desert rose is reasonably free of diseases, and rarely troubled by pests. If aphids or mealy bugs are present, a light spray with white oil or insecticidal soap may be applied.
Frangipani: the fragrance of the tropics; highly perfumed flowers in shades from white to deep pink.
Hibiscus: tropical shrub with large and prolific blooms in colours from cream to deep red, many with coloured eyes.
Mandevilla: fast-growing, free-flowering climbing vine often associated with tropical and sub-tropical gardens.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!