Growing Desert Roses Indoors & Out

Adeniums grow in full sun in colder climates, and full or partial sun in warmer climates. But it cannot survive long if left in the cold during winter or prolonged rainy periods, which can freeze or rot the roots.  

Desert Rose is classified as a succulent and requires very little water. It hardiness zone is 10-11, however, some people have great luck growing it as a house plant in many other climates as well, with proper care. The main problem this plant is over watering, over fertilizing or low light. Depending on the climate, they may be watered as little as once a month.  

Growing Adenium in pots 

With proper care, Adeniums may be grown in containers almost indefinitely. 
Any type of pot (clay, plastic, or ceramic) will work, however, clay pots are highly recommended due to their ability to ‘breath’ out excess moisture. Many growers use a shallow, Bonzai-like pot to allows for more rapid drying of the soil, while allowing room for root and caudex expansion. Whatever container you use, just be sure it has good drainage, and if you use a saucer, that it doesn’t retain water.  

The pot should be a bit larger than the size of the root mass, including the caudex, but not unnecessarily so. Too much overpotting can result in soil moisture retention and root rot. However, these plants are easily potbound, with massive roots that are capable of breaking through the sides of plastic and ceramic pots. You don’t want to restrict its growth, or the growth of the caudex. So every year or two you should transplant it into a larger container. If you have trouble getting the plant out of the pot, run a blade around the edge of the pot, and whack the sides to loosen the soil. Avoid damaging the roots during planting, since they are prone to become infected with soil-borne pathogens. 

Light Conditions 
Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exsposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are conidered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun. 
You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions. 
Adeniums can do well with plenty of filtered light, for example, inside a screened patio. You can tell if your plant is not receiving enough light when it becomes pale in color, has fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Position Desert Rose in full sun or some afternoon shade for best flowering, but use even less water in partial shade conditions.  
Winter Care 
In late fall, as the light decreases, leaves will start to drop, which is natural. That is a signal that it is going into its dormant period. It should be kept a lot drier than during the other seasons. For the most part, you don’t want to fertilize the plant, since it is not growing. Water it sparingly during warm, bright days. 
All adeniums are sensitive to frost and cool weather. As evenings begin to cool in the fall, plants should be brought back indoors and placed in a bright location where the temperature will stay above 50°F. Full sun is not necessary for dormant plants. 


The two principal considerations when growing the desert rose in the landscape are the amount of light and the degree of moisture in the soil. Temperatures are of concern if they regularly fall below 35 degrees. At 40 degrees, the branch tips will be damaged, but the plant may survive. 

It is absolutely necessary to control soil moisture for landscape planting, where you have less control than container planting. It is preferable to construct a raised bed in areas that are liable to flood, or where drainage is poor. To construct a raised bed, use rocks and loose rubble to build up a berm (mound with a flat top), a foot or so above the surrounding terrain. Cover with four inches of free draining soil mixture, preferably a mixture of succulent dirt, coarse sand and Perlite. Create a depression in the top of the berm deep enough to accommodate the plant at the level it was growing in the container. 
Water well, and give the mound a chance to settle. 

Make sure you choose a site in full sun, with good air circulation. Plants grown under excessive shade will flower poorly, are more liable to appear leggy and are prone to develop disease. And stay away from areas where automatic sprinklers may be used to water more thirsty plants. You can’t control the rain, but you can control the location of the plants. Desert rose will thrive under conditions of copious rainfall during hot periods of the year as long as they are kept in a free draining soil. During the cooler months of the year, they are more prone to root rot. Let the soil dry between watering 

Do not use organic mulches around the plant. It is better to use river gravel or lava rock to enhance the landscaped area, as well as other heat tolerant plants. 

Some growers choose to expose more of the underground part of the caudex as the plant grows. This involves gently lifting the plant from the soil as you loosen the base. It is important to protect this newly exposed portion of the plant from direct sun. 

​If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow both roots and caudexes to develop and grow. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out, but most growers simply allow a little soil loss to ensure proper drainage.  

Fill your container to a level that will allow the Adenium, when planted,to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well. 

Adding shards or other "drainage material" to the bottom of the pot is an out-dated practice that actually deters drying out. 
​Growing Adeniums indoors 

Consider if the indoor space is suitable in terms of light, space, and warmth. Windows provide more light, but they are definitely colder than the rest of the room. You need to find the right balance, and may change its location throughout the year to take advantage of seasonal conditions. 

Indoor plants must also be transplanted into larger containers periodically, or they become pot/root-bound and their growth is retarded. Water the plant well before starting, so the soil will hold the root ball together when you remove it from the pot. If you have trouble getting the plant out of the pot, try running a blade around the edge of the pot, and gently whacking the sides to loosen the soil. 

Always use fresh soil when transplanting your indoor plant. Fill around the plant gently with soil, being careful not to pack too tightly -- you want air to be able to get to the roots. After the plant is in the new pot, don't fertilize right away. This will encourage the roots to fill in their new home. And always begin with a fresh pot. 

In nature, Adenium obesum is quite variable but can form a small, thick-trunked tree or large shrub. However, its size can be restricted by pot culture, and 20-year-old plants can be quite happy in a 10" pot, being only a foot or two tall. Because their size can be restricted, and because of the unusual shapes, they are becoming increasingly popular subjects for tropical or succulent bonsai. Given the right conditions, they can be fast-growing and rewarding houseplants in most any climate. 

Generally grown in pots, the Adenium is an excellent plant to grow as a Bonsai, yet left to grow, it will grace any patio with its unusual swollen caudex and beautiful blooms. 

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