Native to East Africa, Socatra Island, the desert regions of the equitorial edges of sub-Saharan Africa, Yemen (formerly “Aden” from which Adenium is root named), and Saudi Arabia, this plant is a sparkling example of evolution at work. Its submerged root system (caudex) has an expanded cellular structure which stores water. The Adenium (“Desert Rose”) is neither a rose nor true desert plant. It has a period in its native environment which receives significant rain and mist, and a longer period with extremely limited rainfall. Thus, it evolved tissues to store water during the rainy season and uses the water to sustain itself through the dry months before the rain returns. During that dry season, the plants can remain in a leafless condition, avoiding water loss and dormant until the rainy season returns to encourage flowering and growth.
In a garden environment, Adeniums are quite tolerant of the type of plant grower who might be inclined to “forget” to water their plants. They are less tolerant of the “plant baby-er” who dotes over their plants with mist sprayer, hose and fertilizer in hand. The proper way to grow quality Adenium, which will be the all-star of one’s garden, window sill, or greenhouse, is a two season approach. In cool, short daylight times, water once and then don’t water again until the soil mass is approaching dryness. Don’t fertilize. As it becomes leafless, enjoy its sculptural form of leafless intricate woven stems and engorged caudex.
As warm weather and longer days emerge, when night temperatures outside consistently stay above the upper 50’s F and days go into the upper 70’s and 80’s, leaves and flower buds will begin to emerge. When that occurs, begin to water more frequently as needed to keep the soil moist but not saturated wet. Begin to fertilize with low nitrogen, high potassium fertilizer ratios. Soils should be open, porous, not subject to compaction and diminished soil air space.
We call our Adeniums “Living Sculpture Adeniums” (trademark). They are truly living sculptures which can live for centuries with continuous care, passed on from generation to generation. They give the feeling that they want to stand up and move. Their aura is one of awesome natural beauty with a soul of life.
1. Use a coarse potting medium with low amounts of peat.Desert soil mix amended with perlite, coarse river sand, aquarium sand, chopped coconut husk.
2. Grow in full sun for at least 6-8 hours per day.
3. Fertilize in Spring and Summer, not in winter. Use low nitrogen, higher phosphorus and potassium with micronutrients including Boron. Slow release formulations work well.
4. Water thoroughly and then left it approach dryness, but not dry, in the Winter. In the Summer, so long as the potting mix is coarse and drainage is good, the plants can enjoy more frequency of thorough watering.
5. Trim the plants after a substantial flowering period to cause more branching. Flowers grow from branch tips. The more the branches, the more the flowers.
6. When repotting, lift the plant higher and wash off the upper part of now-exposed root and caudex structure. This will expose more of the living sculpture of your plant to be seen.