How to care for the desert rose

Few plants attract as much attention as our protagonist. It has large and beautiful flowers, so bright and cheerful in color that you want to buy it to decorate your patio or home. However… there are two problems: it is very sensitive to excess water and does not tolerate cold at all, so its cultivation is often difficult.

But it can stop being so if you follow the advice you’ll find in this article. After several unsuccessful attempts, I have already discovered the trick to keep her alive and am going to share it with you. Find out how to care for a Desert Rose.

Origin and characteristics of the desert rose

Image – Wikimedia/ Nevit Dilmen

It is an evergreen and succulent shrub that belongs to the Apocynaceae family. It is popularly known as a desert rose, sabi star or kudu, and it can reach a height of up to 3 meters. It is native to eastern and southern Africa and Arabia.

It develops simple and whole leaves, leathery, with a size of 5-15 centimeters in length by 1-8 centimeters in width, of dark green color. During the spring, tubular flowers of up to 6 centimeters in diameter, pink or red, sprout.

It has a fairly slow growth rate, about 2-5 centimeters per year. In addition, you should know that the sap of this plant is toxic, a characteristic that it shares with oleanders (Nerium).

How do you care for the desert rose?

To know what a plant needs, and more one like this, it is very important to see images of specimens that are growing in their natural habitat. In the case of the Desert Rose, known by the scientific name Adenium obesum, we know that it grows in very dry and very hot climates, on sandy soils in both Arabia and Africa. Only with this, we will already know that we must have it in an area protected from the cold, water it very little and that we must use a substrate that has excellent drainage.

The question is, how do you take care of yourself ?, because of course, in habitat it takes care of itself, but… and in cultivation?  Cultivation is not easy, but neither is it impossible.

To have one or more copies, take note of the following:


It is a plant that has to be whenever possible outdoors, in a sunny area, or at least in which there is a lot of light. In winter it is better to place it in a greenhouse than inside the home, since it does not quite adapt to the conditions in the house.


Occasional. In the warm months twice a week, and the rest of the year once every 6 or 7 days, and only if the climate is very dry and the temperatures exceed 30ºC; otherwise, that is, if it is milder and/ or it rains more, the irrigation frequency will be less. In winter water only once every 20 days or so, or when the trunk starts to get a little soft.

So that no problems arise, you have to take into account the conditions of your area and climate, as well as the substrate and the location in which your desert rose is growing. Therefore, when in doubt, you should check the humidity of the substrate or soil.

And by the way, if you have it in a pot, it is not recommended that you put a plate under it, since when watering, the water would remain stagnant in the plate, and it would come into contact with the roots again, which do not tolerate the ponding.

Substrate or soil

It must be very porous. I recommend using akadama, pumice, river sand or similar. Even if you want to have it in the garden, it is advisable to make a large hole, and fill it with one of the mentioned substrates.


During spring and summer, it must be paid with mineral fertilizers, either with one for cacti and succulents sold in nurseries, or with a small spoonful of Nitrofoska or Osmocote every 15 days.


  • Pot: it is important to change the pot in spring, every 2-3 years.
  • Garden: If you live in an area with a dry tropical climate and want to have it in the garden, you can plant it in the ground after the driest season of the year.

When should the desert rose be pruned?

You can remove dried leaves and wilted flowers with your hands (but wear gloves) whenever necessary.


The desert rose multiplies by seeds in spring-summer. For this, they have to be sown in individual pots with coconut fiber mixed with perlite in equal parts.


It is very sensitive to cold. Temperatures below 0ºC can kill it, and below 10ºC it loses its leaves.

How to make a desert rose bloom?

Image – Wikimedia/ Joan Simon

In nurseries you can usually find already flowered plants, but after that time, it sometimes seems that they have a hard time producing flowers again. Why? Well, there can be several reasons, but based on my experience and those of other people I know, the most common are usually:

  • Bad choice of substrate: as we mentioned above, the desert rose grows on stony soils, where drainage is excellent. However, in nurseries they are sold in pots filled with peat and/ or mulch, perhaps coconut fiber, which could be considered passable (neither good nor bad). In these substrates the roots have problems to root in conditions, and a plant that cannot emit new roots and continue the growth of the ones it already has is one that will flower very little or will not flower.
  • Excessive watering: Adenium obesum needs little water; in fact, the ideal is to water only when the substrate has lost all its moisture. When it is watered more than it needs to, its roots can rot, and therefore, it will not be able to produce new flowers.
  • Lack of fertilizer: although it is a plant that lives in areas where there is little decomposing matter, when grown in pots, that is, in containers where space and therefore the amount of substrate you can add is limited, there comes a time when that the lack of nutrients begins to harm you. Therefore, to avoid reaching this situation, it is very interesting and advisable to pay it in spring and summer.

Good luck.

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