Desert roses in the rain

Do you like succulents, but need something to add a bit of height and flower colour to the bed? Adeniums could be the answer.

Adeniums, or desert roses, come from sub-Saharan Africa. A. obesum is the generally accepted and readily available species, but extensive hybridising is being done. The desert rose is a popular garden plant in places like Arizona, where their free-flowering, in shades of white, pink and red, is valued.

Desert roses are plants of the dry sub-tropics, so they can get a bit too wet in our climate. Growing them in pots is ideal – place the pot directly onto the soil surface without using a saucer, and fill it with a two parts potting mix and one part perlite or vermiculite.

Adeniums are members of the same family as oleanders and frangipanis (the Apocynaceae) and have the same milky, toxic sap. Avoid pruning them or get used to cleaning your secateurs! Pot culture helps you control the size of the plant. They will grow up to about two metres if allowed to do so, but a small, shallow pot will limit growth.

Like other succulents, adeniums enjoy full sun, but they must be protected from frost and heavy rain. Our succulents grow happily under the eaves, against a stone wall that faces north-west.

The feeding and watering regime is quite easy. Give them little water and no food while they are dormant in the cooler months, then give them slow-release fertiliser and more water once they start growing and forming buds in spring. Feed again now and maintain regular watering and your desert rose should grow very quickly into an interesting feature plant.

If you already have one, check for seed-pods forming. Seeds germinate readily, and are the best way of propagating adeniums – and who knows what new and gorgeous variety might result?


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