Plant Care Guide

At Brookfield Adeniums sharing our knowledge is very important to us. We want you to have happy, healthy plants and as such this manual is designed to help you achieve just that.


Ademium obesum is commonly known as the Desert Rose. This plant is native to Africa and parts of Arabia. Subspecies exist from differing geographical locations and these are: obesum, oleifolium, socotranum, somalense and swazicum. The different subspecies account for different body form and leaf shapes found in Adeniums.


All parts of the desert rose are poisonous. However, it is very hard to ingest any plant parts as the sap is extremely bitter. The toxic part of the sap is ouabain, a cardiac glycoside. These natural compounds are useful as pharmaceutical drugs for heart patients but are toxic to healthy individuals. Never attempt to ingest any part of an Adenium obesum and always supervise children around the plants.

Sun Requirements

Full sun. Half day sun is also tolerated by the plant, however, flowers may be smaller. Desert roses can be kept inside next to a very sunny window and will require weekly turning to avoid bending toward the light.

Soil Requirements

Desert roses do not tolerate wet feet and will rot in continuously damp soil. Fast-draining, nutrient rich soil is needed. Mix 1/3 potting mix, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 small bark for a basic mix. Do not use garden soil or any soil that has been used to pot other plants as this increases fungus risk. We sell the potting mix that we make and use in growing. 


Adediums become dormant during winter when exposed to shorter daylight hours and temperatures below 10 degrees at night. Adeniums lose their ability to produce flowers and may defoliate if daytime high temperatures remain above 38 degrees celcius for long periods of time (weeks). If a desert rose is kept above 10 degrees celcius and below 38 degrees (and in natural sunlight), year-long flowering can be achieved. During normal seasonal variations, an Adenium will flower for 9 months of the year: from spring to end of autumn.


Adenuims are hungry plants as they flower for 9 months of the year. Be sure to feed your desert rose twice a year with a slow release fertilizer. Once a year, use some fresh potting mix to provide new organic matter when lifting your plant. A hungry plant that has been underfed will not produce flowers.

Water Requirements

Adeniums require 2 different watering regimes one for winter and one used when the plant is active. Always water until the water freely runs out the bottom of the pot. Never use a tray or saucer under the pot.

In winter, the plant loses all foliage and becomes dormant. During this time, do not water as the plant is not actively taking up moisture out of the soil. Water sitting around the root may produce rot. Watering once a month and placing in the winter sun if the caudex becomes soft/spongy is fine. A softer caudex during winter is ok as the plant is using internal water stores. If you are worried about rot, always remove the plant from the soil, wash off and look for rot. If no rot is found, replant. If it is raining a lot during winter, create a poncho for your plant using a plastic shopping bag.

In spring, the Adenium will sprout either leaves or flowers first when the days start getting longer again and night temperatures are above 10 degrees celcius. Start watering again at this time. During spring, summer and autumn, water when soil has dried. Test this by sticking your finger down into the soil to check for moisture. How fast the soil dries out depends on temperature, sunlight intensity, pot type, wind and humidity and as such will differ. In most cases watering once or twice a week is sufficient.

Yearly Maintenance

Each year make sure to prune your plant once, lift your plant once and fertilize twice a year.


Part of the beauty and appeal of desert roses is the caudex (roots). Once a year, a desert rose will need to be lifted out of the soil to expose more of the caudex. We do this on our plants in winter so that the freshly exposed root does not sunburn.


Pruning not only helps to produce a good shape in your plant, but it produces more flowers each year. For each branch cut, most plants grow 2-5 new branches. As the flowers only appear at the end of branches, pruning at least doubles flowering potential each year. Always prune with a sharp, sterilized knife or gardening scissor. Do not prune lower than the last leaf node. If you want a long leggy plant that does not bush up, do not prune.


A Desert Rose that has been pollinated (mainly by butterflies) will produce seed pods. These pods will burst when ripe, releasing the seeds to the wind. To keep the seeds, lightly tie the seed pod with a flexible wire. The pod will split and can then be removed from the plant.

Fresh Seeds

To grow your own seeds that you have collected from your plant simply remove the flight tufts from both ends.
Prepare your seed tray with cocopeat. Lay your seed horizontally. Cover the seeds with a 3-5 mm layer of cocopeat. Mist the seed tray until the cocopeat is completely saturated. Place in a warm sunny place and mist until damp daily. Seedlings should start to emerge within 7-10 days.

Older Seeds

Prepare your seed tray with cocopeat. Soak the seeds in warm water until the seeds sink. Gently place the seed
horizontally on the prepared cocopeat seed tray. Cover the seeds with 3 - 5mm layer of cocopeat. Mist the seed tray until the cocopeat is completely saturated. Place in a warm sunny place and mist until damp daily. Seedlings should start to emerge within 7-10 days.


Rot occurs most frequently in Desert roses due to over-watering. Remove the plant from the soil and wash off roots with water. Cut any rot out with a sharp sterilized knife until the flesh is white. Leave the plant out of the soil for 1 week to dry. Dusting with sulphur or cinnamon helps the wound to heal, although this is not necessary. Replant after 1 week once the wound has sealed. Reduce watering or replace potting soil with free-draining soil.

Some types of rot occur from the tips of the branches down. This is caused by fungal contamination of the soil. Cut the Rotten branches off with a sharp sterilized knife. Drench the pot with a fungicide to kill the fungus as per these directions.


The most common pests include caterpillars, spider mites and fungus gnat.

Remove butterfly eggs off your Adenium to avoid caterpillars. Caterpillars eat the leaves and flowers of the desert rose.

Spider mites look like tiny (red) spiders on your plant. You may also notice web. Spider mites come to the top of the leaves at night and suck the sap, causing browning of leaves and dropping. Spider mites are more prevalent in winter in dry warm areas. They do not survive well in humidity. Use a miticide to kill spider mites according to manufactures instruction.

Fungus gnat is not usually visually seen on plants. It is attracted to fungus in soils. A plant may die suddenly or you may notice a tunnel when removing a rotted limb. You may even find the maggot burrowing into the plant. Rot needs to be cut out and both the soil and plant systemically treated with Alsystin according to the manufactures instruction.


You can grow new plants by taking cuttings of your plant. Cut a branch at least 10cm long. Remove all leaves and flowers. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and place in damp vermiculite. Do not water. Cuttings are very difficult to grow and should only be attempted in warm months.

Graft Care

To keep your grafted plant happy and healthy, make sure that you remove any new growth that emerges below the graft line or on the graft line by cutting off flush with the plant using a sharp blade.  Be careful to protect the graft site by not doing any of the following:  do not bend the plant, do not pick the plant up by its branches and do not handle the plant roughly.

Multi-Graft Care

To keep your multi-graft happy and healthy, follow the prescribed graft care.  In addition, make sure the plant remains balanced with each grafted branch growing at about the same rate as the rest.  If one branch becomes dominant and grows more than the others, prune this branch back to match the growth of the other grafted branches.