The desert rose (Adenium obesum) provides vibrantly colored blooms throughout most of spring, summer and early autumn. Its succulent leaves and bright flowers make it an ideal specimen for your patio, deck or another outdoor living area that sits in bright, full sun. This plant is most often a colorful houseplant throughout much of the U.S., but in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, you may plant it outside.
Desert Rose Characteristics
Desert rose grows into a shrubby, typically evergreen plant; in the wild, it may become deciduous and drop its leaves during the dry season. It grows up to 5 feet tall in a home garden. The thick, crooked branches and 2- to 3-inch-diameter flowers create an ideal specimen for an accent plant. Flowers may be single or double and come in shades of red, pink, yellow and white -- or a combination.
All parts of the desert rose are toxic if ingested. The sap, in particular, is toxic -- it is purportedly used as an arrow poison in parts of Africa.
Choosing a Spot
Desert rose needs the most sunlight it can get -- a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight is required for the plant to bloom correctly. This doesn't necessarily mean direct sunlight; desert roses do well in a bright, filtered-sun location that is similar to growing in a well-lit and bright area under a taller tree. A mature desert rose can handle blazing sun for the entire day.
In the home, choose the brightest location possible, but do not place in a south- or west-facing window, as this can get too hot.
If you live outside USDA zones 10 to 12, bring your desert rose indoors for the winter; bring it inside when it begins to drop its leaves in fall. They don't require as much sunlight during their winter dormancy -- place them nearly anywhere in the home beside completely dark rooms or near extremely bright windows.
Watering Desert Roses
Mature desert rose plants are particularly drought-tolerant like other succulents, but that doesn't mean you can ignore watering them.
Watering a garden or houseplant desert rose relies on the finger method. You should allow the plant to dry out almost completely before watering again. To test, stick your finger into the soil between 1 and 2 inches -- your middle knuckle on your index finger is generally a good bet. If the soil at the tip of your finger is dry or nearly dry, water your desert rose. If it's not, wait another day or two and test again.
Feeding Desert Roses
Feeding with a half-strength houseplant fertilizer once per month during the growing season helps keep your desert rose happy and healthy. While application rates vary greatly among products, some all-natural houseplant fertilizers require just 1/2 tablespoon -- half the label's recommendation of 1 tablespoon -- per month between April and October.