Called a "carefree succulent" by some, the desert rose (Adenium obesum, USDA plant hardiness zones 11 and 12) is actually a perennial succulent that produces 2-inch pink to red bell-shaped flowers. They are low-maintenance plants, but they do not like cold weather. In fact, desert rose plant freeze can damage or destroy this beautiful succulent.
Do Desert Roses Freeze?
Desert roses are native to arid and semiarid climates, with a preferred temperature range of 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They will not last long otherwise. Most desert rose varieties become dormant in the fall and winter. You may see yellowing and dropped leaves, so water them less when this happens. They can indeed become a bit frozen, and signs include frost on the branches. Be sure to snip these off; otherwise, the stems could rot and kill the plant.
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A desert rose freeze can be light or heavy. The damage can be seen on the plant's thinnest branches in the beginning, but it can spread to the thicker ones. They will lose color, grow soft and look mushy. Heavy frost damage kills branches and back areas of the desert rose.
Can a Desert Rose Survive a Freeze?
Desert roses can survive freezes if they are attended to in time. Cold-damaged branches should be eliminated with sharp pruners but be sure to sanitize the pruners in between cuts with rubbing alcohol as you are working to prevent disease spread. Cut slowly until you see clean, healthy tissue that shows no signs of discoloration. Leaving the dead tissue causes that rot to spread to the entire plant and could kill it.
For heavy frost damage, you might have to prune more drastically, going into the thicker back portion. If the rot extends to other parts of the plant, it can destroy the desert rose's ability to grow new branches. When the tissue damage enters the root zone, it can kill the roots as well. At this point, fungal and bacterial pathogens can also take over and kill the ailing desert rose.
After pruning, you can wait to see if the desert rose shows new signs of life in the springtime. Also, check to see if you have missed any dead tissue and lop that off. Desert rose plant freeze is not necessarily a death sentence; sometimes, you just have to wait to see if it recovers. To prevent desert rose freeze, try growing these pretty plants in containers. That way, they can be brought indoors when the temperature drops. If leaving them outdoors, cover them with frost blankets when the temperature dips below 40 degrees.
Desert Rose Care
The desert rose is a sun lover, so keep these plants in full, bright sun and out of the shade. When thriving, they will produce blossoms in early spring until midsummer and a second time in early fall. Indoors, provide them with bright, indirect light in a warm room and use a container with drainage holes.
These plants enjoy the rain but water them less frequently when the weather is cooler. Only provide water when the soil is completely dry. Saturate the soil but be careful not to soak it. Soggy soil and standing water are detrimental to the desert rose. The best soil to use is a potting mix combined with some sand, perlite, compost and/or organic peat.