x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Plant library: Adenium obesum

The desert rose is long-flowering, drought tolerant and thrives in full sun.

Desert rose thrives in full sun. Jeff Topping / The National
Desert rose thrives in full sun. Jeff Topping / The National

I've seen aged examples of this remarkable species grown as mighty specimen plants, potted to display their huge trunk and contorted stems. I have also seen tiny juveniles packed tightly together and planted in borders en masse. In both cases, they've excelled. Unusually for a plant that is commercially available in the UAE, Adenium has the benefit of being a native that is long-flowering, colourful, drought tolerant, low in its water demand and easy to look after. In fact, the main problem that most gardeners have when they first get one is overwatering. This can be avoided by growing the desert rose as a container plant and by keeping it in full sun. It thrives in both conditions.

Adenium is best grown cactus-like, in a free draining potting mix that mixes sand and gravel with compost. It should be allowed to dry out completely between each watering. Propagation is relatively straightforward from either seed or cuttings but care should be taken when pruning because Adenium has toxic sap that can irritate if it comes into contact with the skin. All parts of Adenium are poisonous and the plant should be kept away from children and animals.