DESERT ROSE
Unique plants are a must-have for your garden

June 08, 2012

by Brynn Lee, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
PHOTOS BY BRYNN LEE /VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER INTERN
The Noble Concubine desert rose bloom bursts with color against the evergreen leaves of the plant. It opens white with a pink twinge, has a dramatic crimson border and a bright yellow center. It is no wonder often considered a Top 10 favorite by enthusiasts.
Noble Concubine In Full Bloom
Star-Studded Sky
LEFT:
This sun-loving Noble Concubine plant was in full bloom at Master Gardener Brynn Lee's home last summer with 100 plus degree hot and humid days. It bloomed from late spring through late summer and into the fall.
RIGHT:
This Star-Studded Sky desert rose plant is in full bloom. Be careful where you place the plant if you have children or pets. The sap of this plant is poisonous if ingested.
The fat base of the desert rose is unique to the plant. It stores water for the succulent like most desert plants, but its oddity ensures that no two plants will ever have the same shape.
Notice these desert rose bean pod joined in the middle and growing outward resembling horns? It is recommended to wrap the pod with something like florist tape or cover it with a nylon hose to capture the seeds when the pod ripens and bursts open.
Do you want to know about a plant that very few gardeners own? The plant is commonly known as a desert rose, or Adenium obesum, and is in the plumeria family.

No two plants alike in shape

The desert rose is a somewhat slow-growing, brilliant-flowering, dark green-leafed, evergreen succulent that is native to the tropical regions of Africa and Arabia. What makes this plant so unique is its fat base. The base, from the name "obesum," is where water is stored like most desert plants. No two plants will ever be alike in shape.

Such a show-off

The desert rose blooms mostly in spring and summer, although flowering can occur any month of the year with proper care. The flowers are very showy in shades of red, pink and white. There is even a hybrid being grown in China, Taiwan and Thailand that is orange in color. There are dozens of species, each with a different color and/or shape flower; some are multiple, some are lacy, and some even resemble a lily.

INSIDE OR OUT

Likes direct sunlight

Your desert rose will do well as an indoor plant. It should be placed in a window located on the east or west side of your house to ensure the most direct sunlight. All of mine are outside in full sun. They seem to thrive in our hot, humid climate.

Even without some water or left out on a chilly night, the desert rose can lose most of its leaves, but never fear, they will re-grow after proper watering or warm weather returns.

Protect under 42 degrees

Your plant does not like temperatures below 42 degrees. Be prepared to protect it well. Continue to keep it warm until weather is above 50 degrees.

TIPS FOR PLANTING


Thrive in Containers

They are excellent container plants, even for the novice gardener because they survive with little care. When planting in containers, it is recommended to use two parts loam and one part of coarse sand. Succulent soil mix would be fine to use. I suggest adding gravel or rocks in the bottom of the container. Terra cotta or ceramic pots are best because of the drainage.

Do not do well with over watering

The most harmful condition is over watering or standing in water. The coarse sand and gravel will aide in preventing root rot. I use time-released fertilizer pellets in the spring and summer. When adding the soil, be careful not to cover the "fat" base. The exposed base is what makes your plant so unique.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing your container is to be sure and use one that can be easily moved for protection during cooler months.

Can be 5 feet by 4 feet in size

Your desert rose can grow up to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in width. The larger the base and more branches mean more flowers. The larger and older plants produce more flowers and have been known to sell for over $2,000.

When to re-pot

As with any other potted plant, you will need to "up pot" (move to a larger pot) as needed, usually one to two years. Add more soil mixture to the bottom of the pot as to keep the base exposed and lift your plant higher.

Base or no base

The older plants will produce a bean-like seed pod, which will dry and pop open to expose hundred of seeds with a "fuzzy helicopter" on both ends. If you choose to propagate from seed, this is the only way to grow a desert rose with the "fat" base.

If you propagate from a cutting it will result in an inferior plant as the base will never develop. When purchasing a new plant, it is OK to ask if the grower propagated from a seed or a cutting.

Pests and a warning

The pests known to the desert rose are mealy bugs, aphids and scale. These can easily be controlled with water spray and soap solutions as instructed on the label. Never use herbicides on this plant. Also watch for root rot and types of fungus.

Children and pets need to be careful about the sap from a desert rose because it is poisonous if ingested. If sap gets on your hands, wash with soap immediately.

Yours will be noticed

If you want that show off plant and to be the envy of all gardeners, get at least one desert rose. It will soon become your passion and enjoyment. Avid plumeria enthusiasts would likely agree.

Though not in abundance locally, you can purchase them at some nurseries and garden centers.
INTERESTING FACTS

  Showy red, pink or white flowers
  Unique, fat base
  No two plants are shaped alike
  Very little care needed


GROWING TIPS


  Light: Full sun or sunny window
  Water: Do not over water or let stand in water
  Temperature: Protect under 42 degrees
  Soil: Well-drained, succulent mix
  Fertilizer: Controlled release pellets


LUNCH AND LEARN WITH THE MASTERS


  WHEN: Noon-1 p.m. Monday , June 11
WHERE: Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.
COST: Free
PROGRAM: Victoria County Master Gardener Mary Janak will present a program, "Crepe Myrtles: Lilacs of the South"
Bring your lunch and drink
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.