Question: Can You Grow Desert Rose as a Bonsai?
Answer: Yes, growing an Adenium obesum or Desert Rose bonsai style is a great way to enjoy these plants.
Adenium obesum is also known as Desert Rose.
This small, hardy, easy to grow succulent tree hails from the dogbane family in Arabia and Africa. It is also a popular ornamental in the United States.
The tree grows on its own to reach about 3’ – 5’ feet tall producing lovely (sometimes fragrant) pink, white, red, or black trumpet shaped flowers with thick, glossy leaves and a bulbous base. Check out the Black Adenium for bonsai.
Desert Rose Adenium obesum is very popular as a common ornamental house plant, but is often trained as a bonsai plant!
It is easy to propagate the Adenium obesum plant from cuttings or to grow it from seed.
It is fast-growing and grows well in a small container, so you don’t need worry if it will be difficult to keep as a bonsai tree.
In this article, we share information to help you transform this everyday houseplant into an exotic and interesting Adenium bonsai tree.
Desert Rose Bonsai Tree Care
Light & Temperature
If you live in a tropical climate, it’s possible to keep your bonsai Desert Rose outdoors all year.
In cooler climates, keep the desert rose in a sunny outdoor setting during the growing season, which is early springtime to early autumn.
The plant prefers morning sun and afternoon shade.
As long as the nighttime temperatures do not dip below 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C), your Desert rose will be happy.
In the wintertime, bring your Adenium bonsai trees indoors.
A sunny southern windowsill is a good location for the sun-loving impala lily plant. The impala lily is another of the common names.
If you do not have a southern placement, east or west will do.
Avoid placing the Desert rose plant in a chilly northern window, but if it’s the only option, add grow lights to help your plant stay happy.
Don’t be alarmed if your Desert Roses lose their fleshy leaves in the wintertime, even in a warm indoor setting.
In all seasons, be sure to place your bonsai in a location where it can get the sun it needs and be seen to its best advantage.
Look for a windowsill, table or bench where your plant will be at eye level (about 4’ feet off the ground or floor).
Adenium Bonsai Tree Watering & Feeding
The watering of your bonsai must never be neglected.
Unlike other bonsai trees, The Desert Rose should be watered every 7 to 10 days.
Although Adenium is a succulent, when you keep it as a bonsai, you must be quite diligent about watering.
A 7-10 day watering schedule is advised.
Allow the plant to soak for half an hour or so and then allow it to dry thoroughly before the next watering.
Related: Desert Rose Watering Tips and Tricks
Keep a consistently moderate humidity level surrounding the plant.
When your Desert rose is indoors during the winter, place it on a pebble tray to provide a constant level of humidity.
Fertilizer is also quite important for an Adenium bonsai because this method of growing uses very little soil.
Use a good quality, general-purpose liquid fertilizer mixed at half strength to feed your plant regularly throughout the growing season. A slow release fertilizer and bone meal (for extra phosphorus) also are recommended.
Every other month, give your Adenium bonsai a foliar feeding of liquid fertilizer. Do not feed in the winter.
More Tips on Fertilizer For Desert Rose
Bonsai Desert Rose Pest or Disease Problems
As with most succulents and other plants, Adeniums poorly cared for will attract spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and other houseplant pests.
Tips on controlling Desert Rose aphid attacks.
Too much water will result in root rot.
Proper care and maintenance will prevent these problems; however, if you do find your Adenium infested or ailing, follow standard succulent care remedies to eradicate the pests and/or dry up the rot.
Tips For Training Bonsai Desert Rose
This tutorial is more about everyday care than training because, in order to truly train any tree as a bonsai, it is necessary to understand the rather complex Chinese and Japanese art form of bonsai.
Even so, study and practice make perfect, and luckily, these hardy, vigorous Desert Rose Adenium plants are easy to grow from seed or cuttings to have plenty of practice subjects.
Here are a couple of videos illustrating two slightly different methods of training Desert Roses.
The first is simpler and less invasive to the tree.
The second is quite aggressive and involves a lot of hard pruning to roots and limbs.
How to Grow Adenium Desert Rose As A Bonsai at Home Easily
Desert Rose (Adenium) Bonsai Makeover
You may wish to try the first method, to begin with, engage in deeper study, and then come back to the second method once you have developed a deeper understanding of the art of bonsai.
Regardless of whether you acquire an Adenium bonsai already started or try one of these two training methods, you will need to provide the plant with consistent grooming, maintenance and care to keep it healthy and happy and to maintain its attractive size and shape.
One thing you should be aware of at the outset is the milky sap of Desert roses is toxic, and developing a bonsai involves quite a bit of handling.
When you are shaping, pruning, and handling your plant, you should always wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles.
Be sure to wash up thoroughly when you are done working with your Desert Rose.
Grooming & Maintenance
Vigilance, trimming, pinching, pruning, and wiring are all tasks you will learn to perform proficiently when you keep an Adenium as a bonsai.
Watch your plant carefully for new growth and pinch and trim it back fairly vigorously to help your plant maintain its small size and attractive shape.
Be careful not to remove all of the new growth because your plant needs some new foliage to stay healthy.
Pinch and trim all year round.
Perform Desert Rose bonsai pruning year-round, but be aware when you prune, new shoots will form and more flower buds will develop.
For this reason, the best time to prune is very early in the springtime before your plant’s growing season starts.
Prune off any damaged or undesirable shoots and stems.
Use a clean, sharp cutting implement to make smooth cuts just above the junction of branches or a leaf node.
At this time, wire branches lightly to guide their shape and form.
Don’t apply wire too tightly as this will damage your Desert Rose as it grows.
Check your guiding wires frequently to be sure they are not causing injury to your plant.
Pot Types For The Bonsai Adenium
The best bonsai pots for Adenium obesum are shallow because this promotes a larger exposed root or caudex while simultaneously providing ample width for the spread of the caudex.
A standard bonsai pot or creative use of some other shallow container will work well to display a Desert Rose.
Just be sure the container has ample drainage holes.
Soil & Transplanting
Generally speaking, mid-summer is the best time to repot a bonsai.
At this time, you should gently remove the Desert Rose tree and surrounding soil from its pot and rinse the roots clean.
Prune off about a quarter of the plant’s root mass from the sides and bottom.
Clean and prepare the plant’s original pot or give it a new pot not significantly larger than the original.
Remember to place a piece of plastic screen over the drainage holes to prevent loss of substrate when watering.
Pour a thin gravel layer over the entire surface of the bottom of the pot, then add a layer of well-draining potting mix thick enough to elevate the tree to the proper height within the pot.
Place the tree on this layer of soil and add soil around the root mass.
Be careful to tamp the soil gently to fill any vacant spots.
Work the new desert rose soil under and around the root mass so there will be no air pockets.
Water the repotted bonsai Desert Rose thoroughly by submerging the entire pot into a tub or bucket of water.
Allow it to soak for a few minutes then set it out to drain.
At this time, decorate the surface of the soil with stones, bark, moss, and other natural ground coverings to help hold the soil in place and retain moisture.