Tips On Desert Rose Care Outdoors: Growing Adenium Outside

All five varieties of Desert Rose, aka Adenium, are native to semi-arid or arid climates. They can also adapt very readily to semi-tropical and tropical settings. 

Adenium obesum the most popular can grow well outdoors year-round in any location with ample sunlight, warm temperatures (70° – 100° degrees Fahrenheit), and light, airy, well-draining soil. 

Flowering Desert Rose growing outdoorsPin
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Learn more about Adenium Obesum Care

Grow Desert Rose Outdoors Year-Round

If you live in a desert, tropical, or semi-tropical setting, you can grow your Desert Rose outdoors in the landscape. Be sure to place it in an area with a little incline so that excess water will drain off. 

Desert Rose is a good choice for a desert setting because it’s an incredibly drought-tolerant plant. Once it’s become established, you may never need to water it at all. 

Keep an eye on it, though. If you have extreme drought, give it a good, deep, slow watering occasionally. The best way to do this is to set up a drip hose and water during the cool part of the day.

Choose A Cold-Hardy Variety For Cooler Climates

Swazicum Adeniums, Southeastern African natives, are the most cold-hardy variety of Desert Rose. There are two hybrids to choose from: 

  • Crimson Star
  • Perpetual Pink

These varieties have slender, grayish-blue leaves. Although they are more cold-hardy than other types, you will still need to be watchful in winter. 

Overwintering Desert Rose

In areas where winter temperatures do not drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible to overwinter your plant in a sheltered area (e.g., a covered porch) outdoors. 

The best outdoor shelter is on the south side of your house. Place the plant against a wall and under a cover to protect it against rain and from freezing. 

Note that during its winter rest, you will water very little, if at all. Your goal is to keep it dry and protect it from frost through the winter.

If the forecast shows a dip below 20° degrees Fahrenheit, drape a blanket and a sheet of plastic over your plant to protect it. Or you can bring it into a cool, indoor setting, such as a basement. 

If frost or freezing damages any of your plant’s stems, prune them back in the springtime to prevent rotting that could kill your plant.

Keep Your Desert Rose As A Houseplant In Winter

Desert Rose can grow outdoors during the warmer months in climates where temperatures drop below 40° degrees Farhenheit for any significant period. Then bring it indoors when the weather begins to cool. 

Follow These Steps To Overwinter Desert Rose Indoors: 

Prune 

When the temperatures drop below 55° degrees Farhenheit consistently, prune your Adenium plant and bring it indoors.

Tips On Pruning Desert Rose Plants

Place

An Adenium in a sunroom or a greenhouse, where the climate remains consistent throughout the year, will continue to grow and bloom. 

Or, bring your plant indoors and keep it in a cool room where it will stay in a semi-dormant state through the winter and into the spring. During this state, keep the plant at a temperature of about 60° degrees Farhenheit. 

Provide bright, indirect sunlight. Place your plant in a west-facing or south-facing window. 

Water Lightly

While your plant is in a semi-dormant state, water sparingly. Some successful growers of Desert Rose treat the plant as tropical during its growing season and as a cactus during its dormant season. 

Don’t worry if the leaves drop; this is a sign of dormancy.

Transition to Outdoors

In the springtime, when the temperatures are consistently above 50° degrees Fahrenheit, transition your plant to an outdoor setting. 

Begin by moving it to a brighter area indoors, and resume regular watering and feeding. Gradually lengthen the periods of outdoor time and increase sun exposure. 

Even if you are very careful, your plant may drop its winter leaves during the outdoor transition, but don’t despair. It will grow new leaves that are better suited to its outdoor life. 

How To Fertilize Desert Rose 

  • Use a slow-release fertilizer to provide occasional light feeding during the plants’ growing season. These plants are not heavy feeders. 
  • Feed a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer with trace nutrients at about half-strength from mid-spring until mid-autumn. 
  • Start with an early spring feeding, then provide a monthly feeding throughout the summer. 
  • When the weather cools down, give your plant its early fall pruning and stop feeding. This will allow the plant to fall into semi-dormancy. 
  • If you keep your Adenium in a greenhouse or sunroom and it remains active for the winter, another feeding in mid-winter is an option.

For more of the topic read Fertilizer for Desert Rose Plants

A Few Words About Pruning

Desert Rose grows to be a tree in its natural environment, so unless you are growing it wild and free outdoors, you’ll need to keep its size under control. You can do this with close potting and pruning. 

Any time we keep Desert Rose as a potted plant, we are keeping it as a bonsai. Maintain a regular pruning schedule to keep your plant blooming prolifically and growing in a controlled manner. 

Throughout the growing season, clip off or pinch back unruly stems. Before you bring your plant inside for winter, give it a vigorous pruning to help make its rest period more effective.

Before you move it back to its outdoor setting during the growing season, give it another trim. Remove damaged and dead vegetation, and cut back straggling branches to create a more attractive shape. 

Remember that you can use Desert Rose cuttings to grow new plants.

Pests And Problems Outdoors

Desert Rose is a hardy, rugged plant that will do well as long as it has the right amount of sunlight, air circulation, water, and good drainage. If you overwater or try to plant your Desert Rose in a thick, heavy soil or a low-lying setting, you’ll end up with root rot. 

Compromised plants indoors or out are subject to problems with pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and Adenium aphids. Fungal diseases such as anthracnose also develop in less than optimal conditions.

Outdoors, Adenium may be subject to attacks by oleander caterpillars. To prevent this, apply a treatment of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) early in the springtime. 

If you miss this opportunity and caterpillars do invade, pick off the individuals by hand and apply Bt. If you don’t act quickly enough, the caterpillars will eat up your plants’ leaves and flowers. 

But, they won’t kill the plant. Give the plant a good wash down, apply Bt, and it will soon regrow foliage and blooms.

Desert Rose Long-Lived In The Landscape Or Container

Adenium can live for a very long time and can thrive and prosper in a wide variety of settings. 

Keep your Adenium 

  • as a formal bonsai 
  • as a houseplant 
  • or planted directly into the landscape

When well cared for or when in the wild, these plants have a lifespan of centuries.

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