What Causes Desert Rose Root Rot: How To Save Your Adenium

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Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) is a tropical plant native to Eastern Africa and thrives in humid climates. 

As a dogbane family member, the desert rose plant’s sap is toxic to people and pets.

Desert Rose root rotPin

Other common names of this plant include:

  • Mock Azalea
  • Impala Lily
  • Sabi Star

It’s a great alternative if you want a bonsai tree, as it adapts easily to growing in a pot.

It is typically a pest and problem-free plant but can be subject to fungal or bacterial stem rot or Desert Rose root rot problems.

If your Adenium is overwatered, the conditions can cause severe damage and are quite hard to treat. 

In this article, we discuss simple treatments and preventative measures for root rot in Desert Roses

How Can You Tell if Your Desert Rose Has Root Rot?

Start by simply looking at your succulent plant. It’s important to check on your Desert Rose frequently to be familiar with its usual appearance. This will help you to notice unusual changes.

Intricately woven trunk with pink flowers, potted plant.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plantando_rosas

Watch for these signs: 


Blister-like growths on the plant’s caudex or plant stem root can indicate too much water within the root structure. 

The blisters act as a way for excess water to escape. While you might think this is a good thing that would solve the problem, if these blisters become too filled with water and burst, they will leave behind minor wounds that can act as openings for fungus and bacteria to take hold.


While looking at your Desert Rose’s roots, check if the main caudex is swollen or noticeably bigger than usual. This can mean that it is overfilled with water.

Yellow Leaves

Look at the leaves of the plant. Yellowing leaves may mean that the plant has been overwatered and may have even started to experience root rot.

Related: 7+ Reasons Why Your Desert Rose Leaves Turn Yellow

Small, Slow Growing Leaves

If you prune your Desert Rose plants and find that the leaves do not grow back very quickly, and when they do, they are quite small, this can be a sign of root rot.

Dark, Mushy Soft Spots

Advanced Adenium rot manifests as dark, soggy tissue in the caudex and roots. 

When visually examining your Adenium Desert Rose, squeeze the caudex to see if it feels soft or hard. If it feels excessively hard, it may be swollen with water. If it feels soft or mushy, it may already have root rot.

You may also see black spots on the root. 

Why is Root Disease Rot a Problem?

Rot is never a good thing, and in the case of plants, root rot interferes with the transportation of nutrients and water to the plant. 

It’s usually caused by insufficient oxygen in the plant’s root zone. In addition, as the roots disintegrate, the entire plant weakens and dies.

How Can You Prevent Root Rot?

The best way to prevent root rot in Desert Rose and all plants is to avoid overwatering. Instead, use the soak and dry watering method to water thoroughly and let the excess moisture completely dry before watering again. 

Moreover, using gravelly cactus or well-draining sandy soil will also prevent this problem. You can also use a well-draining growing medium like potting soil mixed with sand or perlite. 

Ensure that the soil has neutral to acidic pH levels, around 6.0.

Additionally, occasional use of a fungicidal treatment in the water can help prevent fungus growth in the plants’ soil. Use commercial chemical fungicides or natural alternatives.

Making sure there are drainage holes in your desert rose container to drain the excess water will also help prevent root rot.

Luckily, humidity is not required when growing Desert Rose plants since they are well accustomed to a dry, hot climate. 

Other reasons for root rot include frost and freezing temperatures. So it’s important to provide good conditions, such as warm temperatures and plenty of sun.

Related: Learn the ideal balance for your Adenium with our Best Fertilizer for Desert Rose recommendations.

How Do You Treat Desert Rose for Root Rot?


If the rotted part of the root is quite small, you can use a very sharp, sterile implement to cut it away. 

Be sure not to leave any rotted flesh after removing the rotted part. Spray the root with hydrogen peroxide, allow it to dry, and then dust the cut surface with cinnamon powder to prevent further fungus and bacteria growth.

If the rotted part is quite large, boldly cut away a large section of the plant’s roots. Leaving any rot at all will only lead to problems.

Be sure always to use a very sharp, sterile implement to operate on plant roots. Sterilize your tools afterward to prevent the spreading of disease.


A strong blast of water can also be used to wash away root rot. Lay your plant out on the lawn and give the damaged root a hard blast with the pressure sprayer on your hose. This can wash away badly rotted roots. 

Follow this up with a spray of hydrogen peroxide. Allow the roots to dry, and then treat them with an organic fungicide like powdered cinnamon.

Aside from washing away the root rot, using this method can also eliminate common pests, like aphids, mealybugs, fungus gnats, scales, and spider mites.


You may also wish to try scraping out rotted root portions with a spoon or similar implement. 

This is moderately effective, but of course, you cannot remove damaged tissue as completely with a spoon as you can with a sharp knife or a hard blast of water. 

If you choose to use this method, follow up just as you would with the others with peroxide spray, drying time, and cinnamon.

How Long Should You Leave Roots to Dry After Treating Them? 

You can let your plant lie out in a warm, dry area that receives bright indirect sunlight for several days until the roots begin to harden up. 

Once this has happened, replant your Desert Rose into entirely fresh soil. Be sure to use a brand-new container or completely sterilize the plant’s old container before repotting.

Related: What is Best Soil For Desert Rose

How Can You Help Your Desert Rose Plant Grow New Roots?

Remember. Don’t forget to let the desert rose plant dry out before repotting it. You may use a non-porous container, such as glazed ceramic, glass, plastic, terracotta, or unglazed clay.

When you repot, you may wish to dust the roots with rooting hormone to encourage the growth of new roots.

Repot the plant into a pot with moist soil and drainage holes, and don’t water immediately.  Instead, wait until you see new root growth, then give the plant a light watering. 

When it has become well established, begin a regular soak, dry watering, and occasional fertilizing.

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