Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) is a tropical plant that thrives in humid climates. It is typically a problem-free plant, but it can be subject to fungal or bacterial stem rot and/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 it. 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.
Watch for these signs:
If you see blister-like growths on the plant’s caudex or plant stem root, this can indicate excess 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 very swollen or noticeably bigger than it usually is. This can mean that it is overfilled with water.
Look at the leaves of the plant. Yellowing leaves may mean that the plant has been over-watered and may have even started to experience root rot.
Small, Slow Growing Leaves
If you prune your Desert Rose 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 you visually examine your 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.
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. 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, employ the soak and dry watering method to water thoroughly and let the soil moisture almost completely dry before watering again.
Additionally, occasional use of a fungicidal treatment in the water can help prevent the growth of fungus in the plants’ soil. Use commercial chemical fungicides or natural alternatives. [source]
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 powdered cinnamon to prevent further growth of fungus and/or bacteria.
If the rotted part is quite large, be bold and 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 spreading 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 with powdered cinnamon.
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 Grow New Roots?
When you repot, you may wish to dust the roots with rooting hormone to encourage the growth of new roots.
Repot the plant into slightly moist soil, and don’t water right away. Instead, wait until you see new root growth, and then give the plant a light watering.
When it has become well established, begin a regular soak and dry watering and occasional fertilizing.