Adenium Arabicum: The Definitive Guide (2021)

Adenium obesum tree or Desert rose in flowerpot

One interesting fact about the Adenium arabicum plant is that it could grow as huge as an elephant’s foot but can also be as tiny as a bonsai. It’s a perfect ornamental tree to grow outdoors or a colorful addition to your houseplant collection. Read ahead and find out more about this plant.

Plant Profile:
Common Name: Desert rose flower or Elephant’s Foot Plant
Scientific Name: Adenium arabicum
Type: Succulent
Origin: Yemen and Saudi Arabia
Habitat: It can grow in deserted areas that are hot, dry, and with limited water and nutrients.
Size: 2 to 5 meters tall; 1 to 2 meters wide
Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, humans
Colors: Green
Blooms: Pink to Reddish Pink

Plant Care:
Light: Bright, direct light
Watering: Less watering 
Temperature: Not less than 10oC (50oF)
USDA Zone: 10a-11b
Air humidity: Low to Medium
Soil pH: 5.0 to 5.8 (slightly acidic)
Fertilizing: Light feeding (Once a month fertilizing)
Propagation: Seeds, Cuttings, Air Layering, Grafting
Re-Potting: Every two to three years
Pruning: Judicious pruning

What’s Unique About Adenium arabicum?

Even if Adenium arabicum’s common name is desert rose, it’s nowhere near being a rose. In fact, it belongs to an entirely different family and genus. It has no thorns in its stems either. The single common ground they have is that this desert plant with pink flowers is really, really attractive. 

In its nature, this adenium species is a succulent plant. But unlike other succulents which are typically small in size, Adenium arabicum has a growing habit as that of perennial shrubs or trees. They can be grown both outdoors and indoors, small or big. The choice is yours!

Appearance

Adenium arabicum appearance is distinct from other desert rose species. The caudex is relatively wider and can grow up to 3 feet in diameter! The leaves are wider, shorter and less dense than other adenium species. As for flowers, this pink desert rose has a paler color shade than that of Arabicum obesum

Foliage 

Arabicum is considered deciduous which means that they naturally shed their leaves and arabic flowers after the growing season. So, don’t bother whenever you see your plant bald. This is just a preparation they have to make for the winter. At this point, your adenium is entering a dormant stage. 

The foliage of Adenium arabicum will stay depilated for about 3 to 4 months. Thus, all processes required to support growth and development are kept to the minimum. This is also the time when your adenium will require less inputs like water, light, and fertilizer. Growth will naturally resume once the spring season comes. 

Flowering

The pink desert flowers of this arabicum are tubular in appearance. After the flowers open, they will stay for 2 to 3 days to show their striking beauty. Your adenium will continue to produce new blooms after that. Flowers can even appear even prior to the growing of foliage. Don’t be surprised if you see arabicum plants having a crown of adenium pink flowers but without a leaf or two. 

Adenium arabicum flowering happens during spring and summer. Flowering can be initiated by exposure to bright light and sufficient amounts of phosphorus-rich fertilizer. If these two are taken care of, you can expect abundant blooms coming ahead. 

Size and Growth

There are two ways to keep the size of Adenium arabicum. You can allow it to grow outdoors as large as up to 2 to 5 meters tall and 1 to 2 meters wide. This is ideal if you want to have a flowering tree to accent your front yard. Arabicum is a slow-grower so you don’t really have to worry about it outgrowing your space. 

If you want to have it in a smaller size, go ahead and bonsai your adenium. This way, you can keep your adenium as an indoor plant.It will be easier to manage and move around a bonsai plant. This is favorable to those having limited spaces. 

Fragrance

A few desert rose species have been used as ingredients of perfume. The most commonly used one is the Adenium obesum which looks almost the same as arabicum. It’s been described to have a sweet smell, one that’s earthy and natural. The fragrance is light which easily faints eventually. 

Adenium arabicum fragrance, however, hasn’t been accounted for. Nowadays, many cross breeding programs are in the works to produce cultivars of desert roses that are strongly fragrant. It requires crossing different adenium varieties to produce hybrid plants. Example of this is the “Red Perfume” tagged as The World’s First Adenium Hybrid with Stronger Fragrance.

Toxicity 

Caution! The sap produced by all adenium species is toxic to pets and even to us, humans. Previously in Africa, hunters applied the sap of adenium to serve as poison in the arrows they use for hunting. You must be careful in handling this plant by using gloves as protection. 

For Humans

Once the sap of adenium gets into your eyes or on your skin, it could lead to irritation. Remember that prevention is always better than cure so always be careful in handling your adenium. Keep your hands and eyes protected. Remember to wash your skin if you get in contact with its sap.

Keep it from the reach of children. Kids are always curious and they might be tempted to pick and taste your adenium. You cannot downplay the harm that Adenium arabicum toxicity would bring to you and your children. Be mindful of your safety.

For Pets

If adenium sap is bad for humans, it’s a lot worse for pets. Your dogs and cats should be kept away from this plant. If they happen to ingest any part of adenium, they’ll experience vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, depression, irregular heart beat, and worst, death. 

If you notice any of these signs, bring your pet to the vet immediately. Please, don’t wait for more days to pass before you make a move. The earlier you bring your pet to the vet, the earlier they could get the needed treatment. Make sure to relocate your adenium in a spot where your pets couldn’t reach. 

Suggested Uses

If you want to achieve a tropical vibe, Adenium arabicum plants are nothing but perfect. You can plant them in decorative pots to serve as an accent in your outdoor landscape. Mix them up with other tropical plants especially those with dense green foliage. This will help accentuate the desert pink flowers during the flowering season. 

In an indoor setting, arabicum is best kept bonsai. This house plant with pink flowers is an excellent centerpiece for large tables. However, make sure that they are located in the brightest spot of your home. Adenium needs full day exposure to sunlight in order to thrive. 

Adenium Arabicum Care

Care for Adenium arabicum is relatively an easy task. It will pretty much exist on its own. All you need to do is plant it in a good soil, place it in an ideal location, provide water once in a while, and shower with a little fertilizer. No sweat, huh?

Light

Provide your adenium with bright light. You should provide the exact Adenium arabicum light requirements as much as possible in order for it to thrive. Bright light is much needed for optimum growth and flowering of your adenium plant.

If kept indoors, choose the brightest spot of the room for your adenium. This is critical specifically during the growing stage. Your plant is needing as much food to support growth and development. 

A full-day light is much preferred. If light is insufficient, the plant will grow weak and spindly. You can also expect that Adenium arabicum blooming will be delayed. 

Watering 

Watering of Adenium arabicum is a critical task. Since this plant is succulent, its body is characterized by having the ability to store moisture. This serves as a reservoir for the plant in order to survive arid conditions. 

Do not overwater your adenium because this will cause root rot. This plant prefers to be on the dry side so twice a week watering will do during the dry seasons. Make sure the soil is dry before watering again. During cold seasons, lessen the watering frequency to about once a month especially when the leaves are no longer present.

Make sure to drench the pot so the soil is well-saturated. However, always ensure that excess water drains out of the pot. Large adenium plants need more frequent watering than the small ones.

Temperature

Remember that adeniums are native to areas with dry, and warm climates. You can’t expect them to withstand freezing temperatures. In fact, anything that goes below  10oC (50oF) is already detrimental to this plant. 

It’s safe to maintain the Adenium arabicum temperature always above the critical level. So, when the cold season comes, bring your adenium plant indoors. Place it in a bright spot or provide artificial sources of light to keep the room well-lit and warm. 

Always check whether the species is suited to the existing climate of your area before buying one. USDA Zones 10a to11b are the best locations to grow Adenium arabicum.

Air Humidity

Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. Succulents wouldn’t normally like high humidity. Remember they have plenty of moisture in store in their roots and caudex. Additional moisture wouldn’t benefit them. 

Your Adenium arabicum succulent prefers an environment where humidity is low, around 30%. Keep it away from your humidifiers! And never ever mist them as you would with your other indoor plants. Otherwise, your adenium is prone to rotting. 

Keep your Adenium arabicum humidity low by displaying it in a location where there’s not much moisture around. Avoid placing the pot in kitchens or near your bathrooms.

Soil 

To avoid root rot, you must prepare a well-draining potting mix for your arabicum. The commercial succulent mixes that you see in garden stores are suited for this plant. Add draining materials such as perlite, vermiculite or sand. Mixing in organic matter such as compost will help improve the soil’s structure and fertility. 

Check how fast the soil drains by pouring water into the pot. If the water seeps out just minutes after watering, then drainage is good. 

The Adenium arabicum soil must be slightly acidic (pH 5.0 to 5.8). You can check this using a soil pH meter. 

Fertilizing 

As a desert dweller, this pink flowered rose is a survivor even with little nutrients supplied. Desert land is practically barren, that’s why only a few plants could survive. Luckily, adenium is one of them. 

This means that you need not to worry about constantly feeding your pink flower potted plants. A sprinkle of diluted balanced fertilizer once a month will do. Just make sure they go directly to the soil and not the leaves. Or, you’ll scorch them!

Increase the content of phosphorus fertilizer like bone meal during the blooming stage. This will help induce desert rose flowering. 

Propagation

There are numerous ways to make propagation of Adenium arabicum successful. The most classic way is using seeds. However, this method will take a lot of time. If you want to cut the process shorter, use the vegetative process of propagation. 

Other than using Adenium arabicum seeds, cuttings are a great way to start new babies. Just cut a healthy portion of the adenium, dip into a rooting hormone, and plant in the rooting medium. Once roots are established, the new adenium will continue to grow as a separate plant.

Other ways include air layering and grafting. You may try any of these methods.

Re-Potting

Re-potting Adenium arabicum should take place during the plant’s active growing stage. The perfect timing is during springtime. At this time, roots will grow faster. As a result, the plant would easily settle on its new container. 

Adenium is a slow growing plant. So, there’s no need to re-pot every year. They don’t even mind being a little pot bound. Once you notice that the roots start to come out of the pot, then, that’s a signal to repot to a bigger container. 

You can use any type of pot but it must be sturdy enough to hold the growing adenium. 

Pruning

Pruning is the way to keep the Adenium arabicum shape. By cutting off the undesirable branches, you can train the plant to follow a specific structure. It also helps regulate the height and size of your adenium. 

There’s no exact time of when to do pruning. This depends entirely on the growth rate of your plant and the desired outcome that you wish to achieve. You can conduct pruning to induce profuse flowering. Or, you can prune to simply remove dead and diseased leaves and flowers. 

However, as a rule of thumb, pruning Adenium arabicum should be done during its active and growing stage.

Adenium arabicum Common Problems 

Even the strongest plants have their weak points. For this beautiful succulent, root rot makes a downfall. There is no easier way to kill an adenium than over watering them. To give you an idea, following are common Adenium arabicum problems you’ll most likely encounter as you grow your own. 

Pests

The typical Adenium arabicum pests are scales, mealybugs and spider mites. These tiny sap and sucking organisms would mulch on the plant’s tissue. The damages left include lesions on the leaves, formation of brown spots, yellowing and even leaf drop. 

If you’re growing Adenium arabicum indoors, expect that these pests are more likely to be persistent. They’re difficult to spot unless their population is already dense and the damages noticeable. Mealybugs form a white powdery appearance while the scales look like small, rounded lumps. If silk webs are present, then, that’s the spider mites on the work.

Spray them with diluted neem oil mixed with dish soap. You may also swab them off with cotton dipped in alcohol. 

Diseases 

Adenium arabicum diseases are few. Bacterial and fungal root and stem rots are the most common. All of such are triggered by overwatering and excess moisture. These unfavorable conditions trigger the growth of pathogens. 

It starts with the roots. Damaged roots would result in less vigorous plants, stunted growth, and yellowing of leaves. In this case, you have to uproot the plant to check the condition down there.

To avoid diseases, use sterile soil as a potting mix. Sterilization kills the pathogens that might be inhabiting the soil. Avoid overwatering at any cost. And always drain the pot after watering. Keep your adenium in a well-lit and warm area. 

Growing Problems

If the environmental conditions aren’t favorable, expect that Adenium arabicum growth rate will be slowed. Such cases include the lack of light, erratic temperature, drastic humidity changes, and moisture problems. Climate has a huge impact on the growth and development of all plant species. 

To overcome these challenges, you have to be aware of the environmental cues. Check the prevailing environmental conditions and make a move before any damage is done to your adenium. For example, if the temperature is expected to go really low, bring your adenium inside. Provide insulation to add warmth to the surrounding. Install additional light sources.

FAQ

How do you care for Adenium arabicum

Adenium arabicum care is rather easy. All you need to do is provide the best growing conditions such as proper lighting, temperature, humidity, water and fertilizer.

What is the difference between Arabicum and Adenium? 

Arabicum is a species under the genus Adenium along with Obesum, Multiflorum and Swazicum. The Adenium genus belongs to the family of Asclepiadaceae or milkweed.

How fast does Adenium arabicum grow? 

Adenium arabicum is a slow-grower. If grown outdoors, it can increase up to 12 inches only annually. Bonsai adeniums will even grow at a much slower pace. 

Can Adenium arabicum be grown indoors? 

Yes. Adenium arabicum is a best candidate for bonsai plants. With reduced size, this plant could surely fit in the indoor spaces without trouble. 

How much sunlight does Adenium arabicum need? 

This adenium species requires a full day of sunlight. An arabicum flower is one of the many rewards of exposing this plant to bright light.

How can I make my Adenium arabicum grow faster?

Providing sufficient light is a great way to hasten the growth of Adenium arabicum. Light is needed by the plants to manufacture their own food.

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