By   March 30, 2008

Pink Desert Rose After purchasing a small tube stock Desert Rose yesterday, I put in a bit of research to find out the best conditions for them to grow and how to care from them.

A search found that there is a lot of snippets of information about growing Desert Roses, but nothing complete. Here goes to put it all together for you.

The Desert Rose is a native of East Africa and is a member of the Apocynacae family. Even though it is native to Africa it grows well in tropical an d sub tropical areas without too much special care, although if you have frosts you will need to bring the plant indoors over winter.

Leaves are fleshy and succulent and the flowers are 5 to 7cm trumpet shaped and will flower from late winter to early summer.

Plant your desert rose in a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and cactus potting soil, they love to have free draining soil as to prevent root rot. Mix in some slow release fertiliser to stimulate growth, in the first three years a soluble fertiliser can be added to increase the growth rate of the plants, after three years the soluble food does not have a huge effect.

Water your plant regularly as it is not a cactus, the best way to tell if it needs water is to check the top of the soil, if it’s dry you need to water.

Desert Rose needs plenty of light, full sun is great to ensure that you get the best blooms. Keep your plant above 12 degrees celsius.

WARNING: The flowers and sap of this plant are poisonous! Do not ingest anything from this plant, wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.

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91 Comments on “How to Care for and Grow a Desert Rose

  1. Val

    Having killed my huge plant over this winter in FL I purchased 2 more at the flea market today so was delightedf to read how I need to pot these plants–one redf and the other white with lavender tips.

    thanks so much

  2. Laura

    Hi all. My desert rose has red flowers that turn black and wilty at the edges even before opening. The rest of the plant looks remarkably healthy. What do do! Has anyone here had or solved this problem?
    Thank you!

  3. carol sue

    i love my desert rose! i live in indiana and have had mine for 3 plus yrs now. the frist year all green no flowers on my porch all summer! WINTER its to the basement. when theres no frost back to the porch now i am getting 4-5 blooming flowres!! every year so far!! in a pot on my porch and well watered!!

  4. Laura

    I just purchased a desert rose, I live in Maryland where it is humid and right now we r going through a drought . Just curious if I can put the desert rose out side in the real light during the summer, and bring it in when it rains. Just curious if I would b able to do this in the summer, does it like over 8 hours of light direct or not can u please give me some advice. Right now it is it is my front screened in porch getting morning and afternoon light, just wanted to know if I could sit it out side so it is getting surrounding light. Please help me with this question, would love to see it bloom, and also keep it alive, how many times should I fertilize it, can I use the Schultz plus liquid plant food made for cacti and other succulents, jade,aloe Vera etc. Just like I said I just got it and it is in a 7 inch pot, let me know if that is to small also. Just saw pictures of the blooms they r beautiful, just want to keep it alive. Thanks so much cannot wait ti hear from someone.

  5. Maria Elena

    I just bought a small desert rose plant about 4 days ago. I’m really excited to see it bloom. I hope it is doing okay under my care. Don’t you wish plants can talk?

  6. Joyce Adams

    I was given a desert rose and it has two round bulbs. It is like there are two plants in the pot. Can I seperate them without harming them? Thank you for your help.

  7. Larry

    I have had a Desert Rose for 5 or 6 years. It is in a large pot outdoors in SW FL and is becoming too big. I know that the nurserys prune them back each year. How do I prune it and when?

  8. Kat

    Thanks for all the info , it’s been a big help. I purcahsed mine in Arizona about 3 years ago and though I really like its ‘bonsai’ appearance, I have yet to see a flower. Being in NY, it stays in during the winter [a lot of leaf drop] and out for the summer[a lot of new growth]. Is there anything I can do to encourage it to bloom? thanks…be well! K

  9. tina

    please help!! i rescued this plant from the side of the road when it fell out of a moving truck!! stayed 3 days in the median of the road before i noticed tons of beautiful pink flowers. i took it home and repotted it and it grew and bloomed beautifully!! we moved about a year ago and it still was doing well, until about two weeks ago. a lot of the leaves fell off and then all the branches started to droop!! they have re-grown clusters of green leaves on them, but everyday the branches are getting closer and closer to the ground. when i touch them, the branches are pliable and tender. i live in sw florida and we have been getting a lot of rain lately. what is happening to my miracle plant?? is this root rot? if so, can i save it and how??? please help, this is my favorite plant and i would be crushed if i lost it!! thank you!!

  10. Gemma

    I have many dessert Rose plants and I find that they love a lot of sun. I live in the tropics so that’s a plus for me as well. Some months ago a friend of mine told me she needed to prune her desert rose tree. I did the pruning, planted and got many pots of lovely desert rose that were so huge and beautiful. For the lady who complain about the drooping and tender desert rose I am no plant expert but do feel that I have a green thumb… seem as if you have a rotten root. I don’t think you’ll be able to save that plant but it’s easy to tell by checking the root to see if rotten. Hope you save your plant.

  11. Linda

    I have moved in with my Mother to take care of her and have been fixing her yard up as she loves plants. I bought her two desert roses yesterday and wanted to know if I could plant them in the ground, or if they are better off to stay in planters?

  12. Marita Perkins

    I need to trim my desert rose. I also live in S. Fla. I haven’t found any pictures showing the correct angle to trim & something concerning the eye on the stem?? Help please. Thanks.

  13. lucy

    My dessert rose recently had small orange Caterpillar like insects with little black needles. I sprayed with Seven (also sprayed the dirt) and it kept it free of these bugs for about a month. Now they are back. What can I do about them?…thanks

  14. glenda

    Laura.. The rose loves sun.. the more the better. It needs the sun to produce lots of flowers. I saved two my brother had in broken pots stuck up under a tree. They had a few leaves and no evidence of flowers I brought them home and acclimated them to full sun.. Gave lots of water (watered every day during the hot period (FL here)) but I made sure not to let them stand in water – that’s a no no. When we had cold weather, I brought them inside. As for the pots, wide rather than deep. If you go with a deep pot, fill the bottom portion with rock for drainage. If they sit in too much wet soil you may have rot. Also, when re-potting — make sure you don’t plant deeper than where it was in the other pot. Mine are full of blooms and one had a seed pod which just split open the other day.. I collected the seeds and I’m going to give growing some from seed a shot. Sounds pretty easy. Also, the rose benefits from pruning if you’ve got some bare branches. You want to prune just after winter before the growing season takes off.
    I just recently started a Hayden Mango from seed, it’s about 1′ tall right now. Last year, I started two scrambled egg trees from seed. One of which is about 6′ tall now.. The other one is behind ’cause my yard people weed whacked it! Had to wait for it to come back – which it did.. It’s about 2-1/2′ tall now. Having trouble with caterpillars eating the new growth right now! ;( Hope this was helpful.

  15. glenda

    Tina.. I am by no means an expert but I just hate the thought of you losing your plant. You say there is new growth which belies rot.. Unless, since you are having lots of rain – perhaps it’s on the verge. I don’t know.. Here’s what I would do.. since you’ve seen new growth I’d say there’s time to save it.. I would re-pot (check the roots for rot at this time and remove those that are obviously dead) using the preferred medium (cacti potting soil) and make sure to use a well draining pot. They cannot sit in water. The pot should not be a lot deeper than your root system, if it is put lots of rock in the bottom of the pot. Give it lots of sun! Good luck to you.

  16. glenda

    Philpmene bell .. that thing you are seeing is the seed pod.. Leave it alone, it will become two seed pods-at least that’s what mine did. Wait for it to split open. This will take a month or more – don’t remember how long mine took but it remained unchanged for a while. Then one day, it split open and there were the seeds. They have feathery tails, I guess that’s how mother nature moves them along. At any rate, I collected them and am right now in the process of starting some plants from seed. It sounds pretty easy.. Wish me luck! Good luck to you!

  17. glenda

    rhonda…. Water!!! Their big, weird looking root ball stores water.. I water mine every day in summer.. Just make sure they are in a well drained pot and that they get plenty of SUN!! Must be brought in when cold! I live in Florida so I brought mine in when the temp was around 40 and put them right back out in the sun during the day..

  18. glenda

    Lots of people are talking about leaves turning yellow and falling off.. This seams to be something this plant does.. I just flick them off with my finger — new ones will replace it.. And pruning — yes, this plant should be pruned — helps it to fill in. Prune after winter before growing season starts. You can plant the clipping. Just let it dry out a day or two then dip it in root start, plant and water.. sun!
    I don’t know about everyone else but I don’t think this plant will produce many, if any, flowers if it’s not out in the sunshine! For those of you in cold climates, put your potted rose out in the sun whenever possible – full sun, water daily when hot out – must have well drained pot! Don’t allow to sit in water or soggy soil. Bring inside only when cold! Like below 40 – otherwise, leave in the sunshine – they love sun!! Good luck.

  19. glenda

    As for the seed pods. My understanding is that not every plant does it every year. Be patient, yours will eventually. It starts out as this ball or berry looking thing – this will transform into two 3 – 3 1/2″ long bean pod looking things – don’t bother them, just watch and wait for them to split open and expose the seeds. Now collect your seeds by just picking them out of the remaining bottom part of your pod – not sure where the top of the pod and you’re ready to start some roses from seed! My pod just opened yesterday and I am just today getting ready to give it a try.. It sound pretty easy. Here’s what I’m going to do.. Soak the seeds (just like they came out of the pod) in tepid water for an hour or two. Then sow them on the surface of pre-moistened potting mix (I’m using vermiculite), mist the seeds to settle them into the soil then cover the container with plastic and place in the sunniest window you have. Mist seeds every three days. Should sprout in less than two weeks.. Good luck to you and me :)

  20. glenda

    Joyce Adams.. I believe that is it’s root system.. That’s where your rose stores water! I would not separate them.

  21. Iris Ahrendt-Zinn

    Hi there!
    We live in Abu Dhabi /Dubai and we have some desert roses in our garden. Even with 50 degrees C in full sun they love it. But it’s very difficult to water the right way because it seems they do not like the pritty hot tab water in summer and the september with its humidity doesn’t make it easier. Is there anybody with experience in this climate?

  22. jean

    I have 2 desert roses. One I purchased a few years ago, and is doing great. The other I purchase a few months ago, and is not doing so well. The tips of the leaves are beginning to turn brown. Can you tell me what can be causing this to happen?

  23. Doddie

    Hi Just wondering if anyone can help me with my desert rose plant. I have one, I have had it for 1.5 years. I had it almost flowering until my husband brought it in the house for me to enjoy its flowers-but then it never did bud and all the leaves fell off. I pruned the plant back and started to get more leaves. I realize that it did not have enough sunlight. I don’t get sunlight in my bathroom but I get direct bright light and it is humid. Would it do well in the bathroom? I just wanted to know if anyone can give me tips on how to get it growing again.
    Thank you kindly,

  24. martin

    When do you have to replant the desert in a larger pot?? martin

  25. Audrey

    I’ve been growing 1000s of desert roses from seeds and have about 50 different varieties. Now after two years of growth they are beginning to bloom, and THEY ARE ALL RED (some with Pink as well) and they are not as pictured when I purchased the seeds! What’s happening? I trust the sellers, both of whom are well reviewed (but not on this subject).
    Is it the climate (I’m in Central America), water, soil, liquid fertilizer (Miracle Grow). I sold some to a local nursery (that was my intention with all of them) and they report back (good naturedly) that their’s too are all in “the red” range. This is a disappointing as I meant them for local nurseries to sell. . . but they mimic the only native desert rose here (and the only one available until I thought I could fill this niche) are red. One would have to hold them close together to see a slight difference.

  26. Annie

    I just bought a small desert rose plant about 1 hour ago. I’m excited to see it bloom. Thanks for all the info!

  27. merah

    I got my desret rose plant for valentine, it was healthy when i got it,but now the leaves are turning yellow, i am sure that its not getting too much water.I live in Trinidad,and it is hot here Maybe its too little water? i really need to!!!!

  28. Dianne

    I have some mature desert rose plants in SFLORIDA The are getting stringy and I would like to prune them back at the joints…….I think this is the right way but need your confirmation. Thanks for your help Dianne

  29. Kathryn

    Hi all,
    I read on a few websites that these plants should not be repotted until Spring even if their roots are bursting out the bottom of the pot. Can anyone confirm or deny this? I bought 3 small desert roses off a neighbour and she recommended I repot them soon since 2 of them have roots coming out the bottoms of the plastic pots but it’s just turned Autumn. I live in a very hot climate where it barely gets to a temperature where jumpers are needed in Winter so they should grow well year round. I don’t want to uproot them at an unopportune time but I also don’t know if they can last another 6 months like that. I’m a new gardener so any advice is welcome.

  30. Tricia

    I am interested in buying a desert rose and wanted to know where to get one. I live in South Florida and have checked at Home Depot and Lowe’s but they are sold out. Thanks for any suggestions.

  31. claire

    My potted desert rose is losing its leaves and is not blooming..This just happening. It has grown much in the pot. Is it potbound? Also how many times a week should I water it. I live in the gulf region of Florida. Thanks you

  32. Edward Meier

    When we moved into s.w. Fla. 1 years ago, a beautiful desert rose was growing in our yard. Yesterday I moved it to another location. When I dug it up,it had 4 or 5 huge bulbs attached. Can I somehow split these bulbs to propagate this hardy plant?

  33. Sylvia

    I’d like to trim mine back. How and when. Leaves are falling off now..

  34. Dannette

    I have a desert rose, which is new to me, I noticed today that I have a mushroom growing in the pot, and several others coming up. What do I need to do? Thanks for all the help.

  35. Felipe

    Thank you so much for the info! Really great stuff and really helpful.

  36. Radhika Harrilal

    I live in a Tropical Country where the rose seem to grow and bloom beautifully, got several plants some are in bloom now, have been experimenting with the soil for growing the plants,seem to get it right now.

  37. patti

    I’ve had a desert rose for 3 years. I have a new growth I can’t identify. It comes ut where a flower would normally be its a think dark red spike- looking object. Anyone ever see anything like this?

  38. alicia

    i live in Trinidad and i purchase a few desert roses earlier this year, they are growing nicely, i’m starting to see flower buds on one but they’re growing long and flimsy. Can you help me on when, where and how to i prune them? Thank alot

  39. Mike

    My Desert Rose plant’s trunk has grown very tall with few leaves. Why did it do this, and can I prune to make a shorter trunk without killing it? Thanks!

  40. Judi Guth

    I have covered my three desert rose plants with black plastic bags to protect them from a possible light freeze, and very cold weather. The weather has stayed below 50 degrees for almost a week. How long can they live without light? Id hate to lose them as they are prolific bloomers about tree yrs old.

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