Shakespeare wrote ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, but a desert rose or adenium belies that statement. The flowers of this succulent rarely have a fragrance, but if you want an easy to care for, thornless plant which if given enough light and fertiliser will astound you with its spectacular display of flowers, then the desert rose is the plant for you. Although in nature adeniums have single petalled flowers in hues of pink and red, growers have developed hybrids of both single and double petalled blooms in all colours and shades. There are many varieties of native adeniums, but the most commonly grown by succulent lovers is adenium obesum, closely followed by adenium arabicum.
This is the most commonly available variety of adenium. In its natural habitat it has mainly pink, red and white multi-coloured flowers and the most classic tree shape of all varieties. The leaves of this plant are rubbery and round. Obesum is a native of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is the most commonly used parent plant for cross pollination to produce new hybrid varieties of adeniums.
Adenium arabicum is also a very common variety and is especially popular with bonsai enthusiasts. The leaves are large and leathery and the plant has a much broader shape than the obesum. It produces pink flowers that have a darker shade of pink on the edges. This variety hails from the Arabian Peninsula.
A native of South Africa, in particular Swaziland, this plant is a little larger than the obesum, but is more tolerant of weather changes. In fact it is able to tolerate wet and cold conditions without getting root rot. Its flowers come in shades from light pink to crimson red. It is used by cultivators as a parent with obesum and arabicum for cross breeding.
This flowering beauty is found in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and grows in dry and/ or sandy areas. It is slower in growth than the obesum and for most of the year will exhibit no leaves or flowers, but will reward the grower with a show of an abundance of vibrantly coloured flowers near winter time. The flowers are said to have a slight but sweet fragrance.
In its natural habitat on the Island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean this type of adenium can grow into a large tree anywhere from 10 to 16 feet high. Its shape resembles the Baobab tree. This rare variety produces light pink flowers from spring to mid summer.
Found near Namibia and Angola, this slow grower takes several years to produce uniformly coloured pink flowers. It is often referred to as the ‘Bushman’s Poison’ because of its use by tribal people in making poisonous arrowheads. This variety has long , spidery branches with scant, but large leaves.
This rare adenium is found in Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya. It is very tree-like with its longish trunk and a caudex that is not very thick. The pink flowers are similar to obesum but smaller. This plant is very sensitive to the cold and therefore requires extra care in cultivation.
The natural habitat of this mini version of the somalense is sandy soil near the coast of Southern Somalia. In its natural setting the caudex is underground with roots growing from the top of the caudex. Under cultivation, it is possible to expose the caudex forcing it to grow roots from the bottom like other species of adeniums. The crispum flower has shades of reddish, pink and white with very distinctive red stripes. It is very easy to cross pollinate this adenium with other varieties. However, it requires much more care during cultivation as it is not only intolerant of cold, but also of high levels of heat and humidity.
This very small, slow growing adenium is found in the Kalahari Desert of Southern Botswana, Northern Namibia and South Africa. Like the crispum, it also has a caudex that grows underground. This plant has long, narrow leaves and small flowers ranging in colour from salmon pink to red with yellow tubes.