Desert roses overall need a very light amount of fertilizer. The thing we should keep in mind is when should we fertilize our babies, what & how often to feed them. It also depends on whether or not you have pruned your desert roses or whether your babies are grafted ones. Come on along & let's check out some ideas together.
For Very Young Desert Roses
For young babies that are only 2 weeks old, we usually don't feed them with any fertilizer. This ensures their young roots are not being burned or fried up by too much nutrients in the soil.
If you want the plants to grow faster, try Osmocote. Some Thai Adenium nurseries use this stuff when planting Thai Soco adenium seeds to boost growth.
Normally, when the adenium grow a little bit older (about 3 weeks old), we may use a secret feed that some growers have shared.
The Sulfur Secret
For desert roses about 3 weeks old, some growers sprinkle sulfur on the soil & water them. From their experience, this has helped the plants grow strong & faster.
Sulfur helps make the soil more acidic for acid-loving plants like adenium. It also strengthens the plants immune system. If you can't find sulfur around your local area, try epsom salt (MgSO4). This material contains sulfur & magnesium which is good for leaf growth.
Bigger Leaves Growing
During the growing stages, desert roses actually need more water, more nutrients, more sunlight. Basically, more everything to push out those beautiful flowers. It's like a teenager reaching puberty.
When the plants are growing bigger leaves, we would mist them more & pour some root powder to stimulate more root growth. At this stage, we try to add more of the Nitrogen (aka the 'protein') amount. The focus is on developing strong, multiple branches first. Then we can focus on flowers later.
Desert roses are also huge foliage feeders. They devour the good bits like a child munches candy. You can combine foliage sprayers like fish emulsion/seaweed twice a week & slow-release fertilizer (high in Nitrogen) in the soil at this stage.
There's still some ongoing discussion about the ability to absorb nutrients through leaves of adenium. Some growers believe this route takes longer as the absorption rate is lower. The direct method of pouring the nutes into the soil for the roots to uptake is thus quicker & more effective.
Some other growers believe that we're just not feeding our babies enough through the leaves. It is devouring all the nutes we put in too quickly. And that may be why we're not seeing a lot of growth when doing it this way. In any case, remember at this stage we're trying to build some muscles, so add more Nitrogen.
Small Buds & Flowers Forming
When small buds & flowers are about to form, we increase the P & K amount. Phosphorous (P) helps the promote bud growth & helps the plants flower evenly on the branches. Potassium (K) is a metal ion element. It helps make the color of desert roses more vibrant and keep them on for a longer time.
Here you can choose a fertilizer that is high in P, K like 6-30-30. A fertilizer that contains other micro-nutrients like Cu (Copper), Zn (Zinc), Fe (Iron), Mg (Magnesium) is also beneficial.
Misting the leaves with fish emulsion or seaweed also helps nurture the bud growth. Here, we use a more diluted solution so it doesn't burn our little buds. Water daily using well-draining growing medium when flowers are blooming.
We can space out the feeding 2-3 weeks before blooming. As they are flowering, we reduce the amount & just let the plants enjoy the good food.
A Desert Rose Life Cycle
Observing the life cycle of your desert roses can help you feed them most effectively. The problem many growers have when feeding is zero response from the plants.
Some call this inactivity, sleeping roots or just resistance. They don't see much growth no matter how much they feed the plants. It's just not taking in anymore. Some overfeed their plants.
The best time to feed your babies is when it's shooting the branches up strongly & after it has used all the energy for flower & seed pod creation. This is when they are most hungry & craving the food and water for a new cycle.
When it's flowering, we balance out nutrients. At this point, the good P, K & other bits are being transported up to produce flowers. Not too much more is needed. Observe carefully if you need to add some. Dilute the nutrients so the roots won't get burned.
|Very young||Sulfur||Strengthen young adenium|
|Growing||Nitrogen||Build branches, caudex & roots|
|Before flowering||P, K||Create lots of bright flowers|
|After flowering||Less water||Cut off branches, dry & rest for 2-3 weeks|
|Recovery||Vitamin B1||Supplement for the plants after hard work|
For the first 5 years, the adenium will grow very vigorously. Just let it eat & drink happily. After that point, the growth may plateau & slow down a little bit. You may need to 'rejuvenate' the old adenium if it's not liking the food it eats.
Misting water may be easier for the plants to absorb. Because the water particles are split smaller. A strong down-pour of water may wash away some nutrients that are already present in the soil & compact the potting mix.
The feeding can be spaced out 2-3 weeks apart. This is the average time to know that our nutrients have been successfully delivered & used by the inside part of the plants. It also depends on whether you're using a well-draining medium or a moisture-retaining medium. Feeding can be about 150-250 grams per liter or 5-8 oz per 4 cups of water.
If we feed the adenium naturally following their natural growth cycle, the plants will grow up steadily & strong. We lessen the risk of zero-response desert roses or any interruptions during its growth cycle. Chemical fertilizers may not be needed as the desert rose grows powerfully in its natural way.
Good Food Good Life
So these are some ideas to feed your adenium, plus how much, how often & what to feed them. The extreme of too much feeding results in overweight plants with weaker natural immune system. The other extreme of under-feeding is skinny adenium. Balance out the food so your plants can grow up healthy throughout different stages of their lives. Have fun growing your adenium & good luck!
Responses to Readers' Questions
When planting desert roses do you cover the bulb
--> Thanks for your question. By bulb, do you mean this part of the plant:
Some people cover it with soil, that is in the case they plant it underground too. If the plant is in a container outside, during the rainy season growers cover it with some plastic bags to prevent over-watering. During the hot season, to prevent moisture loss some also cover the bulb with a shirt or some towels.
In another case, folks lift it up above the soil line and don't cover it. You can look at the skin to tell. From experience, if the skin is quite gray, it means that section has matured quite a bit and growth may be slower. If the skin is still green with some cracked lines, then it means that part is still young and growth will still be vigorous. So a trick is if we want to slow down growth a bit, we lift it up to the level we want. And leave the remaining part under the soil to grow.
If, by bulb, you mean the flower buds, then unless it's about to rain, we don't usually need to cover them. During the bud stage, we want to give it lots of sunlight to flower beautifully. I hope this answers your question!
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