When we’re growing our lovely adenium desert rose, sometimes it will grow strong & beautiful, and other times it will get sick and need our help.

We know how it feels when seeing your beautiful babies getting sick & weak. But don't worry. With our Sherlock hat and a magnifying glass in hand, together let's find out how to fix:

Starting off first, let's see:

1. Petals Tearing Apart

adenium-flower-tearing-apart
Desert rose petals torn up

Diagnosis: You can notice this happening when the flower is very young—usually when it is just a bud. The usual desert rose flower will grow up with each of the petals closely attached to each other, forming a nice smooth tube.

In this case, however, you will see one or two petals tearing apart or separating from the other petals. Thus, no tube can be formed even when it grows bigger. On the same branch, you may see one bud with torn-up petals like this and the others still growing strong and healthy.

adenium-flower-tearing-apart
Adenium petals tearing up | Source

Quick Fix: One potential idea for this is the genetic variety of the plant you’re having. This may just be one of nature’s diverse makeups & it's perfectly normal.

From one grower's experience, this may be a slight 'flaw' in the seed-grown adenium. The first flower the plant produces may be torn up. Then the following ones all bloom in good shape. This is one reason why sellers sometimes sell these adenium at a cheaper price. They are good for enjoying the beauty but may not be suitable to get seeds for propagation. If you graft these torn-up flowers on other adenium branches, chances that the next round of flowers will also be torn are high.

Also, check the amount of sunlight you're giving your baby. Desert roses love full sun–the more, the better. Without enough sunlight, leaves & flowers cannot form beautifully.

Check if there may be any deficiencies in the plant's diet. The lack of phosphorous, a macro-nutrient, may affect flower & fruit development. With enough potassium, your flowers will grow stronger & with brighter colors.

Some Good Phosphate
hoffman-triple-super-phosphate-fertilizer
0-46-0 perfect for acid loving plants.

Be sure, also, to give the adenium more water during the stages when it develops leaves and flowers. Producing those beautiful flowers and foliage requires a good amount of water.

One of the desert roses we have here in Zenyr Garden is currently having the same issue of torn-up petals. We'll try to experiment with some of these ideas and report back. We'd love to hear from you about any tips you have.

If you see adenium leaves curling up, let's see up next why this might be:

2. Leaves Curling Inward At the Tip

adenium-leaves-curling-at-the-tip
Desert rose leaves curling

Diagnosis: We have checked out some other sources about this leaf-curling issue. Some gardeners have experienced the same thing. From their experience, the curling of the leaves may just be normal growing, and it should not affect the overall health of the desert rose.

If you only see one or two leaves on the plant curling up while the others are still in good shape, it may not be a big deal at all.

From a more technical point of view, the issue with leaves curling up may be the result of a potassium or nitrogen deficiency. Potassium is another macro-nutrient that is responsible for stem and root growth. Nitrogen is good for leaf & branch.

Quick Fix: We may try adding some more potassium and nitrogen by planting in some beans or putting some composted kitchen scraps into the soil. This way, we can then wait and see until the next round when the plant produces leaves and get good results.

Another very common problem many growers have is:

3. Adenium Leaves Turning Yellow

adenium-desert-rose-leaves-turning-yellow
Desert rose leaves turning yellow

This is probably one of the most common issues with desert rose. According to some growers, you may be over watering your plant. There’s an easy way to know this.

When you touch the adenium caudex, if it's too soft, then it may be lacking water. If the caudex feels just right, then it’s good. If it's too hard, then you may be giving it more water than it needs.

The tree will also tell you by giving you signals. If there’s too much water, you may see some spots popping up on the caudex—just like pimples. The tree has to create exit ways for the water to get out.

Look for these spots:

spots-on-adenium-caudex-signal-over-watering
Spots on adenium caudex signaling over watering

When you see this, you may need to reduce the amount of water. Or putting the plant somewhere else with more sunlight so it can use up the water it is storing inside. Alternatively, some folks pick the desert rose out of the soil, cut some parts of it roots, and hang the tree up to let it dry out.

Try touching the leaves. If on a gentle touch, the yellow leaves fall off almost immediately, then they are simply old yellow leaves, and everything is in its normal cycle.

See a normal yellow leaf falling off on a touch right here:

normal-yellow-adenium-leaves
Normal yellow leaves falling off on a gentle touch

However, if you try touching or pressing down on the leaves a couple of times but they won’t fall off, then those yellow leaves may not be old leaves. Rather, they may be young leaves experiencing some issues with water or diseases.

If you’re under-watering the plant, its caudex or the whole plant may start to shrink. Touching the caudex (aka the base), you will feel that it’s way too soft. But don't squeeze it too hard because that might damage the tree tissue. Then, you know you need to ramp up the amount of water.

But the question many people ask is:

How can we tell if we're over-watering or under-watering?

From our limited experience, we can begin looking at where the yellowing is starting from. For example, if it starts to yellow from the tip of the leaves in, then this may suggest over-watering. One example of this is a little plant here:

over-watered-yellow-adenium-leaves
This adenium may be over-watered

The babies will have very similar reactions as the adult plants. On the other side of the story, if yellowing starts somewhere around the inner part of the leaf, this may reflect the lack of sunlight or the lack of water. You can see an example here:

under-watered-yellow-adenium-leaves
This other adenium may be under-watered

In one other case, From this observation, you may get a clearer idea of what might be going on & what actions you can take to help the plants grow stronger again.

If you see the yellowing begins from the tip in, then it may suggest over-watering. If however you see the yellowing starts from the inside of the leaf, then it may be under-watering.

A diagram for visualization:

diagram-on-diagnosing-yellow-adenium-leaves
Diagram on diagnosing yellow adenium leaves

See more info here:

Why Are My Desert Roses Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellow desert roses leaves may mean you’re over-watering your plants. There’s aneasy way to notice this: The yellowing starts from the tip of the leaf and slowly spreading inwards.Initially, you’ll see the leaves getting kind of darker–like it’s slowlybruising in. Then some days after that, it w…

Sometimes, with too much water, growers might see the:

4. Roots Getting Rotted

rotted-adenium
Black mushy adenium rot | Source

Root rot is an issue that may be related also to yellow leaves. Because the roots may be over watered, they burst out the components inside them and become quite mushy.

To find the rotted part of the roots, you may want to look at the yellow leaf. Then, following it like a blood vein, trace it all the way down to the stem and the nearest roots around that branch.

Use your hands to touch and feel the root system. If it is rotted for only a small part, then cut the part out. And apply some garden lime powder or cinnamon on to heal the scar.

If you see black spots on the roots or they are severely rotted, dig your plant up, cut the rotted roots out, and hang it upside down in some place with shade. Spread some lime powder or paste on for healing. When the scars heal, replant the tree into the soil.

applied-lime-powder-on-adenium-rot
Lime powder disinfects and dehydrates the open wound

We can use some good lime for the job:

Good Cheap Garden Lime
bonide-garden-lime
Protects cuts from water & bacterial infections

If you don't like using the garden lime powder, here are some other super cheap sealants:

There are some other ways you can apply to get rid of the rot:

  1. Use a high-pressure garden hose to blow the rotted part out
  2. Soak the rotted roots in lime solution to kill the harmful bacteria
  3. Use a spoon to scoop out the rotted part

After the rot treatment and a resting period, when you replant the desert rose in good soil, it will be happy and grow back strong again.

For deeper information, check out some more ideas here (with pictures):

Adenium Desert Rose Root Rot: How to Save It Now?
Adenium desert rose root rot tips & how to know if your roots are rotted

In contrast to over-watering, in some cases growers under-water their adenium, which could then lead to a:

5. Soft Adenium Caudex

Soft adenium caudex may be caused by movement shock during shipping, especially for grafted desert roses. It may also be damage from dropping, which causes some bruise. The plants may also be dehydrated, under-nourished or under root fungal attack.

To save your babies, you may need to temporarily cut off big energy consumers. By that we mean, cut off those leaves, flowers & small branches. Then, snip off some mushy, black string roots (if any). Dig your plants up & let it rest for 7-21 days. Also, remember no waterings at this point.

After the resting period, place your plants in fresh, cool growing medium for its recovery. Give it some water. This recovery process can take up to 3 months or more depending on the strength of your trees. Fortunately, in many cases the caudex will harden up & your trees will bounce back to normal.

How to Save Soft Caudex on Desert Rose Plants
Seeing adenium plants with soft caudex can be quite disappointing for growers.We understand this feeling. But don’t worry. It shouldn’t feel like a liability.When you understand your babies more, you can help them improve. Let’s gothrough this together with some tips below. Some Causes for Soft …

Another question many people ask is Why are my:

6. Desert Roses Not Blooming

The desert roses not blooming yet may be because there's too much nutrients in the soil & your plants are still consuming the good bits to develop their branches. It may not be not the time yet to bloom or produce seeds pods.

If the trees have been fed with some chemical fertilizers, this may weaken its overall health & root system. Which leads to a slower time to flower. You may want to save the plants by cutting down on the bad stuff & re-planting them into a clean medium for a fresh start. Sand works great for this purpose.

A lack of sunlight & pests problems may also be some of the causes for long blooming time. In this case, let the plants enjoy the sunlight for a bit longer & use some mild insecticides or dish soap to get rid of the pests.

Why Are My Desert Roses Not Blooming
Please check to see if there’s: Insufficient SunlightWithout enough sunlight, it can be difficult for the desert rose to convertenergy & produce flowers. Even if they produce flowers, they usually won’t be asbright & beautiful. Branches may flower at different time & not all at once. 6-8hrs of …

Lastly, we may see some:

7. Other Leafy Issues

Here are some other issues adenium lovers have also shared:

Weirdly shaped leaves

weirdly-shaped-adenium-leaves
Adenium leaves in weird shape

As you can see, the leaves in this case may be doing what we call, self-eating (autophagy). It shrinks back in size from either one side or on some particular part of the leaf.

A question our inner child or the inquisitive kids may ask is: Where did that part of the leaf go? Our best guess in this case or in any cases where you see some drawing back of some parts of the plant could be deficiency.

Something or some nutrients may be lacking somewhere, and our adenium may need to cut back on a few parts to move the nutrients to the places where it thinks are essential to sustain the life of the plant.

If we continue with this size, we may not have enough to distribute to everyone. This signals to us, as thoughtful gardeners, that our plants may need some nutrient boost.

If you take a more drastic approach, we can “downsize” the plant. You may defoliate it and prune back where the branches may be too long. Shorter or medium-long branches make it easier for our tree to pump water up and nourish the top-most parts of the plant.

Also, don't forget about these naughty guys:

Insect attacked leaves

insect-attacked-leaves
Spider mites, bugs have been around the area

Our young, fresh adenium leaves are yummy treats for the worms, bugs and comfy homes for other insects to lay eggs. From one grower's experience (and also opinion), the plant may release a smell that attracts these creatures. When you see tiny red dots clustering up on the leaves, you know your leaves have been visited by an unwanted visitor called the red spider mite.

Here are their faces:

spider-mite-close-up
Close up of a spider mite

To ask the visitors to leave (with not much mercy), you may want to take a drastic approach and spray some chemicals like supracide, kelthane, or tribon on both sides of the leaves. Be careful though because these chemicals can be highly toxic with side effects appeared only much later.

For a milder solution, try horticultural oils (like neem oil) as a prevention. Onion, garlic, mustard also work. Some people also use a beer + water mix as a preventative spray. The oil in dish soap helps dissolve the insects' protective coat & messes a bit with their reproduction system. So, it may scare them away. Spraying/washing the leaves frequently may disturb any existing unwanted inhabitants. Which could make them say "Nah, let's just build our house somewhere else. It's not worth the time here." Our adenium will be happy then.

If you notice only a few caterpillars or little worms on the leaves, you can pick them up by hand. Don't forget to wear gloves if you don't want to be yelled at by your loved ones.

If there are too many of them, you may try spraying the solution every 10-15 days. Just cut the infected leaves off the branch and put them in a garbage bag somewhere far away from your growing area.

eggs-on-adenium-leaves
White mealybug on the top and some black dot on the bottom

When we see the eggs, but the mama is not there, we may wonder: Where did mommy go? One thing we know for sure is she must not go very far. She must be sticking around our area somewhere, but we haven’t spotted her yet.

These things are normal. They come & go with the season. So don't worry too much right now. Speaking of bugs, we have found this creature near our desert rose. Do you think it’s a bug or something? Looks naughty.

yellow-stink-bug
A yellow stinky bug

Update: We've asked the folks over at Reddit about this creature. From their experience (which is obviously much more than ours), this little guy is a yellow stinky bug with the romantic scientific name Erthesina Fullo. Fortunately, they don't bite or sting (phew!). But the specie can be very invasive.

White spot on the leaves

white-spot-on-adenium-leaf
White dot on desert rose leaves

We notice this white round spot on one of the leaves. To be honest with you, we currently don’t know what the causes for this might be. We post it here to share our experience and to see if anyone has any ideas for what might be happening.

Final Checklist for Healthy, Happy Desert Roses

checklist-for-happy-desert-roses
Beautiful adenium flowers

• 100% sunlight
• Water more on flowers & leaves days
• Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium all good
• Good air flow & drainage
• Check for weird red, white, black dots on both sides of leaves
• Feel the hardness of the caudex & branches
• Give it a nice “hair cut” after flowering to toughen it up
• Check the surrounding for any weird insects or organisms
• Send your love to desert rose every day

We know, we play music to our plants and kiss them “muah muah” every morning. No, we don't. Okay, sometimes we do. So much for the love of a resilient, elegant tree.

Don't worry, your desert rose will fight it through! She/He is a warrior

adenium-white-flower
Adenium: we will be okay

Don't be disappointed my friends, everybody has issues with their trees at some point. Just like when we’re raising a kid, there are good desert rose days and bad desert rose days.

During hard times, when the plant can’t seem to be strong enough to fight on its own, it may be calling for our help. As caring and smart gardeners, we’d want to make sure we understand our unique babies enough to help them and not make matters worse.

Very often, what’s showing on the surface might suggest problems stemming from the underneath, that is the root. If we take a more holistic approach to caring for our plants, we can see how the sunlight, the water, the food, the air all affects each other like an orchestra or symphony of nature.

Having an adenium with issues is interesting and offers a unique learning opportunity. It’s the fun of our gardening process, so enjoy! If you have any questions, let us know. Have a beautiful day wherever you are in the world.

Responses to Readers' Questions

Any advice about overwintering them indoors as houseplants??

--> For overwintering desert roses indoors, you might want to try covering them with at least two layers of cover to retain some warmth. Place them against a wall so the heat trapped by the wall can keep the plants warmer. Make sure the indoor temperatures are from 55F (13C) and above.

If your plants haven't gone dormant at this time, you might want to force it by not watering for some time. The leaves will start to turn yellow and drop, and the plants will begin to "fall asleep".

You don't need to water too much at this point–maybe once a month for smaller plants is enough. Keep them bone dry until it warms up or until the plants throw out some new sprouts. Your desert roses will survive the winter & be happy again. I hope this helps!

More info here: Winter care for desert roses

Hi guys.Was wondering how to get rid of the white sticky substance on my Desert Rose.Any advice will help.

--> Can you send us a picture? It's easier to see what might be going on.

What if the adenium leaves are bending backward. Not curling in but bending toward the branches?

--> Noted and could you please provide us with a picture? You can post it on our forums or PM me if you like. In the meantime, I'll ask growers around to see if they know something.

Hello again, from what I've asked (Garden S on YouTube), maybe it's mites or aphids? Some species are so tiny that you may need a magnifying glass to see. You could also wash/spray the leaves to disturb the bugs enough so they'll find their houses elsewhere. Report back if you'd like on the results. And I hope this helps!

I have a white sticky substance on the leaves of desert rose - how do I get rid of it?

--> Thanks for your question. It is similar to one question we've had above. If the white sticky substance looks something like this:

white-sticky-substance-desert-rose-leaf

It might be some mite or spider webs, imho. If this is the case, you could spray the leaves with water to disturb the insects/pests so they won't come hanging around. Mixing the solution with neem oil or beer + frequent spraying is also a good prevention. Could it also be some white latex or some elements around the environment? If it is another case, I'll ask a grower as I don't know everything. Hopefully they have something to share! :)

Hello there, from what I got back, to get rid of the white sticky substance on adenium leaves, you could spray the leaves with water to wash it off. Or use your hands/gloves to scrape off the white substance. If you think it is more severe, pick that leaf and wrap it in a bag. You could take it to a near-by pest shop for an expert to examine closely. Other than that, I hope this helps!

I live in Wisconsin i have a seed pod 4 months old and the end of the seed pod is curly up turning dark is it ok?

--> Thanks for your question. First of all, congrats! Having the desert rose producing seed pod is a great experience. Regarding the end of the pod curling up and turning dark, (recalling from my vague memory) perhaps it could be because it is too sunny, too dried up or the pod may be too old?

When hand pollinated and fertilization is successful, a tiny seed pod of the size of a baby's finger will develop within 7-10 days. And about 2-3 months after that, the pods will ripen and be ready for harvest. This could however be 3.5-4 months depending on the strength of the plant and the variety. You can tell by seeing the line on the seed pod crack open (if you're not wrapping it with some sort of ties). Have you checked the seeds inside? May be it's time for harvest. Let me double check just to be sure. I hope this helps temporarily!

Hey there again, if you see the end darkening but the pod is not too dry, then it means the pod is just aging. However, if you see the end darkening but it's also drying up, this means the pod may not be good anymore. It could also be what some people call rotten. This could be due to the weather or some pests. And also, when the seed pod is forming, it is advisable to not spray strong chemicals or water directly on the pod. I hope this helps!

We live in BAJA IN THE WINTER. DOES THE DESERT ROSE GO DORMANT AT THAT TIME? THE LEAVES SEEM TO GO YELLOW AND FALL OFF.

--> Thanks for your question. Interesting place–and yes from my limited experience, the desert rose does go into dormancy gradually as the cold begins to hit. The process may be kickstarted as the plant senses a change in weather. Usually when there's not sufficient sunlight, the leaves will start to turn yellow and fall off. Some folks force dormancy by not watering the plants or bringing them inside for some time. The good news is, during this time the desert rose is just going into sleep mode and is very much alive. When spring comes, you could introduce light gradually to wake up the plant and she/he will be happy again. Happy new year–I hope this helps!

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