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

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 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
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.

After a while of observing it, we're still seeing the torn-up petals on the plant. Our guess is this may have something to do with the genetics of it or this specific plant/variety.

Continue Reading Below

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

2. Leaves Curling Inward 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

Desert rose leaves turning yellow

Adenium leaves yellowing 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 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 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:

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:

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

This came to us as an impulse, please note for your reference.

The other reason why leaves may be yellowing is:

Sun stress

Yellowing sun-stressed leaves

Sometimes, when placed under too much sun or heat, the adenium leaves could gradually turn yellow.

The yellowing block out the excess amount of sunlight the plants absorb in. As the yellow leaves fall down, new young green leaves will grow out again.

Adenium yellow and green leaves

You don't have to worry too much in this case, and you can put the plants somewhere cooler.

If you overwinter your adenium indoors, when they are first put outside under the sun again, their leaves may scorch (get sunburned).

So introduce light gradually to your plants, so they can get acclimated to the increased lighting and begin growing fully again.

See more info here:

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

4. Roots Getting Rotted

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 the plant 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.

Lime powder disinfects and dehydrates the open wound

We can use some good lime for the job:

Good Cheap 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 more information on treating root rotting, check out some more ideas here (with pictures):

>> Link Blog post: Adenium root rot how to save

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.

Another question many people ask is Why are:

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 plants 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 chemical ferts & 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.

You can check out more info here:

Lastly, we may see some:

7. Other Leafy Issues

Here are some other issues adenium lovers have also shared:

Weirdly shaped 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

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:

Close up of a spider mite

To ask the visitors to leave (without any 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. This 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. These guys appear most in the rainy season. Don't forget to wear gloves when "worm-picking" 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.

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 mama 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. Or she could have died like some insects do after laying eggs.

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.

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 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

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 plant.

Don't Worry, Your Desert Rose Will Fight It Through! She or He Is a Warrior

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:


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!

Update (Apr 6 2021): Upon seeing some white sticky substance on my sugarcane plants, it hit me that in your case it might be mealybug. And the white substance is their white sap. In which case, spraying them like the above-mentioned ways will help your plants.

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!


--> 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!

I have a dessert rose that I have had for 10 years or more. It always flowered and grew lovely. This year it isn’t even leafing out ! I repotted it. Roots look fine. All my desert roses sit outside in the sun for the summer here in NC. 4 others are doing just fine. Any ideas ? The stems and causes are firm. Not mushy or soft

Hm.. thanks for your sharing. From what you've described, things seem to be very much in check. Did anything different happen, as you may recall, to that particular plant compared to the rest? For now, I can't really think of a possible cause for this. Have you pruned it recently? After pruning it usually takes 15 days for it to leaf out again. I'm not sure if this helps, but keep us posted!

What kind of soil can I transfer a new growth from seeds?

--> Thanks for your question. You can use cactus/succulent soil. Those are usually mixed with perlite or pine bark allowing good drainage for the adenium.

I have 6 desert rose plants. I think i may have accidently over watered three of them. they got the mushy caudex and the leaves yellowed. i saw a forum somewhere to trim of the root ball and caudex to the point of healthy tissue. I did this and dipped them in cinnamon about two days ago. now they are sitting out in the sun. They still feel a bit mushy but one of them is regrowing roots so far. are these possibly going to come back and make it? I have a bonsai tree problem asa well if anyone could help with that

--> Thanks for your question. From what you've described, I believe there is chance for them to grow back and get strong again. Keep monitoring and see how it progresses. Regarding the bonsai tree problem, I don't have much experience with it. But you're welcome to share and let's see if anyone knows something that could help. Keep us posted. Peace & enjoy, ZG.

Hi Jenny here from east coast Australia, love my desert roses but a couple of them have very dark trunks looks like mold but can’t rub off, they still flower and healthy otherwise..

--> Hello there Jenny. Ohh Australia, cool place, what season is it there this time of year? Regarding your question, if I recall correctly, some adenium varieties (or adenium within the same variety) may have differing bark color compared to others, some are darker than others. If they still bloom and are doing fine, I believe they'll be fine. It's not serious or a big problem or any disease at all. You don't have to worry too much about it. Thanks for sharing the aden love, I hope this helps!

newly brought grafted adenium plant and leaves are pale green and whitish


--> Thanks for your question & picture. It looks like it may be lacking some sunlight. Has it been indoors or somewhere in the shade? Possibly you could let it sit out to enjoy some sunshine. Gradually I think the green pigment will develop and the leaves will be darker green again. Another thing I thought of is do you know what variety is the grafted plant? There is some that has natural whitish, pale leaves (not exactly the same but a bit similar to this). They are usually grafted and may flower single or multiple layers. If it's so, then it may be natural. Any case, I hope this helps!

These yellow and pink leaves appeared within 4 days. The plant is is over 40 years old, 8 ft. long and 7 ft. tall. My biggest problem has been orange with black Caterpillar infestation, very poisonous, and swarm over a 2 day period, each season. Easily solved with common insecticide spray. But these yellow leaves with pinkish spots and yellowing are a first time appearance. Any sugestions?

--> Thanks for your question and pictures. Hmm... I am not sure what could be the cause for this. When you touch the yellow leaves, do they fall off almost immediately? If they do, it may be natural yellowing and it's in time for the plant to replace old leaves. Regarding the pinkish spots, could it be a type of fungi? Seeing it reminds me of the rust thing on other plants or grass. Does it spread to the whole plant? I mean, the overall plant health (flowers, leaf color) looks very good and resilient to me, considering it's over 40 years of age. Any case, I have also inquired a second opinion on this. Let's see if someone else knows something that could help. Do keep us updated. Hope this gives you some clue temporarily!

Hey there again! So, from what I've asked, this could be because of seasons change. or some changes in the local environment/eco-system around. Keep an eye on it to see if it's serious, do keep us posted and we'll go from there. I hope this helps!

All Leaves on Desert Rose point skyward

--> Thanks for your message. I have noted this case. Currently, we don't have an answer for this. Let's wait and find out.

Hey there again! So, this is only my guess but what color are the leaves? Are they pointed skyward at just the tips of the leaves, or, at a slanted angle on all the leaves bodies? Possibly could it be that the desert rose is exposed to much sunlight --> it's closing leaves surface to receive less? In another case, the upper most leaves on some desert roses usually point more skyward than lower leaves. Could be the variety or the environment. I guess that's how it is for the plant's growth. Some adenium have all pointed leaves as you can see here (click on image to see bigger):

Have a look, and I hope this helps! See you again next time.

Why does my desert rose have pointed "arms"?


--> Thanks for your question. First of all, congratulations, it is good news! Those pointed arms are actually desert rose seed pods. When they ripen, they will turn more brown and crack open. Alternatively, you could tie the seed pods with bands or something similar so seeds won't fly away when the pods open. You'll see some hairy little seeds inside. Till then, you can pluck off the hairs on both ends and sow the seeds for more new desert roses. Depending on the pod creation or plant health, there may be 40-60 seeds more or less in one of those 'arms'. I hope this helps!

Why are the flowers of my white desert rose brown?

--> Thanks for your question and pictures. Have they been in contact with rain lately? It could cause the flowers to brown and rot. My other guess is could it be some insects sting or bite into the flowers. I have seen some of my pink ones go brown like this. Let me ask around if there could be other causes. For now, I hope this helps temporarily!

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