How to Graft Adenium Desert Rose

Adenium Desert Rose 11 May 2020

Adenium grafting goes as far as your creativity goes. It's an ongoing try and fail and try again process. If you're curious, let's experiment together.

Reasons Why People Graft Adenium

1. Price

Adenium grown from seeds are almost always more expensive than grafted adenium. Because seed-grown ones are overall healthier & more resistant. For folks who love adenium but would like a cheaper price, they might choose grafted ones. It's easier to sell for some nurseries & provide them with steady income.

2. Fast growth

Some adenium species like the Dorset Horn adenium grow terribly slow. This is why people graft their bodies onto faster-growing rootstock to speed up the growth while still retaining some of their unique characteristics. Grafting a scion on a young rootstock will give precocious flowers.

3. Get seeds

For propagating, some growers receive adenium species through cuttings. They want to preserve the species. Grafting them on a strong rootstock may help the growth. If all is well, the cuttings can bloom & produce seed pods. The growers then can get the seeds. By grafting, they can multiply the species with known flower colors.

4. Multi-color

Multiple adenium species can be grafted on one tree, creating a beautiful multi-color adenium. This type attracts people because of the uniqueness & skills of the grafting artists.

5. Aesthetics

Grafting can create more attractive aesthetics for the adenium. Some people want a taller trunk for their small desert roses. So they graft them on the long trunk of Somalense or Anaconda. In other cases, they may want to create the bonsai banyan look with air roots. So they graft adenium with roots onto the trunk of another one.

Close your eyes, imagine the shape, open your eyes, create that shape.  –The Japanese Guy in Karate Kid

Choosing a rootstock

You can use any species as the rootstock. A 1-year-old rootstock with strong growing branches will work to nourish the scion.

Here are the common rootstock choices:

Rootstock Characteristic
Somalense/Anaconda Long, tall trunk
Arabicum Bigger bottom
Obesum Smaller bottom

Somalense & Anaconda (hybrid of Somalense x Obesum) have tall single trunk. You can choose this one if you want to make your adenium "taller". They don't have many branches. So it may be good choice for new trials because you don't have to do too many at once.

adenium-somalense-plants.jpg
Adenium Somalense rootstocks for taller trees (Photo: Yu Mi)

Arabicum grows fast. It has a big caudex with more fat branches shooting out. If you want multi-color adenium, choose this one. It may also help the slower-growing species grow bigger in less time.

grafted-adenium-arabicum-multi-color.jpg
Grafted adenium arabicum perfect for multi-color plant (Photo: Nguyen Thanh Vinh)

Obesum has a smaller caudex. It grows a trunk before shooting out some branches. The growth is also good.

Notes on choosing a rootstock:

  • Choose strong growing rootstock
  • Diameter around 1-2 cm or bigger than scion
  • Bark has an off-gray color & no infections

Choosing a scion:

  • Has off-gray or similar color with rootstock for aesthetics
  • Similar growing rate with rootstock (not too strong or too weak)
  • Length about 1 cm with 1-3 eyes for new sprout-outs

Now, let's get to the first flat graft (aka tablet or plain graft):

1. Flat Graft

This is probably the most common & relatively easy method for beginners. Let's see the graft together.

Select a strong scion branch to be grafted. Cut off the leaves. Then, cut a small piece off that branch. Leave about 3-4 little eyes or 2 eyes (if they are further apart).

small-piece-of-adenium-graft.jpg
A small piece of adenium to be grafted

On your rootstock:

Before grafting, cut off water for several days. Cut the branch flat several times. Each time, see the latex oozing out. If we graft on when there's still too much sap, chances of rot are higher. When the there's almost no sap flowing out anymore, you can stop there.

cut-adenium-trunk.jpg
Slicing the rootstock until no sap oozes out

Then:

Place the little piece onto the freshly cut rootstock. Remember the direction so the scion won't be placed upside down. Do as quickly as possible to prevent contamination. People place the scion in the center where the 2 circles touch.

place-adenium-scion-on-rootstock.jpg
Graft the little piece on the rootstock

After that:

Use a piece of plastic to wrap the graft. Tighten it with some heat-tolerant rubber band. Make sure the 2 surfaces touch. Wrap the rubber band slightly lower than the grafted surface. Pull the plastic slightly downwards so no water is trapped around the edge of the rootstock.

wrap-plastic-on-adenium-graft.jpg

Finally:

Place the grafted adenium in bright (not too harsh) sunlight or a cool place. For the first 4-5 days, if the graft is still green, then that's a green light. After 7-10 days, if the graft takes, you may see some young sprouts shooting out. For some species, it might take 4 weeks.

Some notes:

  • Use polished, inox knife or razor blade so no adenium sap will stick to it
  • Don't place the grafted tree somewhere too dark or too sunny
  • Grafting is often easier done in sunny season than rainy season

Some issues growers usually have are:

Issue Reason
The scion doesn't stick onto the rootstock the 2 surfaces not touching, connecting tissue cannot form
The graft is rotted excess water, bacterial/fungal infection
The graft develops roots weak rootstock, can't nourish the scion, force scion to go independent

After the graft has sprouted, loosen the bag but keep it on so the branch doesn't lose moisture.

sprouted-adenium-graft-in-plastic-bag.jpg
Loosen the bag a bit after young shoots have sprouted

If the graft doesn't take, it might look a bit dry & brown like this:

failed-adenium-graft.jpg
Dried scion with black inside core

If it goes bad, cut down the grafted branch so the infection won't get spread to the whole tree. If it goes well, after 1 month you'll see beautiful young leaves, yay:

leaf-sprouting-on-adenium-grafted-branch.jpg
Mist the young leaves lightly to nourish it

And voila enjoy your result:

flower-on-adenium-graft.jpg

Your adenium will bloom with the color of the scion specie that you chose. This is very enjoyable. If you want to check out some other graft styles, let's see next:

2. V-Graft

This is the V grafting style. You'll cut something like a letter V on the rootstock, then do the same on the scion. They should fit like a key in a lock. Please see a master showing V-graft in this 2-min video portion:

3. Super Glue Graft

This grafting style is similar to the flat graft. What's different is that we apply super glue to the graft. Growers try this to increase sticking rate of the rootstock & scion.

applying-super-glue-around-adenium-graft.jpg
Applying super glue around the flat graft

Very important: Just apply the glue on the outside of the graft. This acts as an sealant connecting the two parts. We want no glue sticking on the inside so the rootstock can form connecting tissue & transport nutrients up to nourish the grafted scion.

After that, wrap a plastic piece around it to keep it from drying out. Place the grafted plant straight vertically. Laying it horizontally makes it difficult for the little eyes on the side touching the ground to shoot out.

Some people plant the grafted tree immediately into well-draining soil while others wait until it has sprouted. The advantage of super glue graft is that the joint is neat & sticks well. The disadvantage is that growth is slower than the flat graft.

If you have a few adenium, super glue graft may give better success rates. If you have lots of adenium to graft & need faster growth, then flat graft may be more efficient.

Bonus tips for grafting success

  • Dig the rootstock up, wash the roots & let it dry 10 days before grafting
  • Re-plant the rootstock when the scion has sprouted (10-14 days)
sprouted-adenium-graft.jpg
A little bump showing up on the graft
  • Hard sharp knife can cut the surface flatter than a razor blade
successful-adenium-graft.jpg
Successful adenium graft
  • Have you tried cling wrap grafting?
cling-wrap-grafting.jpg

It reduces the need for rubber band & some bags. The new sprouts will poke through the wrap easily. Grafting tape also works well.

Fun tip: If you see sprouted leaves with some red edges, that scion will produce red flowers. If the leaves are paler green with a light shade of white, that means it will give white flowers.

Goodbye friends, thanks for visiting

anna-adenium-plant.jpg
Anna adenium (grafted model)

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