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 go through this together with some tips below.
Some Causes for Soft Caudex
1. Suffering From Shipping
Very often, when you buy adenium plants and have them shipped to you, the plants are picked up from the soil & wrapped in newspaper or hay in a bare-roots condition. There is very little sunlight in the box & there may be shock during the shipment.
Soft caudex can especially happen if your desert roses are grafted. Because of this movement shock, the caudex can get soft upon arrival. Or they might turn soft some time after you've planted it.
2. Damage From Dropping
If the desert roses have been accidentally dropped, part of the caudex can get bruised. If you use a finger to poke into it & see some mushy stuff, that part is rotted.
You can see the damage right on the skin of the adenium. It will have a darker color than the rest of the body (similar to a bruise on your knee). Depending on the age & strength of the plants, they may or may not survive this.
Although many people say that adenium don't need a lot of water, their bodies can actually get shrunk because of dehydration. If you compare the soft caudex plants with others, you may notice that their size is smaller.
The shrinking is more noticeable during root training period where growers dig the plants up & hang them upside down for about 2 weeks. Dehydration, however, is not root rot. There are cases where some adenium are dry but their roots are still growing.
4. Under Nourishment
By under nourishment, we mean the babies may not be getting enough N, P, K & other micro-nutrients. This may lead to a weak overall nutrient transportation & usage. It can be a reason why the caudex has been softened. The plant may be too weak to have energy to function.
5. Root Fungal Disease
Your plant roots may be under attack from fungi. You can see this by digging up the plants to check. If there are numerous white spots webbing around the root ball, it is a sign that your plants may be suffering from fungal infection.
This may be why the root is weak. With weak roots, water & nutrients may not be pumped up. The plants then may have to suck up the 'back-up' nutrients & water stored in the caudex for surviving. This could lead to a soften caudex.
6. Too Many Little String Roots
Many growers ask a question like this: Why is my adenium caudex soft but the leaves are still green & healthy? The reason for this may be there are too many little string roots. They suck up all the nutrients like little octopus tentacles. The good bits therefore may not reach the upper caudex part, causing it to soften.
You may not see leaves yellowing immediately, but the rot is there. If the leaves start to yellow, that's a sign that things are getting too late. Save it immediately.
7. The Grafted Branches
Sometimes, when the plants do not have enough water and nutrients to nourish the grafted branches, it may lead to a soften caudex.
You can see this happening when the grafted branches seem to droop downwards. They may not be strong enough to carry the flowers. Soften caudex may also happen when the grafted scions are quite long.
The Basic Idea: Energy Flow in Adenium
This is a very simplified picture of how the energy flows in & out of adenium:
When you get the basic idea, you may make some sense of what's going on to help your plants.
With sunlight, the adenium has energy to pump water & nutrients in from the roots. These "energy money" then get spent out as leaves, branches & beautiful flowers.
When the caudex is soft, it may mean the bottom part is troubled. We can imagine two approaches to this: the top & the bottom.
Many people suggest then that we save this by "spending less" or cutting off the top part. If the bottom part is infected, we need to do some cuttings down there too.
It's recommended that you save the desert rose as soon as you have time. Otherwise, the cost of delay means the plants might be getting weaker; thus, slowing down the recovery process.
Let us show you next how to save a soft caudex:
Save Soft Caudex Adenium: Step by Step
1. Cut Off the Leaves
If your plants currently have leaves, cut them off. Leaves are huge nitrogen consumers.
So by temporarily saying goodbye to them, we can focus the plant's energy to nourish the weak part, that is the caudex.
Leave some of the leaves on for some energy absorption. Your leaves will grow back as the plant recovers.
2. Cut Off Some Branches
Look for branches that have 2-3 smaller branches. Then, cut some small ones off.
After cutting them off, you can use some cinnamon ground or garden lime powder to cover up the cut. This helps fight against bacteria & keep the cut dry.
3. Wave Goodbye to Flowers & Buds
Oh, we're sorry to cut off those beautiful flowers too. But at this time, we may need to do so to prioritize the survival of our tree.
With this done, we're off-loading the "burden" of some potassium & phosphorous eaters on the plant. This helps in case the plant is under-nourished.
4. Snip Off Those Rotted String Roots
At this time, you'd want to keep some big roots. You can dig the plants up to see the roots.
If some string roots are mushy & appear black, then we snip them off to avoid further spreading to the whole plant.
Cut off lots of string roots to focus more energy on the caudex. If your root ball is infected by fungi, use some water to spray them off.
5. Dry the Plant
After digging the plants up & cut off some damaged roots and big energy consumers, you can take the plants out to dry under the sun for about 2 hours.
We do this to fully exhaust the plants & let the water out in preparation for the resting period.
6. Let the Desert Rose Rest
In a shady, not-too-hot area, hang the desert rose for resting. We've completely cut off water intake as well as the outlets at this point. Just let it rest. Something like "Baby plant, you don't need to do any more work. We know you've had enough & just rest well".
Depending on your plants, this period can be from 7, 10, 15, or 21 days. No water is needed during this time. You can wrap a towel or shirt around the caudex to avoid some remaining leaves becoming wilted.
7. Replant Your Adenium Into Fresh/Cool Medium
After the resting time is over, you can prepare fresh, new medium to put your adenium in. At this time, give your super-thirsty baby a good amount of water. Make sure the potting mix & container drain well and are not too hot.
This is optional & depends on each individual plant, but you may spray some root hormone to promote more root growth. Phosphorous fertilizer can help with root growth as well. Some potassium can also nourish the recovering leaves.
Some folks recommend not to use fertilizer high in nitrogen at this point yet. Especially for grafted desert roses because they might race up to the top to nourish those grafted branches, leaving our caudex soft again. So we want to slowly work the good bits up as the plant fully recovers.
After 3 Remarkable Recovery Months
The recovery process takes time. It can be somewhere from 3 months or more. But be patient with your plants as much as they are trying to heal themselves. When conditions are sufficient & supportive, bounce back will naturally happen.
Don't worry too much my friends. Many growers have had issues with soft caudex. The caudex will get harder & healthy when you give adenium care and love. The soft caudex will harden again with life & strength.
We don't know everything in this world. But we hope this was somewhat helpful. Please share your experience to help other adenium lovers just like you in the community. Thanks for visiting & have a great time!
Responses to Readers' Questions
I sm travelling interstate in a couple of months and wish to take my 1 year old plant, my understanding is that the plant is ok to take but not the soil...s o I was planning on a week prior to travell I will remove all soil and wrap the roots in wet paper towel and replant into soil asap once over the border. Can you offer any advise please as I love this plant, she's very special to me Thanks Katby.
--> Hi Katby, sounds like you have a great plan for your desert rose! She definitely needs to be in your carry-on for the best chances of survival. You could alternatively wrap the roots with damp cotton buds–or perhaps in a small Ziploc bag or a little cup so the water in the paper towel does not get dripped else where. Some folks wrap extra newspapers or wrappers around the leaves and stem for extra stability. You could put your plant in a paper bag, a shopping bag or any holder you're comfortable with. The in-flight temperature is usually quite cool so the plant won't lose too much moisture. Sending my love to you and your baby plant. I hope this helps. Be safe!
I just received a bare root desert rose via usps. The caudex was a little soft. I placed it in a pot, barely covered the root and watered well, it drained well. Will it be okay?
--> Thanks for your question. In most cases, if your desert rose has quite a good-sized caudex in proportion to the trunk and branches, it will be okay. A little loss in water won't knock it out easily. With the resources in the caudex reservoir + new home and new soil, the plant will be able to recover and harden up when given time.
Before shipping the plants, some sellers cut water, pick the plants up, and dry them for 2-3 days to lower chances of rotting, especially near the string root parts. Whereas others may not. You could check if the string roots are good. Big rotting often starts from some of these tiny guys getting rotted. Snip off any blackened/bruised/damaged ones if needed. Some growers also cut off the roots which they think are unnecessary to promote new root growth. If your desert rose is grafted and in bloom and you think that the whole plant won't be able to carry all those flowers at the moment, cut off some buds and leaves to conserve energy.
If you go the cutting route, apply cinnamon or lime powder to protect the new cuts and let them (or the plant) dry before getting in contact with water. During the drying time, the caudex might shrink a bit but when the cuts are dry or new root buttons start to poke out, you could plant the desert rose in new soil and begin watering. It will grow well. Otherwise, if all is good (no bruised parts just a little soft caudex), then sunshine + water + soil will suffice. You'll be good to go. I hope this helps!
Hi My plant's caudex has soften once I moved it indoor due to a weather change. I live in GA and as of now, it's sort of getting cold. When Fall started I kept putting it outside when the sun is out and warm, but bringing it inside when weather goes below 50 degrees and I think that is the reason why the caudex soften. Help please! What to do?
--> Thanks for your question. Based on what you've shared above, I am thinking (and half-guessing too) that weather change may be a reason for the softening caudex. To start with, you may recall if the plant has been getting good amount of water, especially at times when it was out in the sun. Also, is your plant carrying buds or flowers? Sometimes, at the budding/flowering stage, it may need to 'suck up' quite a bit of water/nutrients from the caudex. When the caudex is not getting some food to 'rebuild the muscles' (after sharing with the flowers), it may soften. In another case, if your plant is young and still growing vigorously, the leaves and growing branches may be big energy consumers. Have a look around the pot and growing medium. If it's quite root-bound or the medium has been used for a while, you could prepare a bigger pot with new yummy medium for it. If you want to let it enjoy some sunshine on warm days, make sure to give it enough water. If you think it's necessary, offload (prune off) some energy consumers like leaves, branches so the plant can focus on the caudex for now.
As it is getting quite cold, would you want to let your plant go dormant? Folks do this by not watering their plants for some time. The leaves will turn yellow and fall off. If you let it go dormant, you could keep it indoors all the time until the weather warms up more. This lessens the need for bringing it in and out for you. A good indoor temperature can be from 55F and up. If it gets really cold, place the plant near a wall where some heat may be trapped. Or you could use some wrappers around the plant to retain the warmth. Good news is the plant won't die! Many have overwintered their desert roses in similar ways to that and they've survived the cold months. A while back I kept some adenium seedlings indoors. I used a light bulb like this:
From my experience, some small ones that I (somewhat lazily) under-watered got soft/squishy and quite wrinkled. But if we reduce lighting, it will slow down the softening. And if the plants have enough resources to live by, they will make it through and hang in there–for months (about 4 to be exact)! I have now replanted these little guys in new soil, with water & sunlight. It took several weeks or more, 5-8 weeks in my case, before things really kicked in. But once they do, the plants have been gradually hardening up and doing very well fortunately. I am often pleasantly surprised by how resilient these little plants are. Until we give up on them, most won't give up on themselves easily. I see them as little miracles.
So, all of this is to say I think if your plant is bigger than this, it will make it through. The caudex will harden up and the plant will be happy again once spring comes. I hope this helps!
Update (14 April 2021): Also if you notice the sun in your local area is quite strong in the fall, then you could place the desert rose outside for a shorter period of time. In some places, the sun could be strong and low in the sky during the fall season.
Hi...i noticed my adenium leaves started to lie low like they are very week after it bloomed flower.. my plant is watered regularly. Some grower advised me to dig the plant and repot it.. after digging i saw the caudex was very soft, there was not a sign of fungi and there are little roots too... i am from Philippines and its almost summer here but the weather is unpredictable. It sometimes rains in the middle of the night so my plants get soaked.
--> Thanks for sharing what's going on with your plant. From what I think while reading it, the plants may usually get weaker after flowering because of the energy expense. Thus, the low-lying leaves or softer caudex. To share some thoughts with you, could it also be as the weather is getting hotter the plant is evaporating faster and in need of some more water than usual. Have the nutrients in the soil run up? If there's quite some carbon in the soil component, it could heat up the bottom part, making the plant "sweat/lose water" more.
Is it soft all around the caudex or just some side or part? If it feels mushy soft (like mashed potato) that you can easily poke a finger through or it looks bruised on the skin (darker color circle), then may be it's the opposite that is getting too much water. My guess for the string roots could be they are trying to find the way out for the big root. Just a thought but maybe the high humidity from the night rain to early morning (+frequent watering) could trigger the little root growth. Have you also checked the pot size is good enough, not too tight for them?
Lastly, I guess frequent changes in temp may turn the plant "dizzy" a bit. May be after the flowering you could let it rest and give it some time to recover–in a not too hot area. After flowering, you can feed it with some nitrogen for the next cycle. My little seedlings here have been experiencing some hot-n-colds, many have yellow leaves now.
How to recover them
--> Thanks for your question. Give it some time, place it in a shady place, the plant will recover itself.
My plant having seed bearing pods what to do above mentioned suggest that cut off leaves branches
--> Thanks for your query. Please send us a picture for more accurate diagnosis.
Here are some ideas: Observe the condition of your plant first before making any actions. Use your best judgement and apply what makes sense to you. If the plant is bearing seed pods and the caudex is soft, a possible cause could be dehydration–as the plant is using the energy to produce seeds. You could then check the watering, if anything else is taking away the water from the plant. There may be other reasons. Check how its health is now. Hope you'll find out the reason and make it better.
Is it safe for adenium plants to.place them under the sun and move it on the shade area after 6 hours of sunlight everyday.
--> Thanks for your question. How old is the plant.. & why are you moving them in and out. If they are very young, just use light sun (not scorching sun). If they have grown quite big and more resillient, I think they could handle it. 6-8 hrs would be good enough for them.
Can the cold or frost make the desert Rose go soft. It hasn't been dropped.
--> Thanks for your question & picture. Oh my.. Frost could damage the desert rose and make it rot in some cases. Is it mushy soft on the branches there? Not entirely sure but from observation, my guess is the cause could be the cold weather + remaining water in the pot. Seems like there may have been too much water. Perhaps what you could do is dig the plant up, check if the soil underneath is wet. If it is, add some more new soil or drainage material to it. I hope this points you in the right direction. Hope he/she will get stronger again, keep us posted. Love, ZG.
My desert rose have soft caudex. It looks dehydrated. Can I save them by watering often? Please help!
--> Thanks for your question. First, have a look at the leaves. Do they look saggy, dull? Then it may be a sign of dehydration. If it is dehydration and not rot (no sign of root rot/fungi), you could save the plant by ramping up the water amount. This round of leaves may go to welcome another new one. The soft caudex will harden up again. I hope this helps!
I have recently transplant 10 of my 3 months old Adenium and 2 of healthiest ones droops. Before transplant, these Adeniums is grown in a dome (or mini Greenhouse environment). The weather here has sudden change sometimes get very hot and out of a sudden it will rain. I have checked on some of the articles and it may be due to transplant shock. I put some of them back to the mini greenhouse and remove the leaves. After 7 days, the Caudex is still shrinking, so, I decided to take it out and soaked it in fungicide water for a few hours. Some of them seem better but most of them could not see improvement of the shrunk caudex. I repotted them with potting mix added with some river sand, Coco Peat and Perlite. It was quite sad as I do not see the improvement. Is this normal. I have spend 3 months of my valuable time growing these from the seeds I purchased. Can help?
--> Thanks for sharing. First of all, how are your adeniums doing now after 2 weeks? How is the weather in your place now? Are there still hours of sunlight now or has the cold hit? If it is getting colder in your area, and the plants are still leafless (with shrunk caudex), they may have chosen to go into dormancy at this point. This may be similar to going into "sleeping mode" in the winter.
Can you check if there are any black/rotten parts on the branches/caudex, may be fungi has penetrated into it? When you lightly squeeze the caudex, does it feel shrunk hard/firm or soft/squishy? If there are no rotten parts anywhere and the caudex feels shrunk hard/firm, chances of recovering are there. If there are no rotten parts and the caudex feels soft, possibly it could be because of dehydration (since the days have been very hot).
What to do/ If it's cold and the potted plants seem to be slower growing (plants losing leaves), you can just let them go dormant at this point. Reduce watering and not much sunlight is needed now. They will wake up and be more active when spring comes. If it's hot and the plants seem dehydrated, place them somewhere cooler and give them some water. I would suggest to let the plants rest, not too much movement taking them in and out. Let them sit and adapt themselves. And don't worry too much, desert roses are really resilient plants. Gradually they will recover themselves, give them some more time. Hope the plants improve, keep us posted & I hope this helps!
--> Thanks for your picture. Let's hope for its recovery. ❤
Hi, I just saw your question in the comment. Will get back to you. Hello there again, I mean, how are the branches after you've cut part of them off? Are the remaining ones mushy or soft? From the look of it here, the plant looks quite strong and resilient. I'd wager there is still chance for its recovery. In TX right now, is there still sunlight in the days this time of year? Or is it really really cold all day through the night? As the caudex feels soft and could have probably been over watered, you may want to reduce watering at this point. Digging it up and letting the plant just rest or go dormant at this point is probably a good idea. If you decide to keep it inside till spring hits, keep the inside temps 50 & above. If there's still some sunlight in the days, you could let the plant sit for several hours for it to dry out (harden up gradually). And definitely move it indoors if night temps drop below 20s. You should also avoid contact with frost so it won't make the plant go rot. Keep us posted, I hope this helps & See you again next time!
More relevant info here if needed:
I just recently bought some pieces of grafted adeniums online and they arrived after 3 days..I noticed that some have soft caudexes upon unboxing, after soaking for a couple of hours in water as instructed by the seller I replanted them in pots with soil less mixture and watered them 1-2x a wk only when the soil gets dry..after a week of being in shaded area I introduced them to full sunlight. After more than 3 weeks now, one of them already has its flowers but when I touched its caudex it still feels soft to touch same with others. I'm not sure what to do now. Do these soft caudexes still recovering after replanting and just let them recover? Should I remove all their leaves or flowers to conserve the plants energy or should I dig them up to check for their roots if there is rot? Please I need help.Thanks.
--> Thanks for your question and details. From my limited experience, usually grafted adenium plants are a bit weaker in health than the seed-grown ones, so they may require a bit more care for them. As the plant is now carrying flowers (which requires more water and energy in most cases), could it be that the softened caudexes are due to a lack/a lower amount of water (underwatering)? How has the weather been in your area? And have the adenium been outside under full sunlight for a long period of time?
I am thinking... possibly for the one that still has the strength for blooming, it may not be root rot in this case. I'm leaning forward the idea that they will be okay and it's just in the recovery time, as some may take up to 3 months or more for fully hardening up of caudex. You could perhaps check the remaining ones if there could be root fungi (outside of the dehydration possibility). In such a case, if you decide to prune them, make sure the coming days are dry and sunny so moisture and fungi won't affect the new cuts. We have created a pruning guide here if you would like a look: 'How to prune desert rose' https://zenyrgarden.com/how-to-prune-trim-desert-roses/
Please also check if the grafted portions are rather long. As long scions tend to suck up more water and sometimes cause the branch to go droopy. Keeping it at about 1 inch length (2-3 cm) will be good enough. Keep us posted on the progress, and I hope this helps!
I have a beautiful dessert rose but had a root rot issue a while back. I had to cut almost 95% of the root. I dried it out for 2 weeks and then used rooting powder and potted again. soon after it started flowering and looked great until I realized the trunk aas soft and shrinking. it's not rot but it seems not to have tentacle roots. I trimmed tge flowers and most of the leaves ti try and save but don't know what to do next im thinking rooting powder. please help my beautiful plant
--> Hi, thanks for your picture and sharing. Firstly, how is the plant doing now? Is is soft and shrinking around the bottom trunk part. From my limited experience, flowering usually takes a lot of energy. As the roots have been cut out most of its part, it could possibly be that the plant is using the water inside its body (its trunk) to come nourish the flowering flowers. Which could lead to the softening / shrinking of the trunk, sometimes people call as caudex. As you've trimmed off the leaves and flowers, I'd also think it is a good next step to help let the roots develop some more. for such case, I got reminded of a video from Maria's Garden on how to save desert rose root rot. You may find it helpfulDesert rose how to save after root rot
The steps she runs through are basically simliar to yours:
- sun dry
- apply rooting powder (pot in dry soil, no watering)
- check root development --> water again
pls note it is important to only water the plant after you see some roots develop. Once you're happy with the root development or think that these will be enough to keep the plant nourished, then you can begin watering again. And as well, check the moisture of the soil before watering to avoid over-watering, which could lead to root rot again.
You could also check out rooting adenium in water. It is more applicable to smaller desert roses (bonsai like styles). I've seen people root the plants in a bottle of water. Takes about a month or a month and a half for roots to develop. The plant in this case may seem a bit big for this. But if you're willing to give it a try, I think this is another idea you could possibly consider.
I talk a bit about rooting in water here if you'd like a look later. Pls see the part 'Growing Adenium Without Root Rot: Another Way'. It's near the end of the following article: https://zenyrgarden.com/how-to-handle-adenium-desert-rose-root-rot/
As your desert rose developes more roots, we can then go from there for it to meet with more water / nutrients, and let it do what it does best: giving beautiful flowers. I hope the plant will recover, be strong and flower again. It will be strong again. Sending love. See you again next time!
I need to uproot some huge desert Roses and keep them for planting after about 6-8 months. should I keep them on dry grass and water occasionally. .pls help
--> Thanks for sharing and your question. May I ask though, 6-8 months from here (which would be January-March next year), what's the weather usually like at that time of year in your area. From my limited experience with very tiny seedlings, they can hang in there quite well (surprisingly well to me actually) for about 4 months with very little sunlight and very little amount of water. Since yours are much bigger desert roses (that have stored up some meat muscles & water inside), I think they'll make it through fine. I kept mine on sand, but thinking you could use dry grass as a good substrate option. Are there any leaves/flowers on the plants? You could alternatively just let it go dormant (reduce watering --> leaves turn yellow & fall --> plant goes to sleep) like some growers do during the winter months. Water when you see new buds growth. As spring comes, in April maybe, you could introduce it to more light and replant it into nutrious soil and begin watering again. They will be happy and wake up gradually blooming. I hope you have a good trip, did I understand your question correctly though, I hope this helps!
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Here are some ideas to begin with:
- Have the plants been dropped or fallen off somewhere recently? If they are weeks- or months-old seedlings, dropping from a certain height can damage their bodies.
- Have they got enough water? Caudex is like the water storage of the adenium. If it's soft, it means that there may not be enough water inside. This can cause the whole body to shrink.
- Have the desert roses been transplanted recently? After re-potting or any kinds of movement shock, the plants need some time to rest and recover. If your desert rose is bigger & older, it may survive with the remaining water amount.
- Have they been pruned recently? It is quite normal for the caudex to be softer during the pruning period, especially if the weather is hot. In this case, provide some water for your thirsty adenium moderately.