Over the past six years of traveling up north, I have developed a deep love of Pilbara and Kimberley gardens, both native and exotic. A plant that has slowly seeped into my heart is the Desert Rose – Adenium. It is architectural, exotic, hardy and flowers abundantly. If you can’t grow a Boab, this has to be the next best thing.
Adeniums are known as Desert roses because they grow in some of the most inhospitable climates in the world. Most of the Adeniums we see in WA are Adenium obesium, but there are many more species. Adeniums range from Africa to the Middle East and some of them are huge, the size of a Boab.
They get a fat bottom like a Boab and have brilliant hot pink, red, white or two toned flowers but are in miniature form. It’s the shape of the trunk and stems that get you in. If you want a ‘blow your eyeballs out’ bonsai, the desert rose is the pick of the crop.
The trick with growing them down in the cooler climates in Perth is to understand that they need to go into dormancy during our cold winters. Think of your Desert Rose as being related to Alamanda’s, Frangipanis and Oleanders.
They are heat lovers, they don’t experience the cold wet winters we have in Perth. The best way to grow them if you live south of Carnarvon is in a pot. That way you can move them around the garden to protect them from winter rain and give them as much sun as possible.
Only ever fertilise them with a slow release fertiliser when you see them showing ne growth at the beginning of summer. When you see buds forming then give them a liquid feed of a seaweed tonic. They should be in very free draining potting mix up off the ground so water doesn’t rot the roots.
Adeniums will send out seedpods just like frangipanis, they look like a two bladed helicopter rotor and are filled with many seeds. You can grow them from seed but I think its more fun to graft them. The best grafting technique is a ‘V’ graft and you can get a multi coloured Desert rose with your favorite selection.
Every time you pot up your Desert rose allow it to sit higher up in the pot so the cortex builds up a fat bottom. Roots will emerge from this ever-increasing swelling and you will end up some primordial looking ancient bonsai with the most stunning flowers.