Desert Rose Pruning: How I Prune My Adenium

My Adenium was getting long and leggy. I have a few Desert Rose pruning tips to share! Pruning desert rose brings on new growth and more flowering.

I love Adeniums because of their varied shapes, forms, sizes, and flower colors. What makes them so interesting is due mainly to pruning and training and of course age. Mine was getting long and leggy and taking up way to much real estate in the utility room where it overwinters. A little Desert Rose pruning was in order and I thought I’d share it with you. 

I’m no Adenium bonsai master (not even close!) so don’t be looking for any fancy tricks here. Those experts meticulously prune and train the branches with wire to turn these beautiful plants into works of art. I just wanted to shorten the long floppy stems, a couple of which had touched the ground last fall.

Pruning Adenium

a variety of sizes & forms or adeniums desert roses at a nursery
An assortment of Adeniums at Green Things Nursery in Tucson. Take your pick!

How you prune a Desert Rose is up to you. It depends on what the shape is and what form you want it to grow into. I’ve seen some with tall massive trunks and the stems which have been pruned very short so the flowers are tight bouquets just atop those trunks. Others may have many long skinny stems twisting through each other. You get the idea – it’s a matter of taste.

Good to know: Adeniums bloom on new growth. Pruning will stimulate that growth & bring on more flowering.

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See me pruning my Desert Rose:

Best Time for Desert Rose Pruning

Spring & summer are good. I pruned mine early last fall because a few of the branches were twisting & touching the ground.

Good to know: Before starting the pruning process, make sure your pruners are clean & sharp. This lessens the chance of spreading disease & ensures cleaner cuts.

Good to know: Adeniums (all parts) emit a sap which is considered to be toxic. It doesn’t irritate me but it could be different for you. Be sure to wear gloves because you may be sensitive to the sap.  Don’t touch your face when working with this plant. 

an adenium desert rose in a low bowls on a table next to a tub trug & pruners
My Desert Rose before the pruning. It wasn’t bad but I thought it was getting leggy and needed a bit of shaping.

How to Prune Adenium

Again, how you prune yours is all up to you. The video will show you how I pruned mine.

3 days prior to this pruning, I watered it. You don’t want to prune a plant which is stressed, ie too dry. 

I started by pruning down the 2 skinniest branches which were crossing over.  Remove any weak or dead branches at this point. 

I shortened the branches by 6″ – 9″. I wanted to stagger the lengths a bit so it didn’t turn into a ball.

All cuts were made at an angle 1/4 – 1/2″ above a node or the half-moons. I think the stems look better when cut at an angle. I made sure all cuts were made with the terminal nodes facing outward because that’s the look I wanted. 

a hand indicates the point where a desert rose adenium will be pruned
Here I’m showing where & how I was going to make the cut. At an angle & slightly above a node.

Good to know:  I kept the plant dry for 6 days after the pruning before watering again.

I followed up with a bit more pruning: 3 weeks later quite a bit of new growth was appearing. I took 4 of the branches down by a few inches and am now happy with how my Desert Rose is looking. 

What I’ll Do Throughout the Season

Depending on how it’s growing, I’ll most likely leave it be until the end of summer and see if it needs a light pruning. This is the most I’ve pruned this Adenium so time will tell how it grows out.

an adenium desert rose in a low bowl partially pruned sits next to cuttings
About halfway through. I’m rooting 2 of those cuttings you see on the table by the way.

Hard Pruning / Light Pruning

You can give your Desert Rose a hard or a light pruning, depending on what appeals to you. If you do a hard pruning (taking the stems down to 4-5″ above the trunk), you probably won’t have to do it again for a few years. 

You can do light pruning or 2 throughout the season if need be. 

I’m in Tucson Arizona; USDA zone 9b. I bring my Desert Rose indoors sometime in November when the evening temps dip below 50F to overwinter in my utility room. It went back outside this year on March 31. 

looking down on an adenium desert rose which has been pruned
You can see the follow up pruning I did a few weeks later. Lots of new growth is appearing.

Here’s what I do when I bring it back outside: 

I put it in bright shade for a week and then move it into exposure with morning sun. After being in the utility room for 4 months I want to introduce it back into the desert sun gradually.

A couple of weeks later I moved it into a spot where it gets sun up until 1 or 2. When the intense summer sun sets in, I’ll move it over to my covered side patio.

close up of the pink & white flowers of an adenium desert rose
My Desert Rose in flower last June. It put out quite a few blooms last year & will put out even more this year after the pruning.

Adeniums seem to love pruning but you can also let yours be if you wish. Just know that most of the foliage and flowers will be at the ends of the branches. If that’s the look you like, thumbs up. If not, have fun pruning!

Happy gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

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