Repotting My Beautiful Adenium (Desert Rose)

It was true love when the Adenium my dad grew in the greenhouse attached to our home in Connecticut bloomed for the 1st time. What was this gorgeous plant with the twisting branches and the trumpet-shaped flowers? So exotic! Many moons later, after 1 year in Boston, 7 years in New York City and 30 years in California, I now have 1 of my own at my (relatively) new home in Tucson. I want to walk you through the simple steps to and tell you why I’m repotting my Adenium, aka Desert Rose.

These tropical, subtropical beauties are in the same family as oleanders and that’s why their flowers look so similar. They’re perennial succulents which store water in their stems, leaves, and roots during dry spells. For this reason, Adeniums are susceptible to root rot, especially in cool weather.

Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference:

Repotting My Adenium:


Materials Used:

2 Gallon Adenium Obesum.

Low Plastic Bowl; 14″ w x 6″ deep.

This is a “cheapy” thin plastic terra cotta colored planter which I bought at a reuse & recycle store when I lived in Santa Barbara for 50 cents. It has been sprayed blue, then gold was added in & I just recently sprayed it gloss grape. It has 2 coats of a gloss sealer on to protect it from the strong desert sun. I like it because I can easily move it around if I have to bring it indoors or move it out of the summer sun. Never pass up a bargain I say!

Coffee Filter.

I covered the 4 drain holes with it so the light succulent mix wouldn’t run out of the pot with the 1st few waterings. Newspaper works fine too.

Succulent & Cactus Mix.

Remember, Adeniums are subject to root rot. You want a mix which drains really well.  I use 1 which is produced locally – this one is good too. If you’re using a heavier s & c mix or potting soil, you want to add pumice or clean, small gravel to amend the drainage.

succulent & cactus mix with pumice, prococo cocount coir chips & compost_

Here’s the mix I use which is nice & chunky. It consists of prococo coconut coir chips, pumice & compost – adeniums love it! 


I use Tank’s local compost. Give Dr. Earth’s a try if you can’t find anywhere you live. Both enrich the soil naturally so the roots are healthy & the plants grow stronger. I added a couple of small handfuls of compost in because the Tucson growing season chugs along all year. If your Adenium is a houseplant, then skip it.

Steps Taken:

Remove the adenium from the grow pot. I did this by turning the plant on its side & gently stepping on the grow pot. I came right out like a dream!

Put the coffee filter over the drain holes & add in the mix to the desired depth.

Place the adenium in the pot.

an adenium obesum grows in a low, wide purple bowl

I left the caudex ( the thickened base) & upper roots exposed because I like the look. Plus, the plant has some weight so it’ll sink down into the light mix over time.

Fill in with the rest of the mix & a couple of small handfuls of compost.

Let the plant settle in for a couple of days before watering.

Good to know:

Adeniums can be grown with the caudex above or below the soil line. Above the line is the look for me because I like plants with character – you know, wacky plants!

Adenium obesum (the 1 most commonly sold) emits a sap just like oleander. All parts are poisonous so if any break, be sure not to get that sap in your mouth, near your face or on your skin.

They can tolerate being tight in their pots.

the caudex & upper roots of an adenium obesum aka desert rose exposed

The caudex will swell as the plant grows, & because it’s now exposed, will be a point of interest. The uppermost roots can be a bit exposed too.

Adeniums do well in containers which are wider than they are tall. For this reason, they make excellent bonsai specimens.

Repotting is best done during the growing season, not while it’s dormant.

I love my Adenium and can’t wait to see it grow and develop into a fascinating form. In the video, I said that I would show an Adenium which retails for $1400 but I was mistaken. Oops – it’s selling for $4000. Isn’t that baby fabulous?!

6orgeous 6' tall Adenium obesum with a huge caudex & deep rose flowers surrounded by smaller adeniums

I was off by $2600 in the video but I would just love to have this specimen of horticultural goodness on my patio!

Happy gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

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  1. i was glad to see your piece on Desert Rose plants. I have three, all gifts. two have a center trunk. I will repot one. the last and oldest has recovered after a hurricane or two outside , and needs attention. how do I trim or break into different plants to save this plant? having it professional pruned is outrageous! help please!
    thank you.

    PS Your post on ponytail palms have given me the confidence to rethink two areas of my gardens, THANK YOU.

  2. Hi Dottie – I’ve never pruned my adenium before because it’s never needed it. I do know that they can be aggressively pruned taking the plant down to half its size. You can also tip it or thin it out. They are popular in the bonsai world so take well to pruning. Ponytail Palms are so easy – I grew mine in Santa Barbara 7 blocks from the ocean & now it grows in the Arizona desert. Adaptable & easy- just don’t over water it! Nell

  3. I live in Scottsdale. Is this a time when the adenium goes dormant here? My plant looks beautiful. I brought it in from outside. It is getting very large. It is 25 inches across and 35 in tall. The caudex is
    14 inches around. The plant is in a pot that is 10 in wide and 12 in deep. I believe it should be repotted. It is about 7 years old. When should I repot it? I have a clay Bowl which is
    21 in wide & 20 in deep. Would that work. Tks for your help

  4. Hi Wanda – I live in Tucson which is a bit colder in the winter. Mine is inside now & still has most of its foliage. If they go dormant here, it’s in the winter.Sounds like yours needs to be repotted. Early on in the growing season is best – early spring. Your bowl will be fine. Make sure the mix is well drained & the caudex is raised a bit. Nell

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