The Desert Rose, also called the Japanese frangipani, is a small succulent tree native to Africa and Arabia which has fleshy leaves and develops a bulbous base. It produces large pink and white or red flowers when it gets enough sunlight.

The Desert Rose is popular as an ornamental plant but not often seen as a bonsai. It is popular in countries in Southeast Asia, most notably in Thailand. The plant is vigorous and healthy under the right conditions and with proper care. The Desert Rose Bonsai adapts easily to growing in a pot, what makes it well suited for bonsai, although it doesn't grow a very ramified branch structure. During winter time the plant will drop its leaves except in special tropical climates. The milk sap of the Desert Rose is poisonous.

If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.


Specific Bonsai care guidelines for the Desert Rose

Placement: In a warm climate, the Desert Rose can be kept outside year round. In temperate climates, it can be placed outside in a sunny position or in semi-shade from May to September. From autumn until spring the tree needs a warm place in the house or greenhouse with a lot of light. The temperature should not fall below 5° C / 40° F. In most cases the Desert Rose will drop its leaves in winter.

Watering: The Desert Rose is a succulent plant, indicating it doesn't need a lot of water. Usually it needs to watered only every 7 to 10 days - it is important to let the soil dry out a bit in between watering.

Fertilizing: Use liquid fertilizer at half the recommended strength once a month from spring to autumn.

 In winter the tree does not need to be fertilized unless it is still actively growing new shoots. When kept outside, a solid and organic fertilizer can be applied instead of liquid fertilizer.

Pruning and wiring: You can prune the Adenium Bonsai year-round. Flowers appear on new shoots, so time pruning well. Pruning stimulates more ramification and, as a result, more flower buds to develop. Trim back long shoots and cut off damaged parts, making clean cuts just above a leaf node or junction. To avoid the poisonous milk sap you better wear gloves when you work on the plant! When you wire the branches do not wind the wire too tightly so the branches can grow thicker without wire marks being left on them. The Adenium scars easily from tightly applied wire.

Repotting: Repot every two or three years in late spring with root-pruning. A well-draining soil mix is needed as excess wetness is a sure way to kill the Desert Rose. As with all succulents, before repotting let the soil dry out a bit, and wait with watering until a few days after the repotting.

Propagation: The Desert Rose tree can be propagated from seeds and cuttings, but grafting is the most popular method of propagation (especially in the large Southeast Asian nurseries).

Pests and diseases: Aphids, mealybugs and spider mites may attack Desert Roses which are weakened by poor conditions. Good care will prevent most infestations. If your tree is affected by a pest make sure to share some photos on our forum so we can help you find a proper product.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.



Desert Rose (Adenium obesum Bonsai)

Adenium obesum Bonsai