Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ode to a Desert Rose (Addium Obesum)

About five years ago My Dude and I were wandering through an outdoor garden shop that was a temporary set-up for the Christmas holidays. There was a table of very small plants without flowers, and strange looking stems. As I stood their musing on the $ 9.00 price, couldn't resist, but wondered why I was even interested. I am a person who loves Blooms! This was a naked plant with a few spindly green leaves.

The Plant lady in charge went into great detail of how fortunate I was to be able to get these plants because they had been grown from seed, as most of these plants are grown from cuttings.  Since I didn't even know what I was buying, the significance of this was lost on me.

My husband is really the Gardner in this family and he took charge. Through his research we discovered that this genus of plants is indiginious to the dry climates of Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. They are an evergreen succulent that thrives in humid climates. Well we live in Florida and that certainly is humid in the summer time. My Dude nurtured, planted, sweated and swore over this little plant until 5 years later we had this.
  Since seed grown plants are not genetically identical to the Mother plant, cuttings are used for desirable varieties. They generally do not develop the thick Caudex or root base, as a seeded plant.  We had been told this was a seeded plant, and since we did not know what to expect, repotted this plant into a much larger clay pot. This was already pretty big, but thought we should put the larger pot on a caddy with wheels. Later that year, toward the fall, several large, long, bean like pods appeared on the plant. Most of the flower blooms were gone, but if handled carefully we had the potential of many more plants.  Rsearch told us to dry the pods, which we did by laying them on a tray and left them  inside where the temperature was even.

When the pods were opened they were filled with seeds like this. Do you remember when we were kids the puff balls we used to blow at each other and watch them float away? That is what they look like. With medical precision and a dental tweezer, Mr. Dude separated each one carefully, there were over 50 potential plants in the first pod. He planted these in starter pots. Lo and behold 95 % of them germinated. Bear in mind we are not professional gardners!

They love water, but will not live if their feet are wet. In the summer they must have water and be feed with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and potassium and low in nitrogen.  If that can't be found you can use 10-10-10. For some reason we are unable to buy this combination in the county we live in until after the fall. If that is the same case for you, stock up before summer.

Our Mother plant had to be cut back because we did not know that it had to come inside during the winter,  They cannot stand temperatures below 40 degrees. It does get that cold and colder in this part of Florida.  It came back beautifully the next year.

The beautiful trumpet shaped Flowers come in many colors and shades. Our new plants are combinations of  red and white blooms. We have gifted many, we have sold many, we have swapped them for more pots, and we still have many to enjoy.  Oh yes and we still have seeds we have not used, packaged carefully for the next round of baby Desert Roses.
 This plant can grow to 6 feet, but they are often cultivated for Bonsai plants. Most climates, that are not tropical use them as a house plant.

Whening with the plant, be very careful not to allow any sap to get on your skin, as it is toxic. I am told that in Africa, even today, this sap is applied and used in Arrow hunting of big game. Either wear gloves, or if this should happen wash immediately with soap and water.

If you are going on vacation and do not have the kindness of a neighbor, as I do, to water your plants.
check . They have a very clever watering device that will continue to water an individual plant up to 3 weeks.

Today our original $ 9.00 Mother plant is alive and
well. She has to be rolled in and out now, much too
heavy to lift. She continues to thrill us with her glorious and profuse blooms.

We are anxiously waiting to see if she will produce
another batch of seed Pods so that we can be a mid
wife to hundreds more of her children!

Mother plant as she is today:


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, but the man in my life is responsible for them. I just enjoy their beauty. Wish I could share one with you.

  2. Thank you, we have enjoyed them. It was difficult to condense this post because there are so many things to say about these plants.Wish I could give you one.