Not an ordinary rose, this one

Would you like to have a houseplant that will not only provide a unique character to the indoors, but turn into a conversation piece, as well? Then, look for this not-so-familiar plant and watch it grow and bloom in just a short period of time.

A member of the oleander family though actually a succulent, the plant I am raving about is known as Adenium obesum, and is commonly referred to as the desert rose. It’s not a stranger to me now, but the first time I laid my eyes on a desert rose was during one of my visits to New Delhi, India. I was totally fascinated upon seeing a large collection in all kinds of containers in the courtyard of my brother’s home. Since then, I have always been on the lookout for either a potted plant or, for that matter, even seeds that are rather easy to germinate. Incidentally, I found my existing plant this past spring at a local garden center in an area where cacti and succulents are displayed.

It was barely a few inches tall at the time of purchase, but after repotting in a soil meant specifically for cacti and succulents, the desert rose has grown exponentially, reaching the point that it now seems out of proportion to the size of the container it is in. It has also, to my delight, been blooming since summer; needless to say, the flowers are pretty as a picture.

What makes a desert rose so unique is the combination of lovely flowers that come in shades of red, pink or white and the rugged structure of the plant. I say “rugged” because the base of the main stem is swollen and grayish in color, making the plants look bottle-shaped, somewhat like a bonsai. Glossy, fleshy leaves that are borne along the length of the stem add to the whimsical look. An important aspect of the plant worth mentioning is that the milky sap it exudes can cause skin irritation and is toxic if ingested, and should therefore be handled with care.

Taking care of an Adenium obesum is not very difficult. One of the main things to bear in mind is not to over-water, letting them dry in between watering. For this reason, clay pots work better than plastic ones. Also, plants need a fair amount of sunlight. So, I let ours bask outdoors in the summer, but now that the nights have cooled I have brought it inside; this way, I get to enjoy the beautiful flowers, too.


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