Should I repot my Desert Rose?

Indianapolis, IN

I got this Desert Rose about 2-3 months ago from the discount rack at Lowes for $3. I researched it and I think I am taking good care of it but I noticed roots growing out the bottom of the plastic container it came in. I know when repotting them you should take care not to damage the roots, so should i repot it now? I'm worried that if I wait the roots will grow out more and I'll have to rip or cut them loose. Any suggestions would be appreciated, I am new to this site and to houseplants!

Thumbnail by CuriousFox
(Zone 1)

Good morning. I can't give advice on whether to re-pot or not since I can't seem to keep Adenium's alive for very long but it does sound to me like your plant is in need of re-potting if the roots are growing out the bottom. The terra cotta/clay type pots might be better for the Desert Rose to keep the soil from staying too wet.

I see you are not a paid subscriber so you can't access the Caudiciform forum which is for paid subscribers only. I will post a note over there and see if one of the more knowledgeable folks will pop in over here and offer some advice.

Hopefully someone will be along soon and can give you advice about re-potting. The Adenium (Desert Rose) is an interesting plant and really gorgeous when in bloom!

Delray Beach, FL(Zone 10a)


Desert roses are not difficult to repot. It sounds like the tricky part will be to remove the plastic pot in which your plant is growing. Try to keep the root damage to a minimum.

Desert roses can be prone to rotting if they are potted in too dense a medium, which would hold moisture for too long. I use two parts potting soil and 1 part sand. It works for me.

May I suggest you repot your DR in a clay pot? Unlike plastic pots, they breathe, reducing the chance of your plant rotting. Also, an important detail here: I make sure the pot does not sit in a saucer, or rests in a puddle. I even raise the pot off the ground by placing 3 small pieces of ceramic tiles under the bottom of the pot, to make sure water drains out of the pot completely.

My desert roses get a dose of MiracleGro every month, with a treat of orchid bloom booster fertilizer when I some left over. I guess you could say my DR are gross feeders, but they bloom almost year-round.

Happy potting.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I agree with the clay pot idea. I have my plants (all my succulents and houseplants) in the gritty mix you see below. It provides an environment extremely conducive to good root growth/health/metabolism. With the roots being the heart of the plant, your soil choice is probably the most important decision affecting your ability to provide the best opportunity for your plants to grow as near as possible to their genetic potential, within the limits of other potentially limiting factors.

My favorite fertilizer is Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, because it supplies nutrients in the average ratio that plants use (3:1:2). It also supplies all 12 essential elements, including Ca and Mg (lacking in Miracle-Gro) and it supplies them in a ratio that is nutrient to nutrient favorable. This allows you to fertilize at the lowest rates possible w/o incurring nutritional deficiencies. Used in conjunction with a very fast draining soil, the combination is very hard to beat.


Thumbnail by tapla
Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Now is a good time to repot. It's spring and your plant is in leaf. Use cactus soil or add a good helping of 30% pumice/perlite to regular potting soil. The important thing there is good drainage. The type of pot does not really matter, but remember that a plant in a regular pot requires less frequent watering than a clay pot because it does not dry out through the walls of the container. Conversely, a plant in a clay pot will be more tolerant of overwatering.

It's really not a big deal to leave the plant a little rootbound in the container for a while, so there's no urgency about this. The plant just slows down and grows fatter when it's underpotted. Don't put the plant in too big a container when you repot... better to repot again down the road when necessary. No need to fertilize. Just use decent soil and repot every year or so. If you choose to fertilize, I recommend that you dilute to 25% strength and only add during periods of active growth. I grow my plants outside with strong sun and different conditions may require different treatment.

Saint Louis, MO

This is a question for tapla. This is off topic, but I am very curious as to why Foliage-Pro lists the parts as 9-3-6 and not 3-1-2. I know what each number represents, but is there a reason they don't simplify to the lowest numbers since I think that's easier to understand?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

The numbers on the fertilizer packages represent the percentage by weight, of NPK in that particular product (almost - I'll come back to that in a sec), but the %s are actually much less important than the ratio. 24-8-16, 12-4-8, and 9-3-6 are all examples of fertilizers that have the same ratio, 3:1:2. Notice I write the ratio using colons and the %s using dashes. 24-8-16 has 24% nitrogen and 12-4-8 has half that, as well as half the P and K of 24-8-16, yet these two fertilizers are exactly interchangeable by doubling the dose of 12-4-8 or halving the dose of 24-8-16.

The reason ratio is an important consideration is, all plants use the same nutrients in almost the same ratio. There is very little variance in the ratio in which plants use nutrients from species to species or genus to genus; some plants just use MORE nutrients than others.

I said that the NPK #s listed on the package almost show the % of NPK because they're quite far from accurate. That's only important when I connect it to what comes next. P is reported as the % of P2O5 (phosphorous pentoxide) and K is reported as the % of K2O (potassium oxide). To get the ACTUAL amount of P in the fertilizer, you have to multiply the % of P by .43, and for K, the factor is .83. The connection occurs when we consider that the average usage of NPK for all plants is actually about 10:1.5:7. After all the factoring and dividing is done, we come up with the fact that 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers supply NPK in almost exactly the same ratio as the average that all plants use.

Bloombooster fertilizers supply far, far more P than containerized plants could EVER hope to use in relation to N. Even 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers like 20-20-20 are high P fertilizers because based on N usage (and almost ALL fertilizer regimens are decided as a function of N) a fertilizer only needs .17 part of P for every part of N. 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers actually supply .43 parts, or about 2.5 times more P than the plant will/can use for normal growth. You can't MAKE a plant take up more P than it wants/needs, and excess P in the soil is not a benefit; rather, the excess is a limiting factor and plays all sorts of unwanted tricks on soil chemistry.

Anyway - If I suggest a 3:1:2 RATIO fertilizer, you have lots of options, but if I suggest 24-8-16, you're limited. If I suggest 9-3-6, you're more limited still, because I think Dyna-Gro is the only entity that manufactures fertilizer in those %s. I've posted hundreds of pictures of my plants here & @ other forum sites, and you would be hard pressed to find anything but perfect foliage/or/blooms on any of them. I use the 9-3-6 on everything I grow, from the most valuable bonsai to the tiny little stuff I just have fun with (see pic).

Sorry to go so deep into the answer. I know all the numbers make it look technical, but it's actually a pretty easy concept to understand if you think about it a little. Thanks for asking. ;o)


This message was edited Mar 15, 2011 4:33 PM

Thumbnail by tapla
Saint Louis, MO

Ahhhhh, I thought that was it! Just kidding. I have read your reply several times and think I have a pretty good idea of what you are saying. I've wanted to know the answer to that for a long time and your post today made me think of it. It's not easy to get answers on those kinds of plant-related questions. Information on the internet really only explains the contents of the fertilizers and not the true meaning of the ratios. Thanks for taking the time to fill me in.

I love the succulent planted in the acorn cap! I thought it was a large plant until I realized it is in the palm of your hand. Charming! Is that an elephant plant?

This message was edited Mar 15, 2011 4:42 PM

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Yes - it's Portulacaria afra, aka Spekboom (literal > "fat pork tree"), Elephant's Food, Elephant Bush, Elephant Grass, Elephant Plant, Olifantskos, Purslane Tree, Dwarf or Tiny Leaf Jade, Baby Jade, Mini-Jade ...... lol - see why common names can be confusing?

It's dad:


Thumbnail by tapla
Indianapolis, IN

Thank you so much everyone! Your advice helps a lot :)

Since I saw the picture of the jade, I have a plant I've had for about three years. I grew it from a small snipit of my mothers' plant, which was in our family for 25 years. I'm fighting now to keep it alive. I had it in a pot too big but all else seemed fine for it. Leaves have thinned and softened slightly. Any suggestions on that?

Decatur, GA

tapla, nice dissertation on fertilizer. Always something to learn.
I am wondering about the acorn cap you using for the mini planting. Is it an extra large one? I would love to find some really big acorns but don't know the name of the species. Do you have any info about that?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Curious - it's often repeated that you should only step up in pot size gradually or that you need to be careful of over-potting. That's all well & good, and applies when you're using soils that have peat/coir/compost or other fine ingredients as their base. When using soils like in the picture above, soils comprised primarily of larger particulates and that don't hold perched water, you needn't worry either about over-watering (within reason) OR over-potting. It is the layer of saturated soil at the bottom of the pot that occurs after watering copiously that causes the anaerobic conditions that promote rot and that everyone feels compelled to warn or guard against. That concern is greatly diminished in bark-based soils and a non-issue in soils like I pictured.

Is your plant a portulacaria afra, or a true jade (C. ovata)?

HC- Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it. The cap is from a white oak (Quercus alba) acorn I picked up, but there are larger acorns - bur oak & coast live oak have much larger fruits. I'm always trying to challenge myself, so I figured 'Why not try it?'. I've done this from time to time to display as a companion plant when exhibiting various bonsai specimens. It always got a lot of attention cuz it's 'So Cute". ;-) It will grow about 1 year to 18 months in the cap before it outgrows it and the cap disintegrates. I've also grown mosses, pearlwort, and, thyme in the caps & in other very tiny containers not a lot larger than a thimble. ..... keeps me off the streets & out of the bars. ;-)


Decatur, GA

And staying off the streets and out of the bars is good for your health!!! I have known for years my plants keep me off the streets. At least thats what I tell people.
I like your idea of tiny little plants in tiny pots. Creative.

Providence, RI

Hi everyone!

This is my first post on Dave's Garden, and it seems like there's some very cool people here! I love Desert Roses (hence my username here :)

I heard that when you re-pot these plants, not to change the pot size to a size that is too much bigger than the original. The caudex gets fatters when the plant is largely pot-bound. For other plants, pruning (clipping the tips fo new growth) and keeping it potbound. I stuck to the pot-bound advice for my Desert Roses, and follow both instructions for my Operculicarya decaryi (and this plant is getting a thicker woodier stem now, and I've only had it for about 3-4 months).

Good luck!

Thumbnail by fatcaudex
Iowa Park, TX(Zone 7b)

Hi fatcaudex,
I want to say WELCOME to Dave's Garden. Your desert rose plants look wonderful!

Maybe you can help me with a question I have about mine. I have had this desert rose for about 4 years and it has never bloomed but always put out leaves and lost them according to what the weather is doing (of course I keep it in the house during cold weather.)

I over watered it and it got root rot this last winter. So I took it out of the soil and let it callous over. Now it is trying to put out leaves (got little buds) but I don't know what to do since it has no roots. Do I trim off the old dead part or leave it on ? Do I keep it laying horizontally or stand it up in some potting medium? ( I know I need to repot it soon but do not know the right way to do it.
Thank you for any suggestions.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I forgot that I was active on this thread and haven't been following it too closely, but if FC is still around, I'd like to say that people who parrot the old 'you should only pot up one size' advice haven't yet learned that appropriate pot size isn't determined by how large the last pot was, or even by the size of the plant material; it's determined by the soil.

If you scroll up to my post of March 15, you'll see a picture of a soil that would literally allow you to grow any of the plants you pictured in a 55 gallon drum full of soil. If you tried that with a peat-based soil, it would be a death sentence, but when using a soil that is made of particles too large to support perched water, there are no upper limits to pot size because the entire soil mass remains well aerated and absent of perched water, which is the cultural condition that allows the fungaluglies that cause root rot to get a toe hold.

Plants grow best when roots have room to run and don't have to compete with each other for space. Growth and vitality begins to be negatively affected at about the point where the root/soil mass can be lifted from the pot intact. Being able to pot in large pots when you want the plant to add mass is a very large advantage, because small pots are limiting.

The advice so often given to pot in small pots and keep roots tight is appropriate for certain plants that don't like wet feet for only two reasons. The first is, the smaller soil volumes hold less water, so air returns to the entire soil mass faster. However, this advice ASSUMES that you'll be using a peat-based, water-retentive soil, and is given to protect you from yourself. The advice is totally inappropriate if you have as a goal a speedy increase in plant mass and are using a soil like that I referred you to above ...........; UNLESS, the plant is as large as you want it to be and you want to increase the number of blooms. Tight roots are stressful to all plants, and the stress has the tendency to increase the number of blooms. If I might wax anthropomorphic for a moment: The plant feels threatened by the stress, so concentrates it's energy on reproducing to ensure that it's genes are passed along. This actually taxes the plant and lowers it's energy reserves and reduces it's metabolic rate and the by-products of that metabolism it uses in its own defense against disease and even insect predation. IOW, it weakens the plant, reduces vitality, and slows growth.

LP - I would trim off the dead parts and dust fresh cuts with powdered sulfur as a fungicide. Allow it to callous for a week or so, then plant. Mist the soil surface lightly until you see signs of new growth, then water.

Soil choice/composition is a very important consideration and often determines whether your job will be easy or if you will be fighting the medium for the life of the planting. If you can lose the idea that container soils need to be rich and black to be productive, and replace it with the idea that they only need to be well aerated and hold no (or very little) perched water (especially for plants in shallow pots and those that don't tolerate wet feet), you'll probably take a giant step forward in the ease with which you can consistently produce healthy attractive plants.

I'm not being cocky or over-confident when I say that. I've been around Dave's and GW for a good number of years, and can link you to threads I've written about the importance of media choices that illustrate through the participation of (literally) thousands of others that not only does what I'm saying make sound scientific sense, it works extremely well in practical application.

Good luck to you guys!


Thumbnail by tapla
Iowa Park, TX(Zone 7b)

Thank you for the help Al! It seems like its growing (slowly but surely.)

I have found that the desert rose does not need to be re-potted so much as lifted. There is a process called 'lifting the caudex,' that involves unearthing the plant, and re-burying it shallower than it was previously potted. (I detail this process on my blog.) By lifting the caudex and trimming the root occasionally, you can develop a very unique and beautiful trunk while slowly giving more space for root development.

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