Last updated on May 23rd, 2023 at 01:22 am

Desert rose (Adenium obesum) is a common name for a species of perennial flowering plant in the botanical Family Apocynaceae. Desert rose is a very popular and highly prized ornamental shrub. The most prominent features of the plant are the swollen, ‘chubby’ and often twisting caudex (thickened stem base) and the tubular, trumpet-shaped, plumeria-like flowers.

These flowers are typically pink or red. They are approximately 5 cm long and can reach a diameter of nearly 7 cm. Adenium hybrids have flowers in a wider range of colors, including white, yellow, purple, and violet. The margins of the petals usually have a stronger hue. The flowers of some hybrids have an almost black edge. The color fades towards the throat (floral tube). The leaves are sparse, spirally arranged, green, ovate, leathery, and glossy. The rigid stems taper gradually upwards.

The plant is native to tropical Africa (the sub-Saharan regions of eastern and southwestern Africa) and the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia). Other common names of the plant are kudu, mock azalea, impala lily, Sabi star, adeno, and Chuan chom.

The Genus name Adenium is derived from the Latinized Arabic name for the flower, oddaejn. This word is a local reference for where this plant was first found. Some sources mention a linguistic link to the word Adean, the former name of the region of Yemen. The specific botanical name obesum translates as swollen or obese, an obvious allusion to the shape of the plant’s trunk.

What does the Desert Rose flower symbolize?

The Chinese name for the desert rose flower is fu gui huafu means rich or abundant, gui is majestic, and hua is a flower. This is a flower of prosperity or a wealth plant. Like the Laughing Buddha’s big belly, the bulging basal stem of the desert rose, too, is perceived as a sacred symbol of fertility, prosperity, abundance, and good fortune. Traditionally, the larger the trunk, the greater the wealth and abundance.

Following the principles of feng shui, the desert rose is an auspicious flower for every home. According to a Thai folk belief, one can derive the greatest benefit from the energies of this flower by planting it on a Wednesday in the southeast part of the residence. In India, the desert rose flower has become widespread and popular in the last fifty years. It is perceived as an auspicious, good-luck flower.

Since the desert rose plant is strong and adaptable to harsh climatic conditions, it symbolizes strength, persistence, and resilience. It is also a symbol of hope during dry times. The red rose plant, be it in its natural habitat or a collector specimen, is highly appreciated for its aesthetics. The desert rose flowers have been compared to crystals of red fire.

Dietz’s reference book ‘The Complete Language of Flowers attributes the following symbolic meaning to the desert rose flower: death, delusion, fiction, and illusion. 

In folk beliefs, such attributes are often assigned to poisonous plants, and the desert rose is no exception. Namely, the milky sap from the desert rose plant is highly toxic. It has been used as a fish poison and an arrowhead poison by indigenous peoples in many African regions, including Mozambique and South Africa.

All in all, the desert rose flower symbolic meanings are:

  • death
  • fiction
  • illusion
  • delusion
  • prosperity
  • hope
  • resilience

Meaning of the Desert Rose flower colors

Red color

In the tradition of many Asian countries, including China and Thailand, the brightly colored flowers of the desert rose to represent money, good luck, and prosperity in all affairs. Thus the most desired varieties of a desert rose plant are those with reddish or pink flowers.

Pink color

Pink is a desert rose’s most common color—most plant varieties have bright pink petals. The edges of the petals are generally darker, while the flower’s interior is of a much lighter hue (often white).

The pink desert rose is commonly kept as a potted plant. It brings peace, happiness, and prosperity to the living space. Another symbolic meaning of this flower is rejuvenation. This meaning is derived from the fact that the desert rose flower can thrive in less-than-optimal conditions. The flower rejuvenates itself after a period of hibernation.

White color

Most white deserts rose flowers are not purely white, and their petals include stripes or patterns of a different color. In recent years, some horticulturalists in Asia have successfully produced white desert rose cultivars. 

The white color symbolizes purity and Buddhism in Thailand, death and the unknown in China, and the spirit world among many African communities. The meaning of the white desert rose flower depends on the local cultural context. Whether white desert roses will become more popular and in demand in the coming years is yet to be seen.

Black color

The black desert rose flower is a hybrid plant that is typically bi-colored (with petal margins of a differently colored flower). A Thailand flower nursery has succeeded in developing fully purple-black desert rose hybrids. Since these are relatively new flowers developed over the last decade, they do not have traditional symbolic significance. 

The meaning of a black desert rose is fluid and shaped both by commercial branding and popular culture (customer trends). For example, some of the names given to black desert rose cultivars are: ‘Dracula,’ ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Tonight I am Yours,’ and ‘Black Carnival.’

Interesting facts about the Desert Rose flowers

  • Despite its name, the desert rose is not a rose. The plant is unrelated to the rose family Rosaceae. The flowers do not resemble the shape of any rose variety. The plant has no thorns, either.
  • The German Scientist Pehr Forsskal was the first European to discover Adenium in 1762 in Yemen. Soon after, European botanists identified the plant in other regions of Africa, including Kenya and central Tanzania. Forssskal’s discovery happened during an exploration voyage to Africa and India, sponsored by the Danish king.
  • The genus Adenium, to which the desert rose flower belongs, was established in 1819 by J.J. Roemer and J.A. Schultes.
  • The desert rose flower has been depicted on postage stamps by several countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, and Venda.
  • Desert roses are cultivated in flower nurseries and botanical gardens around the world. Some of the best nurseries specializing in exotic and succulent plants are found in Thailand and Taiwan. They have produced Adenium cultivars and hybrids with multiple (two or three) layers of petals. Some of those desert rose flowers are bi-color, tri-color, or include striping and complex patterning.
  • Perhaps the most popular cultural reference to the desert rose flower is found in the 1999 song ‘Desert Rose’ by the British musician Sting. The desert rose is a symbol and personification of beauty, lost love, and longing.
  • In Oman, Adenium obesum treats joint pain, muscle pain, and headaches. Earlier in history, this plant has also been used to treat venereal diseases, skin diseases, septic wounds, tooth decay, nasal infections, and to kill lice. 
  • In Kenya, parts of the plant have traditionally been used in powdered form to kill skin parasites in camels and cattle. 
  • In Nigeria, the desert rose has been used to protect against certain parasitic diseases, including malaria, leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis. 
  • Somali traditional medicine produces nose drops from the root of the desert rose plant. These drops are used in the treatment of rhinitis.

How to grow Desert Rose flowers

The desert rose is the simplest to grow and care for. They may thrive in both indoor and outdoor settings. For example, by altering growth conditions, you can keep them as indoor plants in large container gardens all year. Or in outdoor pots as flowering plants in the spring, but remember to bring them inside during the winter because they are susceptible to frost damage.

  1. Plant the desert rose on sandy or gravelly cactus soil that drains well.
  2. Choose a location in your home where the plant will receive enough light throughout the day, such as a bright southern-facing windowsill or sunroom.
  3. Water sparingly to keep the soil moist in the summer and spring when growth is at its optimum during warmer days.
  4. During the active growth period, feed the plant liquid fertilizer (diluted by half) once a month.

How to care for Desert Rose flowers

  1. Water the desert roses 2 or 3 times per week, depending on how dry the climate is.
  2. Supplement it with liquid fertilizers weekly during the growing season.
  3. Prune off the extra growths and frost-damaged leaves and branches during winter to help the plant dormant. 
  4. Cut away any damaged or symptomatic leaves.
  5. Spray the plant with high-pressure water to get rid of aphids and spider mite infestations.
  6. Inspect the desert rose plant regularly, whether grown as a houseplant or outdoors. 

Best time to gift Desert Rose flowers

This highly unusual, visually stunning flower is a luxurious gift. It can be gifted to the pickiest among the floral connoisseurs and is sure to impress.

The desert rose flower brings good luck and abundance. This makes them a perfect gift to someone starting something new—a new career, job, or business venture. When gifted with this in mind, it should preferably be a variety of red or pink flowers.

A desert rose is an excellent boost for those who need a little spell of luck. It can be gifted to a friend who is about to appear in an exam, a competition, or a job interview.

Desert rose flowers can be gifted to families when they move into a new home, with wishes for a stable, resilient, successful, and thriving household.

Black desert rose flowers are still rather atypical and unconventional. Most of these hybrids have names associated with black magic and the dark. This makes them a unique gift to fans of the Goth subculture.

Desert roses are not used as cut or dried flowers. On the one hand, this limits their use as a gift, but on the other, it makes them lasting and memorable.


The desert rose flower conceals its poisonous toxicity behind beautiful, one-of-a-kind blossoms and a thick, bulbous stalk that grows properly hydrated. This flower represents wealth, luck, fertility, abundance, and prosperity.

The most appealing aspect of desert roses is their lovely leaves and flowers. You can easily plant one for your home or give your loved ones as a gift.

If you want to know and learn more about flowers, we at PansyMaiden can help you. Check out our fun, easy-to-read, and informative flower-related content that you will surely enjoy!