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The Desert Rose Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The Desert Rose Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The desert rose plant – Adenium obesum – is a semi-succulent that is often grown as a bonsai tree due to the thick, swollen stalk. This plant produces beautiful, unique flowers in shades of red, pink, and white (with stripes or patterns). The desert rose flower meaning is wealth or good luck. There are other desert rose symbolisms, so keep reading!  

The Desert Rose

Desert Rose – Adenium obesum – plants are members of the Apocynaceae (dogbane) family, classified as ornamental evergreen semi-succulent shrubs. 

Adenium comes from the Latin version of the Arabic word for this flower – oddaejn. Obesum translates to obese or swollen, referencing the trunk’s shape. 

Common Names

The scientific name for this plant is Adenium obesum, but it’s more commonly known as Desert Rose. Other names known for this plant include Sabi star, Chuan Chom, kudu, impala lily, mock azalea, and adeno.

History and Origin

The Desert Rose grows native to tropical Africa – specifically the sub-Saharan regions of southwest and eastern Africa. However, it’s also native to the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman.

This plant was discovered in 1762 in Yemen by German scientist Pehr Forsskal, a European explorer voyaging through Africa under the sponsorship of the Danish king. Shortly after, other explorers found the plant in other African regions of central Tanzania and Kenya. 

Uses of the Desert Rose Flower 

In African countries, desert rose is a type of traditional medicine. These flowers contain chemical compounds like cardiac glycoside, pregnanes, carbohydrate, flavonoid, and prenylated flavonoid terpenoids, among others. 

In Oman, it’s an endemic medicinal plant, used pharmacologically to be antiviral, anticancer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant.  

It can also treat general conditions like joint and muscle pain and heart problems. In addition, a lotion made from root extract (used alone or in combination with or mixed with plants) can be an external treatment for ulcers, skin diseases, and a lice killer. 

Root decoction can form a nose drop to treat rhinitis. And the latex can prevent tooth decay and heal wounds.

Growing and Caring for Desert Rose Flower

Desert rose flowers don’t require much care, but they require careful management. Your plant will need lots of sunlight and strict attention to detail for watering. When growing your roses in containers, choose one with lots of drainage holes to prevent rot. Terra cotta or clay pots can help wick excess moisture.

It also needs consistent, warm temperatures, explaining why it’s grown as an indoor plant in much of the US. However, it can survive outdoors in USDA zones 11 and 12.

In terms of soil conditions, it prefers well-draining gravelly or sandy succulent or cactus soil. It does best with a neutral pH to slightly acidic, around 6.0. 

When actively growing in spring and summer, you’ll need to keep the soil consistently moist – not saturated. Allow the dirt to dry completely between waterings. But while your plant goes dormant in fall and winter, reduce watering to once a month. 

Check the size of your rose’s trunk to determine its hydration. When the trunk is swollen and thick, it’s well-hydrated.

Your plants will also need consistently warm temperatures. Prolonged exposure to below 50℉ temperatures can cause rapid death. The best temperature is between 65℉ and 90℉. 

Interesting Facts and Characteristics of the Desert Rose Flower 

Desert Rose ornamental shrubs are highly valued for their chubby, swollen, twisting caudex – thick stem base. It produces trumpet-shaped, tubular flowers in pink or red with a 5 cm length and a 7 cm diameter. 

Leaves are sparse, ovate, glossy, leathery, and spirally arranged with stiff stems that gradually taper upwards. The trumpet flowers grow in clusters on the ends of the crooked branches. The bark is a waxy gray that contrasts with the green foliage.

The Desert Rose is not a real rose, nor is it related to the Rosaceae family. The flowers also don’t share any resemblance to roses or have thorns.

This floral plant motif has been featured on postage stamps for Bahamas, Venda, Barbuda, and Antigua. 

Desert Rose Symbolism 

There are many symbols for the desert rose flower. The meanings can vary by culture, time, and country.


Fuguihua is the desert rose flower in Chinese. Broken down, fu – abundant or rich – GUI – majestic – Hua – flower – means a prosperity flower or wealth plant. 

The bulging stem is also a sacred symbol of abundance, prosperity, good fortune, and fertility. So, the thicker the trunk, the more abundant and wealthy in this belief. 

This flower’s popularity has largely grown in the last fifty years in India, where it’s an auspicious flower that brings good luck.

And according to Thai folk legends, you can collect the most energy benefits when you plant your flower on Wednesday in a southeast part of your home. 

Then in feng shui, this auspicious flower is suitable for all homes. Moreover, the desert rose flower is adaptable and allows them to survive harsh climates. Therefore, it also symbolizes resilience, hope, persistence, and strength.

According to The Complete Language of Flowers reference book, other representations of this flower include delusion, death, illusion, and fictional. 

Different Colors and Their Meaning

The color of the desert rose flower can create additional meanings besides those assigned to the flower species.


Many Asian cultures throughout Thailand and China consider the color red, including desert roses, as symbolic of prosperity, money, and good luck. Therefore, the most preferred varieties of desert rose are those in pink or red.


Pink desert roses are most commonly used as potted plants to bring prosperity, peace, and happiness to your living space. Pink flowers can also represent rejuvenation since the plant does well in poor conditions and will hibernate to rejuvenate and rebloom.


Most white roses aren’t pure white but rather white with patterns or stripes of color. But there are a few success stories by Asian horticulturalists to produce a true white. In Thailand, white is symbolic of Buddism and purity. In China, it represents the unknown and death. Then in African cultures, it’s a symbol of the spirit world. 

Time of Year Desert Roses Bloom

Desert roses produce flowers from spring to summer, blooming for several weeks. However, you might be able to get some cultivars to bloom year-round. 

Reasons Why Your Desert Rose Might Not Bloom

Desert rose flowers can be tricky to get to form spectacular, unique flowers that require time and patience. It often takes several months before you get flower production. But there can be some reasons why your plant doesn’t bloom.

Water and Drainage 

These plants are drought-tolerant, surviving several weeks without watering. But if you want to get lots of blooms, your plants will need lots of aqua. When you let your plants stand in water and soggy soil, you can experience problems. 

Your plants will stop blooming and then experience rot and die from poorly drained soil. During spring and summer, your plant needs regular watering. But it doesn’t in fall and winter when the plants go dormant.


Desert roses don’t require much in the way of fertilizing. But giving your plants regular feedings can ensure the proper nutrients to encourage beautiful blooms. Outdoor plants do best with two to three feedings in spring and summer with a water-soluble, balanced feed. 

Indoor plants need weekly fertilizing for spring and summer, diluted to half strength. Phosphorus-rich fertilizer and bone meal increase flowering.


Repotting can cause your plants to experience a period of dormancy while it’s adjusting to the new environment. During this time, your plants will spend more energy on establishing roots. Your plants will need repotting every two years during mid-spring. Wait for one to two weeks before watering.


Adenium plants do best with lots of sunlight. However, not enough light could explain why your plant isn’t producing flowers. Choose a location where your plant gets five to six hours of sun daily; more is better.

Desert Rose Frequently Asked Questions

Take a few moments to learn more interesting things about the desert rose with these frequently asked questions. 

Are Desert Roses Poisonous? 

The sap produced by Desert Rose is extremely toxic. It’s often used as a poison for arrowheads and fish by many African indigenous cultures, including South Africa and Mozambique.

How Do You Protect Yourself While Handling Desert Roses?

When handling Desert Rose plants, wear protective gloves, particularly trimming and pruning. Wash any body part that comes into contact with the sap immediately with soap. 

When Is the Best Time to Gift Someone Desert Rose Flowers? 

You can gift a desert rose flower to someone you want to wish abundance and good luck. Use it for someone embarking on a new life journey – a new job, career, business venture, relationship. Pick flowers in pink or red for these meanings. 

It can also be used to bring someone good luck, like going to a job interview, an exam, or a competition. Or give it to a family member moving into a new home to wish them a resilient, thriving, stable, successful household.  

Final Thoughts

The desert rose flower hides its dangerous toxicity behind beautiful, unique flowers and a thick, bulbous stem that swells with proper hydration. This flower symbolizes wealth, good fortune, fertility, abundance, and prosperity.