If you relish the bulbous, above ground caudex of the desert rose (Adenium obesum) and want to add more plants to your collection, then harvesting desert rose seed pods is the way to go. While these African desert dwellers can be propagated by cuttings, starting seeds from desert rose is the only way to guarantee the new plants will develop the enlarged stem-like structure. Knowing when to pick seed pods is the key to success though.
Desert Rose Seed Saving
Harvesting desert rose seed pods takes patience. These slow-maturing plants can take many months to bloom and several years to produce seed pods. Plants as young as four may form seed pods, but obtaining viable seeds often requires a plant at least eight years old.
The first step for seed production is encouraging a mature plant to flower. In hot climates, outdoor desert rose plants bloom twice per year. Potted plants will follow this same schedule if provided with plenty of sunshine. Too much shade or an oversized planter can reduce flower production. Environmental factors can also influence the formation of seed pods.
When to Pick Desert Rose Seed Pods
With a lot of patience and a little luck, mature desert rose plants will produce seeds. These form inside a bean-like seed pod. The seeds are quite small and are attached to fluffy pappus, much like dandelions. When the pods burst open, the seeds from these plants can float away with the wind.
Gardeners interested in harvesting seeds for propagation are advised to leave the pods on the plants until they reach maturity. Rather than picking the pods, wrap them with wire or secure the pod inside a net bag.
The pods usually appear in pairs and will begin to swell as the seeds ripen. Patience is necessary, as it can take several months for the pods to open.
What to Do with Desert Rose Seed Pods
If your plant is in reproductive mode, you might be wondering what to do with desert rose seed pods once they’ve busted open. Now is the time to remove the pods from the plant. Untwist the wire or untie the net bag in order to remove the seeds. This should be done indoors to prevent the lightweight seeds from parachuting away.
If you’re harvesting desert rose seed pods to grow more plants, use fresh seed for the highest germination rates. The seeds can be planted with the fluff attached, but you’ll find the seeds easier to work with if it’s removed.
Sow the seeds from desert rose on top of the soil and cover very lightly. Choose a peat moss and perlite mixture or use a seed starting mix with vermiculite for best results. Keep the starting tray in a warm area or use a heating mat. A temperature between 80 to 85 degrees F. (26-29 C.) is ideal. Germination takes three to seven days.