Beauty in the eye of the beholder: Fat Boy Adenium

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Some people pick stray cats off the streets. L picks stray plants off the rubbish dump. My mom used to tell my younger siblings that she picked them off the rubbish dump.  Chinese Moms do that to avoid talking about the “birds and the bees”.  Well. L literally did that.  Our first plant was an adenium obesum left in the dump.  He’s since picked wisteria, periwinkle and I can’t remember what else. Or I dont want to know.

The previous owner had tried to propagate adenium unsuccessfully and left several cuttings in their pot and soil in the dump.


Its not called the desert rose for nothing.  The soil was all wrong. The cutting was planted in garden soil, which I changed to burnt soil. Prune it. Prune it short after each flowering if you don’t want long stems. Close to the caudex, as buds grow from the “eye”. First time pruners always make mistake of not pruning close enough. Leave one stem with leaves so that it can produce food for the plant. Notice that new stems grow from side of caudex as well, after each haircut prune.

But be careful of the sap, which is poisonous.  Within a few months, roots grew out of the cutting.  This is one of the few plants I know can be left in the hot sun straight after cutting. Keep it in shade if you want to be careful (Even baby baobab cannot survive the hot sun but must be grown in shade.) Water sparingly. Adenium is a desert plant, a desert rose.

For some strange reasons, the Chinese love the adenium. Chinese name is “Fu Gui Hua富贵花” which translates to prosperity flower.  In market, where a pot of beautiful hibiscus can cost$8, the adenium can cost between $28 to $58.  Elsewhere in the nurseries, the prices sky-rocket, depending on the size of the root-stock.   My pest control guy who comes every quarter, only admires my adenium. He has one at home. Each time, he poses the same question, and I give him the same answer. Hot sun.  No tricks. Each time he hopes I’ll give him a different answer, as he is blessed with shady conditions. Grass the other side is greener. (We love shade plants but have a hot, windy roof terrace. My poor Alocasia Metallica Macrorhizo.)  I cannot understand the fascination with the adenium. Its called adenium obesum, “obesum” which refers to the obese body it has.  Beauty in the eye of the beholder.  Much like Chinese beauties during the Tang dynasty who are admired for their “Moon-shaped faces” and luscious plump bodies, notably Lady Yang the Royal Concubine of the Tang dynasty.  I was told, during my stint in Taiwan, that a particular CEO of a major transportation company has a fascination with women with round faces. Brings him prosperity. His translator, a Singaporean lady whom I was fond of, and my dinner buddy, was one such lady.  I, fortunately, am out of this league, me with the “almond-shaped face” as with ladies of my dialect face or the “melon-shaped face”.

How does the adenium obesum get its bloated body?  How do you fatten the stems of the adenium? My brother once told me the story of sumo wrestlers.  They eat alot and then they take naps.  So even though sumo wrestlers are strong, not unlike Arnold S., napping after a meal, helps convert the glucose into fat. Eatting carbohydrates at night for dinner, does this to me too.  (I love to eat, and carbo, not sweets, is my archilles’ heel.)  Pruning helps. Probably watering it sparingly. As my roof-top is vvvv hot, I cannot afford not to water. I’ve noticed that when I don’t water, and we experience heavy downpour, the leaves turn yellow immediately. The shock is too much to take.  Alternating drought and heavypour together with pruning probably fattens the caudex together with fertiliser.  Which reminds me, don’t punish your body by skipping your meals.  Your body thinks its going through a starvation mode, and then when you eat a proper meal, it lowers your metabolism and tries to store up the extra nutrients in time for another famine. So instead of increasing your metabolic rate and burn up the excess energy, your super-effecient body tries to slower down the burn-rate, and stores up the extra food its now received. That’s how animals in the wild survive, or so I’m told by the Discovery channel of how some tigers eat only 4 times a year.

To have an interesting root stock, one is expected to uproot the caudex, when repotting, kind of making the plant sit cross-legged on the pot. Especially when you cover it with pebbles, it reminds me of a ginseng.  Check out “My sunny garden” for interesting blog on adenium and how to prune it.

Beautiful colors. Single or double petals. I’ve seen adeniums with white, multipetals, looking like gardenias.  Everyone meets someone who changes their mind.  For me, its the white/pink carnation looking adenium sitting prettily.  Although I still can’t stomach paying $58 for a pot with well developed root stock.  Time.

1. Burnt soil and hot sun

2. Water sparingly

3. Prune but be careful of poisonous sap

4. Fertilise

Fantastic website on adeniums.

2 thoughts on “Beauty in the eye of the beholder: Fat Boy Adenium

  1. Pingback: Flowers are not made by sitting in the shade | Pot Gardening

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