Paul Nickerson

Lifting A Caudex – Desert Rose

In Propagation on October 13, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Due to hectic class schedules, it is easy to neglect a plant for a few days.  Because of this, many of the best Dorm-Room Plants are Cacti and Succulents. Apart from being able to withstand period of neglect, there are a number of succulents that do well in low light environment. One of my favorite Dorm-Room Plants is the Desert Rose, Adenium obesum.

The Desert Rose blooms red, white, or pink, and many hybrids have been grown in countries such as China and India. As its name (Obesum) entails, the Desert Rose has a large caudex located at its base. This caudex is what I wish to focus on in this post.

The caudex, especially in the case of Xerophytes, is used for water storage. Aside from its function, the caudex adds a very intriguing, beautiful aspect to many plants. For this reason, many growers will ‘lift’ the caudex to expose it, adding another element of shaping to their pruned plants.

I pruned back by Desert Rose a few weeks ago to encourage branching, and waiting to lift the Caudex until now because I did not want to harass the root system immediately after pruning. Typically growers will wait until the plant is ready to be re-potted to lift the caudex, as to disturb the roots only once.

To lift the caudex you will need a pair of sharp scissors of shears, and a sterilization solution (1 part bleach, 4 part water, will work fine).

Squeeze the sides of the container in which the plant currently is placed. This will loosen the soil and allow the plant to be removed with ease. Firmly holding onto the base of the plant, turn the container on its side and carefully wiggle the plant free. If you are planning to re-pot the plant, fill the new pot with fresh soil, leaving enough space for the plant to be inserting.

Holding the plant by the base, gently remove the loose soil from between the roots. To remove the small amounts of soil held between the fibrous roots, a spray bottle with distilled water can be very helpful. Once the bulk of the old soil is removed, decide how much of the caudex you wish to expose. Typically it is a good idea to only expose about an inch of new caudex at a time. Once you have chosen the new location of the soil line, cut all of the roots that will be exposed back to the caudex, using the sterilized scissors.

My Desert Rose had two very nice, larger roots that protruded from the caudex. Although they were above the soil line, I really enjoy how they look, so I let them be. When putting the plant back into the medium, be sure to gently press soil around the roots as to remove any pockets of air that may form next to the roots.

This last step is very important! DO NOT PLACE IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT. Now that you have exposed the more fleshy part of the caudex, the plant can become sunburned rather easily. Keep the plant out of direct sun until the newly exposed flesh darkens like the rest of the caudex. Water the plant immediately after the procedure, then continue with a normal watering schedule (this will vary depending on the plant).


Recently Raised Caudex



New Growth Due To Pruning



My Desert Rose



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