6 Reasons Why Desert Rose Leaves Curling and How to Fix

There is no doubt that the desert rose (Adenium) is at the top of every gardener’s wish list. But if its leaves become curly after planting, it is really a bad experience. There are many reasons why the leaves of your desert rose may curl. However, Watering Issues, Lack of  Sunlight, Fertilizer Issues, Pests, Low Temperature and Humidity, and Transplanting Shock are the main reasons.

But do not despair. Timely action and proper care can fix your plant quickly. In this article, I will tell you about all the solutions in detail. So why the delay? Let’s get started.

Quick Care Guide

Watering issueWater your plants 2-3 times a week.
Lack of sunlight7-8 hours of full sun is recommended daily.
Fertilizer issueFertilizing once or twice a year is enough.
Pests Use good quality insecticides.
Low temperature and humidity60°-75°F of temperature is recommended.
Transplanting shockApply frequent watering. 

6 Proven Ways to Fix Desert Rose Curly Leaves

adenium leaves are curling

1. Watering Issue

Most beginners are confused about watering. As a result, some apply more water, some less. Both issues are responsible for curling desert rose leaves.

Applying excess water to your plants will cause waterlogging. Overwatering will prevent your plants from absorbing oxygen and other nutrients from the soil. 

As a result, the chemical action on the leaves will stop and the leaves will begin to curl slowly. At the last stage leaves will turn a burnt brown color and fall off.

Again, if you do not apply water when the plant needs it, dehydration occurs. Then the tree begins to wither due to a lack of sufficient water. As a result, problems like yellowing and curling of leaves are evident.

A study published in the journal Nature says that the absence of sufficient water in plants destroys a biological material (turgor) that keeps the plant tissues rigid. And when the rigidity of leaf tissues is lost they curl.

How to Fix

Desert rose plants generally prefer watering two to three times a week. But check the soil condition first. Insert a small stick into your plant’s soil 2-2.5 inches deep, if it is dry, apply 2.5 inches deep watering.

A good drainage system is essential to remove excess water. If your plant is in a pot, I suggest you make three to four small holes in the bottom of the pot. It is usually best not to use regular tap water. If the plant is outdoors, make a hole around the plant to ensure drainage of excess water.

In winter, desert rose plants’ demand for water decreases. At that time you can apply water every two to three weeks. Plants can be mulched in winter to retain water. 

2. Lack of Sunlight

Lack of adequate sunlight is a major cause of adenium plant leaf curl. You might think that indoor plants don’t need sunlight. But this is a misconception. 

If your plant is in a place where sunlight does not reach for a long time, then your plant will face several problems. One of them is leaf curling.

Take a close look at your plant, is it turning brown in addition to curling leaves? Are the leaves faded and drooping? If the answer is yes, then it is definitely due to lack of sunlight.

How to Fix

Seven to eight hours of sunlight a day is essential for the frequent growth of desert rose plants. It also increases the flowering capacity of the plant.

Select a location for your plant where it will be exposed to the morning sun. You can use an east-facing window of your room or a north-facing balcony. If that’s not possible, you can set up a mirror in a sunny spot, which will reflect the sunlight onto your plant.

However, the tree should be protected from the afternoon sun. Covering the plant with shade cloth is a good idea. If the plant is indoors then simply move it elsewhere. You can also use a photo screen, which filters the light and protects the plant from damage.

3. Fertilizer Issue

If your desert rose’s leaf curling isn’t caused by water or light, then you need to think about fertilizer. Just as the leaves of plants can curl due to lack of nutrients, fertilizer burn can also cause the same problem.

A greenhouse study says that nitrogen, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper etc. are required for normal plant growth. If your desert rose plant does not get enough of these nutrients, it will experience various problems such as leaf curling. 

Especially nitrogen and iron deficiency causes leaf chlorosis which is one of the causes of leaf curling.

And if you apply more fertilizer to the plant than it needs, the excess salinity will burn your plant. Its normal biological cycle will be disrupted and problems such as leaf browning, dropping and curling will become evident.

How to Fix

The solution to the desert rose plant fertilizer issue is pretty straightforward. Apply fertilizer if there is a lack of nutrients but excess fertilizer should not be applied in any way.

Desert Rose prefers an NPK (5-10-10) and phosphorus iron-rich fertilizer. No more than 2.5-3 pounds of fertilizer should be applied per square foot.

Fertilizers once or twice a year are usually sufficient. But during the growing season, you can apply fertilizer every five weeks. In this case, the pH of the soil should be between 6-7. But if your plant is small I would suggest using water-soluble fertilizer.

4. Pests

Pest infestation is a very common problem with desert roses. There are certain pests that can cause your plants to curl. Spider mites, aphids and leaf rollers attack more.

A 2-2.5 cm long black head and brown body worm is called a leaf roller. However, they can kill the entire leaves of the plant. They mainly nest between the folded leaves and reproduce by absorbing nutrients from the plant.

Aphids and spider mites are both sap-sucking pests. They suck the sap from the leaves and dehydrate the leaves. As a result, the leaves begin to curl slowly.

How to Fix

Take good care of your plants. If leaf rollers are few in number, you can easily resolve this by cutting off the affected leaves. Then wash the plant with a soapy water solution. But be sure not a single insect remains.

But if they are more in number then you must use good quality pesticides. It should be applied inside each rolled leaf and affected plants should be kept away from other healthy plants.

You can use organic neem oil to ward off aphid and spider mite attacks. A mixture of one spoonful of baking powder and three spoonfuls of vinegar in one cup of water and sprayed on plants also gives good results.

5. Low Temperature and Humidity

If your desert rose is subjected to extremely low temperatures, curled leaves are typical. Your plant may potentially die from temps that are too low.

Additionally, plants that are kept in low-temperature areas are unable to create enough nutrients for themselves.

Again desert rose plants can take moisture from the air and hold it in their leaves. As a result, their leaves will begin to curl in extremely dry air.

How to Fix

The optimal temperature range for desert roses is between 60° and 75°F. A temperature controller can be used to maintain the ideal temperature if you live in an area with low temperatures.

Misting the plants can be a good idea to increase the humidity level. But the best idea is to use a humidifier.

6. Transplanting Shock

If you recently replant your desert rose without following a proper procedure, the leaves may be curly.

Most of the time it is seen that after repotting the plant stops growing even though everything is fine. Because the plant cannot collect the necessary elements from the soil through the roots. As a result, the plant rapidly dehydrates and develops a number of issues. 

How to Fix

You must replant your desert rose if there is any unwanted damage to the plant. It is also good to repot the tree every two years. If it is done in the middle of spring, the plants will be fresh again throughout the summer and monsoon.

You need to be careful when selecting a pot. The new pot must be larger in size than the previous one. This will give the roots of the plant a place to grow.  

The plant should be watered well one day before transplanting. However, it cannot be submerged in water. Before replanting, you can cut off extra root growth. Besides, care should be taken so that no damage is done to the tree.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

What Does A Dehydrated Desert Rose Look Like?

A closer look can tell if a desert rose plant is dehydrated. Look at the pages first. They will look very crispy. The plant will look wilted, the leaves will droop and curl. If necessary measures are not taken, the tree will die soon.

Should you cut off curly adenium leaves?

When you notice curled leaves on your desert rose, the first thing you need to do is investigate the cause. If it is due to an insect attack, you can cut off the affected leaves. But if it is due to any reason that can be easily recovered then curly leaves should not be removed.

How often do desert roses bloom?

Desert roses usually bloom pink and white shaded flowers in early summer and late spring.

However, some species bloom throughout the year. The flowers last seven to ten days.


Each of the factors listed above is responsible for curling the leaves of your desert rose. So the more you know about these problems, the better you can keep your plants out of trouble.

Here I have told you all possible fixing methods from my experience. Hopefully following these will fix your tree quickly. Happy Gardening.

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of plantandpest.com, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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