It grows over three feet high, and its bulbous succulent stem takes unusual shapes, some of which can scare you. If you are a garden enthusiast, even if you are staying in an apartment where space is a constraint, it is time you joined the increasing number of people who have found pleasure in cultivating adenium obesum , commonly known as the desert rose. Kokila Kalyanasundaram has three such varieties adorning her balcony on the fifth floor in Thiruvanmiyur. The third one is very special. Since the plant's branches are quite hardy, Kokila twirled them into plaits, and, in a touch of creativity, used the gap in between to create a monkey's head out of a coconut shell.
“I planted the seed around four years ago and waited for the branch to grow out and plaited it to get a hole,” she explains. The husk of the coconut shell droops out as hair. The flowers will take at least a month to bloom, but that's fine as Kokila and her neighbours are thrilled watching the adenium grow.
Besides the myriad colours it comes in, many homes are finding joy in growing desert roses as they requires little maintenance, a negligible amount of water, can grow in pots and look like miniature bonsai. On Saturday, the Kasturba Nagar Residents Welfare Association had a day-long workshop about growing adeniums , where it brought in experts to address residents.
Arumbu Subramanian and Jalandar Reddy, a couple, who have been spreading the advantages of growing of adeniums for the last 10 years after they first brought the variety home from Thailand, say the desert rose is a better alternative to ‘ arali ' planted on the medians.
“Watering plants is always a challenge. Here, even if you forget watering, it will still grow on its own. It does not have a fragrance, so one would not be tempted to pluck it,” says Arumbu, a Russian language interpreter. In fact, the less you water it, the more the flowers bloom.
Other reasons homes like growing them is these plants blooms eight months of the year, except during the rainy and winter season, and over 100 varieties are available both in single and multi-petal format, say the couple.
According to D. Narasimhan, Associate Professor, Department of Botany, Madras Christian College, many such exotic plants are increasingly admired by Chennaiites as we do not popularise our native varieties.
Also, native plants are not modified to be grown in horticulture, so they lose their charm among such colour-intensive varieties, he says.