6 Reasons Why Desert Rose Leaves Turning Brown (Science Based)

Seeing random leaves of your desert rose or adenium plant turning brown? Worry not. This article goes through every possible reason why desert rose leaves turn brown.

Why Are Your Desert Rose (Adenium) Leaves Turning Brown

Even though desert rose plants are grown for their marvelous rose-like flowers, random brown leaves can have a dent in their overall appearance.

Adenium leaves turning brown is one of the most commonly seen plant problems experienced by adenium growers.

Finding out what’s wrong with your adenium’s previously green leaves that start to turn brown can be challenging. 

It could mean that something isn’t right with the environment in which it is growing.

Read on to learn everything related to desert rose leaves turning brown including the scientifically proven causes and the best solutions to prevent them in the future.

Why Are Your Desert Rose Leaves Turning Brown?

The most commonly seen cause for desert rose leaves turning brown is underwatering. Lack of full sun, high humidity, essential nutrients, and excessive salt buildup in the soil can also trigger the browning of leaves in the longer run.

Let’s take a look at each of these causes in detail to understand its effects on adenium plants and suitable solutions.

1. Poor Watering Schedule

Since adenium plants come from the outskirts of the Sahara desert where the water is sparse, they do not require much water.

And, a poor watering schedule is the number 1 one reason for desert rose leaves turning brown. A poor watering schedule indicates either overwatering or underwatering.

If your adenium is receiving too much water, the soil will be waterlogged which will block the roots from sucking essential nutrients. Also, in the longer run overwatering will kill the roots which will cause root rot which is a much more serious issue.

On the other hand, when your adenium plant is receiving very less water than what it needs, the normal plant processes will not take place and as a result of this leaves will be deprived of water and starts turning yellow and brown.

If your adenium plant is having watering issues, then the first symptom is the yellowing of leaves. If you don’t fix it, then it will progress into brown and then droop.

The ideal way to fix a poor watering schedule is by creating a flexible watering schedule that is dependent on the climate and growing conditions.

Remember one golden rule of watering plants, never water your plant if at least the top two inches of the soil are not dry. 

2. Low light

Adenium plants prefer bright direct light unlike many other indoor plants like pothos or monstera which prefer indirect light.

Adenium’s other name (desert rose) can give you the hint about its natural location. They come from the regions along the outskirts of the Sahara desert.

According to a research paper published in the American Society For Horticultural Sciences, the adenium obeseum subject kept in the full sun had the best growth and health compared to other subjects kept at 30% and 50% shades.

So, if you have an adenium at your home, it’s time to assess the light conditions in the plant’s environment. 

Place the plant in somewhere it can get full sun for a minimum of 6 hours. The ideal location would be your terrace or patio where it gets unfiltered full sunlight.

3. Nutrient Deficiency

Just like any other living organism, your adenium plant’s health depends on the nutrients it gets through the soil, water, and fertilizer.

According to multiple studies, the essential nutrients for adenium include Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These nutrients are vital for flower growth, strengthening the stem and roots, etc.

Among these nutrients, the lack of nitrogen and potassium is what causes the yellowing and browning of leaves in adenium plants.

It is recommended to fertilize your adenium plant two or three times during the spring and summer. During other times of the year, you can either refrain from fertilizing or provide a highly diluted NPK solution once every two months.

Also, ensure that you are not overfertilizing your adenium. Over-fertilizing can also cause the browning of leaves which is discussed in the salt buildup section(#5).

4. Low Humidity

According to Tropical Nursery, desert rose plants love moderate to high humidity.

The ideal humidity range for the adenium plants is 50 to 70%.

Even though these plants can tolerate low humidity for a couple of weeks, prolonged exposure to dry air for months will make their leaves dry and brown.

If you notice brown tips in your adenium plant only during winter and colder months, then lack of enough humidity needs to be suspected.

The best solution to fix the lack of moisture in the air is by using a humidifier. If that is not an option for you, then try misting it a couple of times, using a pebble tray, and grouping plants of the same type together.

5. Salt Buildup In Soil

As I already mentioned, nutrients in the form of fertilizers are very important for the adenium plant’s growth. 

But, the problem with many beginner houseplant owners is that they tend to over-fertilize their plant thinking it will make the plant grow faster. 

Contrary to that belief, what happens in reality is suicidal for your plant. The recessive fertilizers form as salt buildup in the soil and block the roots system of your adenium plant from sucking air, water, and essential nutrients. As a result, the leaves will start to turn yellow, and brown and eventually curl.

If you’ve already overfertilized your adenium plant, then first repot the plant in freshly prepared soil and pot after cleaning the roots thoroughly using running water.

Once your adenium plant settles in its new pot, fertilize the plant with a water-soluble phosphorus-rich fertilizer two or three times during spring and summer. 

6. Bacterial & Fungal Diseases

It is not a surprise to see bacteria and fungi among the different causes of desert rose leaves turning brown since they cause the same in millions of plants. 

It is pretty easy to find whether the brown leaves in your adenium plant are caused by bacterial disease or any other reason. If the browning starts as random small circular brown spots, then bacterias and fungi are to be blamed.

According to two research papers published in the Journal Of Phytopathology and Journal Of Plant Pathology, pestalotiopsis microspore and nigrospora sphaerica are the two main fungi that cause brown leaf spots in adenium plants.

The best way to fix leaf spot diseases caused by bacteria or fungi is to report the affected adenium plant in fresh soil and pot. It is recommended to prune off all the affected leaves.

Also, make sure that you move the affected adenium plant away from other plants to reduce the chances of disease spreading.

Adenium Leaves Turning Brown – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, I will be answering some of the most commonly asked questions on the internet related to desert rose leaves turning brown so that you don’t have to search for them.

Will the browning of leaves indicate adenium dying?

In the initial stage, desert rose leaves turning brown does not pose any serious threat. But, browning of leaves is one of the commonly seen symptoms of root rot which has the potential to kill your adenium plant if not treated on time. So, if you find brown leaf spots or edges, immediately find the cause and fix the problem on priority.

Can you change the adenium leaf color back to green from brown?

Adenium leaves turning brown is a permanent change and it is not possible to reverse the leaf back to its original color. By identifying the cause behind the discoloration, you can prevent it from happening in the future.

Should you cut off adenium leaves that turned brown?

If the discoloration is only in a couple of leaves, then you can prune them off to maintain the attractiveness of your adenium plant. On the other hand, if the damage is widespread on many leaves, then it is recommended to wait a couple of months for the new growth so that the aggressive pruning does not affect plant processes.

Wrapping Up

Even though adenium leaves turning brown is not a fatal issue to be stressed about, as a plant owner it is your responsibility to provide the best environment for your plant to grow.

Put the plant in a spot where it gets at least 6 hours of full sun. Also, ensure that it is getting enough water and nutrients via fertilizers(only required quantity). 

If the existing yellow tips are bothering you, you can just cut them off using a sterilized pair of scissors and you’re good to go.


To back up the information we provide in our articles, the Plantials team only uses high-quality sources published in peer-reviewed university or scientific research journals.

  1. Effect of Light Intensity and Nutrition Level on Growth and Flowering of Adenium Obesum, American Society For Horticultural Sciences.
  2. Pestalotiopsis microspora causes leaf spot on Adenium obesum, Journal Of Phytopathology, Wiley Online Library.
  3. Adenium obesum: a new host for Nigrospora sphaerica, Journal Of Plant Pathology.

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