Homes and gardens

In full bloom for Adeniums

Sunil Kumar and Anila V   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

When Sunil Kumar and Anila V visited a plant nursery in the city in 2007, one flowering species caught their attention. Finding its asking price “too high”, the couple, however, returned home empty-handed. But the passionate gardeners found their thoughts going back to the “forbidden fruit” and soon yielded to temptation, thus buying their first Adenium Obesum.

“Unlike other plants we have grown, we found that Adenium or Desert Rose has a unique charm. With its unusual caudex (swollen base), the fascinating shapes the plant can develop into was a great attraction. Slowly, we started buying more Adenium varieties from various nurseries around and the search extended across the country when it became an obsession,” says Sunil.

Clearly, their endeavour has come up roses. Today, the couple has virtually converted the terrace of their white-walled, one-storey house in Kazhakkoottam into a blooming nursery of Adeniums of all kinds. They also maintain a large poly-house at Anila’s place in Ayoor, Kollam district. Propagated mostly through grafting, their collection boasts over 120 flowering varieties, when both original and hybrid ones are taken into account.

Flowers of hybrid Adenium varieties

Flowers of hybrid Adenium varieties   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“The motto for Adeniums is: less water, more sunlight. Don’t love them a lot by watering daily. When you water them, do it thoroughly and wait for the medium (soil) to be completely dry before the next turn,” advises Sunil. The couple recollect coming back from vacations to find some of their other plants wilted while the Adeniums welcomed them with plenty of flowers. Unsurprisingly, Adeniums here shed their blossom during monsoon and reach peak efflorescence during the period from January to May in line with the State’s climatic conditions.

With its origins in the Arabian Peninsula, the Adenium genus seems to have found its way into the South-East Asian culture for its colourful appeal. “It’s not really a fragrant species but is extremely flexible, both in terms of growing as well as floral varieties. Through grafting, virtually a large number of petal shades can be developed. In some countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand and some part of China, Adeniums holds a certain degree of sacredness, just like our thulasi,” says Sunil, who runs an outlet in Pangappara that exclusively sells Adeniums, cacti and succulents.

Adenium flower

Adenium flower   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

Original Adeniums bear pink flowers and are commonly used as “rootstocks” during grafting, where a small stem portion of a hybrid is cut and attached to the rootstock, which is then kept in the shade until growth from the new stem is spotted. Hybrid varieties can come in single petals or multi petals and the flowers take a wide range of shades like red, blackish red, white, yellow, purple or striped ones. However, what colour and form a hybrid variety takes can only be confirmed after it blossoms. Sunil, thus, advises a prospective Adenium growers to never buy seedlings without seeing the parent flower first.

Adenium Arabicum trained into ‘tower’ shapes

Adenium Arabicum trained into ‘tower’ shapes   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

One distinctive feature of Adeniums is that they can be grown into desired shapes by “training.” Like, Adenium Arabicum, a pliable variety that develops a beautiful canopy in bonsai form. It can be meticulously root-trained into ‘tower form’ with elongated trunks. “Usually, bonsais are grown by way of slow and controlled growth. Arabicums are natural bonsais and hence grow relatively quicker in amusing shapes,” points out Anila, a techie. Another hot favourite with Adenium aficionados for bonsai is Thai Socotranum, which has abundant branching. The most common variety, Adenium Obesum, however, requires pruning. Nevertheless, maintenance is no bed of roses.

Thai Socotranum

Thai Socotranum   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sunil has sourced varieties of saplings from as far as Thailand. “Bare-rooted ones can be shipped and they won’t die like most other plants,” he says.

The couple’s hobby extends beyond the Adeniums, evident from the array of succulents, agaves, aloe hybrids and some rare cacti specimens such as Astrophytum (Living rock), Gymnocalcium, Mammillaria varieties and Echinocactus surrounding their house. In fact, some of the Adeniums and cacti that have adorned flower shows in the city came straight from Sunil’s gardens.

Price starts from ₹250 for Adenium Obesum and ₹350 for Arabicum. Arabicum Thai Socotranum, perhaps the rarest in Sunil’s collection, comes at ₹20,000. Contact: 9946201969


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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 8:04:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/sunil-kumar-and-anila-v-both-avid-gardeners-have-nurtured-a-collection-of-more-than-120-varieties-of-adenium/article25888882.ece

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