Bangkok Kalachuchi / Bangkok Kalachuche is the common household name for a variety of colorful flowering hybrids from the dogbane family. Apocynaceae that is native to the dry region of Sahel , south of the Sahara desert in Africa. It is grown in many parts of the country.
Some of the common names are Sabi star, kudu, mock azalea, impala lily, dwarf kalachuchi and desert rose. The ordinary Adenium obesum hybrids was introduced via Bangkok, Thailand in the early 1970’s by Mr. Eliseo Bardenas. He is a horticulturist who introduced several imported plant varieties like Pritchardia pacifica, Asplenium “Silver Wings” among others into the local gardens and collections.
Among the local growers which had a wide selection of these hybrids are Mr. Ronald Estayan of Fairview, Quezon City. Ms. Dulce Ruiz, Mr. Prince T. Gerona, Dr. Daniel Farnacio, Ms. Joanna Ramos Policar, Ms. Melody Abesamis, Davao Adenium, Mr. Mac Pagsolingan.
Local growers adopted the name Bangkok Kalachuchi or dwarf kalachuchi . The common name was popularized by local media and published books. The popularity of these wonderful plants seems to start in the 1970’s until early 1980’s, then mid-1990’s by Filipino-Chinese who deemed these flowering plants as lucky flowering plant. The caudex looked like Buddha belly and compact size of the plant makes them ideal for growing in terracotta pots and beautiful ceramic potteries.
The potted dwarf kalachuchi are also planted in temples and important places in other southeast Asian countries. Ordinary forms can cost less than one hundred pesos in garden centers, but the stunning grafted with multiple flowers can fetch several thousands of pesos!
The fad came back again between 2004 to 2009 brought by new varieties from Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and China.
There was a short hiatus between later part of 2009 until 2014. Major growers and backyard hobbyists were hit by Typhoon Ondoy and severe flooding had hit a lot of local collectors which killed a lot of their collections.
Local collectors and plant shows once again started to focus on Adenium obesum hybrids. The current Los Baños Horticultural Society show which runs from April 13 to 22, 2018 focuses on Philodendron and Adenium obesum hybrids.
Bangkok Kalachuchi or Adenium obesum hybrids comes in different color forms. These are widely believe to be lucky plants and are grown near one’s entrance or outdoor garden. These are highly ornamental but the Desert Rose is poisonous and should never come into contact with children or pets. If you get sap on yourself while handling the plant, wash your hands immediately.
Some countries in Africa have reported some medicinal uses for the roots and leaves of the Adenium obesum.
Fertilization and Care: Fertilize during spring and summer with controlled-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer according to label directions.
These plant prefer well drained medium with coarse pebbles, some sand and not compact garden soil. A well-drained succulent mix with an ideal pH around 6.0 (slightly acidic).
The leaves are also prone to aphids, mealy bugs, scales and other insects.
In very hot or tropical climates, Bangkok Kalachuchi is happy and prolific outdoors all year round. These plants love to be in the direct sun from a minimum of between 6 to 8 hours of almost direct sunlight.
During the rainy season, Desert Rose takes a break during the very hottest and rainiest months of the growing season. This results in two periods of blooming within a year.
The roots must never become waterlogged. During the growing season which normally coincide with the rainy season, Try check the soil every few days in planted containers. When the plant is completely dry, water slowly and carefully. Saturate the soil, but do not soak it. The soil should be moist, not wet, and there should be no standing water.
Sources and Bibliographies:
Photo credit is from Mr. Ronald Estayan – a grower of Bangkok Kalachuchi hybrids from Fairview, Quezon City.
Personal interview with the local growers like Mr. Mac Pagsolingan, Mr. Boyet Ganigan, Paning Garden, Quezon Memorial Circle garden stalls, Mindanao Garden and Davao Adenium
William Davidson, The Illustrated Directory of House Plants , Salamander Book, Page 18 to 19, 1983 ISBN 0-86101-388-3