Adenia ballyi (2023)

Adenia ballyi drops its leaves as it goes dormant. Trimming the branches during dormancy encourages new growth in the spring.

By Kevin Romine

Adenia ballyi is a rare Somalian caudiciform that grows in rocky terrain among boulders or on subdesert embankments in the crevices of boulders where limestone is present. The plant has an odd appearance – a succulent with curved and spiny tendrils, growing from a large and lumpy caudex up to 40 inches in circumference that serves as a water reservoir in times of drought. It is difficult to find in cultivation and not often available at cactus and succulent greenhouses.

The annual stems of A. ballyi are nonvining and grey-green with slightly darker vertical stripes. They are curved, flexible and woody. The stems can be trimmed back in the fall/winter, when the plant enters a state of dormancy.

A. ballyi grows slowly, but it is possible to increase the rate of growth to some degree by providing adequate water, warmth and fertilizer during the growing season. It should not be placed in full sun, as it does best in partial sunlight/shade that prevents scorching by direct sunlight. If it is grown indoors, it can be in bright light such as in a south-facing window.

Water this species frequently and fertilize with a diluted, well-balanced fertilizer when the plant is in full growth. It prefers a well-draining and acidic soil that must be very porous in pot culture. It is recommended to repot the plant every two years.

Keep it dry during the winter after the branches have dropped their leaves. A. ballyi is susceptible to root rot if it is not kept dry during its period of winter dormancy.

Trim the branches back when the leaves drop in the winter to encourage new growth in the spring, when the plant breaks dormancy. A. ballyi should be kept warm during the winter due to its African origin; 59 degrees F. is the ideal temperature in the wintertime.


A. ballyi can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. The plants that are used for seed production are most often grown from cuttings because they bloom more freely. The plants grown for display are grown from seed because they produce a large caudex.