Called desert rose or desert azalea in its native tropical eastern Africa, this odd-looking plant has twisted trunks that emerge from a bulbous, swollen root- stock resembling a giant onion. Leafless for long stretches during dry periods, it redeems itself periodically throughout the growing season with gray-green, 4-in.-long leaves and clusters of deep pink, red, or white, saucer- shaped, 2-in. flowers.
Desert rose will grow outdoors in south Florida and the southernmost parts of Texas, sometimes reaching 9 ft. tallbut it remains primarily a collector's plant, typically topping out at about 5 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. Because it won't tolerate frost or take less-than-perfect drainage, it's best grown in a pot and moved to a bright, heated room for the winter.