I saw my first Adenium in 1980- my uncle had bought one for Rs.400 (then about $25) and I was attracted by both, the plant and the obvious business potential!
I bought my first mother plants in 1981 and was trying to figure out hand pollination procedure before long. Some effort and abstracts of articles describing this allowed me to produce Adenium seeds, which I began selling in 1983 or so.
Some time later I received habitat seeds of Adenium obesum and A. swazicum and crossed these to get my first hybrids, including Asha (which is one of the largest Adenium flowers but too floppy in our heat) and Miss India.
All this was happening on various terraces and spaces that I was able to wangle in Bombay city. The weather here is almost perfect for Adeniums, except in the monsoon- every year this period of prolonged heavy rain would claim its victims till I dreaded its arrival. Without plastic cover and systemic fungicides we were helpless and watched in dismay as large specimens and new hybrids fell to stem and caudex rot.
My first visit to Bangkok in the early 90’s was an eye opener- I saw for the first time how much variation and potential there was amongst Adeniums as well as Euphorbia milii hybrids. Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market was, and still is, a plant collectors dream. I spent large sums of money over several trips collecting Adeniums, Euphorbias and other plants. Some of these Adeniums are no longer to be seen in Bangkok and maybe I have the only surviving examples of these slow growing but very distinct clones.
The purchase of a small piece of land outside Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1994 allowed me to shift all my plants and have enough space for the first time. I also built my first plastic houses which meant we could carry plants through the monsoon with few losses. Seed production increased and was one of the few sources of revenue. We made a few crosses but the fact that I did not stay with the plants as well as preoccupation with more lucrative and “real” businesses including HOSCO (making plastic pots and grower supplies) in the city kept me constrained.
My growing was still a hobby- we sold only Adenium seeds. A trip to Bangkok just before I got married, in 1998, opened my eyes to the possibilities in producing grafted plants. We acquired substantial mother stock of about 20 cultivars and started producing plants.
Things have moved rapidly since - I have made over 20 trips to Bangkok and several to other places of Adenium interest- USA and Taiwan. A lot of new material was introduced and is now in the trial and stock build up phases. Many crosses were done and selections made- we believe these are already outstanding but only a fraction of all there is to come.
We now have about 2 acres of land, mostly under simple plastic cover devoted to growing about 150 distinct, superior Adenium cultivars and hybrids. We grew about 100,000 grafts last year and produced over a million seeds. Trial shipments of bare root plants to USA, Canada and Europe have gone well.
Over the next few years, I hope to introduce large numbers of superior selections to collectors and, by making suitable selections, I hope we can make Adeniums a more mainstream floriculture crop.