June 25, 2006

Vireyas: Tropical Rhododendrons

Rhododendron "Valentine"
I think that is it amazing that even though one may be growing and collecting plants for many years, that one can still stumble upon an entire genus that few others are growing, and one that offers so many varieties and choices, and so it is with the Vireya section within the genus Rhododendron. Of the 900 species within Rhododendron, 300 are Vireyas.

These are tropical Rhododendrons, and must either be grown as house plants where there are cold winters, or they must be grown in a frost free greenhouse, which is where we keep ours. Simply said, Vireyas like the same conditions athat any cool orchid would like, specifially, if you can grow Pahiopedulums, the lady slipper orchids, then you would most likely have success with Vireya. They prefer cool, damp, frost free conditions. Yet they can be grown on a windowsill, with a tray of pebbles, in a room which remains cool or unheated most of the winter.
Although commonly known as Vireya, these

Rhododendron christianae from Papua New Guinea

Native to the areas near and around Borneo and Papua New Guinea, Vireyas grow in the wild on shadow moist mountain slopes, where it remains moint, humid and relatively cool most of the year, generally in the clouds and mist near the cloud line. This give you an good indication of what they like in an environment.

R. 'Tropic Glow'
We plant ours in a special mix of fir bark and water retentive soil that one would actually use for plantings on a deck. The pots are relativelt small for the plants, which themselves are quite woody and branchy, with few leaves. The plants prend the summer out doors in the open shade, where they recieve rains and nutrients from summer thundershowers, and are move back to the greenhouse at the first sign of frost, where they spend thier winters getting misted occaisionally, and still never drying out.

R. 'Saxon Glow'
Flowers can occur at anytime, although I tend to get a good burst of bloom after first moving them to the outside, around now, in July, and then again, in OCtober, when we start getting the fall rains. The colors of the blossoms on these tropical rhododendrons is the reason one collects them. With colors that span the spectrum throughout the warm ranges of melon, coral, golden mango and peachy pinks, they fill a gap which temperate Rhody's could never fill. Try collecting a few Vireyas and enjoy the discovery of something perhaps new to you.

1 comment :

  1. Well said Matt, you seem to have the same mild addiction to Vireyas that I have. They obviously have that affect on people, i'm glad it's not just me. We are fortunate to live in subtropical Brisbane Australia. We have a garden behind our business in Brisbane, and also a Garden in Tamborine Mt. which is south of Brisbane. I'm following how they grow in each place. So far they really love Tamborine. It's 550m above sea level and we have really humid mists im summer. Do you have a flickr album or similiar


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