Plant Of The Month February - Tropical Vireya
Add a touch of the tropics to your garden with vireyas, the tropical rhododendron. Well suited to Auckland’s climate, most varieties produce stunning bursts of flowers multiple times a year.
While other rhododendrons also look great, vireya rhododendrons are the type best suited to Auckland’s climate, and are a little more compact (tending to range in height from about 1-1.8m) which makes them a perfect shrub for an urban garden.
WE HAVE LOTS OF VARIETIES BUT HERE ARE SOME FAVOURITES
TIPS FOR VIREYA GROWING
Full sun to fairly dense shade. Plants grown in shadier spots tend to be less compact than ones in full sun. Protection from the afternoon sun can prevent leaves from sun damage.
Prefers free draining, slightly acidic soils.
Dig a hole around twice as wide and deep as the current pot.
Backfill hole with a mix of your soil, compost and Kings Sheep Pellets, leaving space to plant your vireya.
Carefully remove the pot and plant to the same depth as it was in the pot.
Mulch with Living Earth More than Mulch to suppress weeds and reduce watering needs.
Pinch out leggy branches after flowering to encourage shrubs to bush out. While this may slightly delay flowering, it will ultimately help you increase the number of blooms on a single plant as there will be more branches there that will set blooms.
If you have a plant that’s a bit on the leggy side, you can prune to improve the shape, but some care should be taken. Prune back to a bud and cut at an angle of 45 degrees sloping away from this bud. The bottom of your cut should be level with the top of the bud. Feeding beforehand is often useful as it ensures that your vireya is growing strongly and quickly recovers. If a severe prune is necessary it may well be worth carrying this out in stages to lessen the shock to your plant.
Avoid applying lime to improve soil structure, as this will also raise the PH of your soil. To improve soil structure and help with drainage add lots of organic matter such as compost, plant into mounds, and use Gysum Claybreak (which can be used like a lime but doesn’t affect the PH of your soil).