Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Beautiful Vireya

Vireya Rhododendrons are part of the rhododendron family (actually classified as a subgenus). They are native to Southeastern Asia (New Guinea, Borneo, Sumatra and the Philippines), growing quite often in the cooler mountainous areas. On the Big Island of Hawaii, vireya have been successfully growing from approximately 3,000 feet elevation to sea level.  There are about 300 species of vireya, also called tropical rhododendrons. Azaleas are part of this group.

Vireya grow well in the sun.  Yet locations which produce high light and temperature intensity in the afternoon should be avoided. In this case filtered sun is best. On the other hand, planting vireya in the shade will produce leggy shrubs with inferior flower production. The best advice is no hot summer sun and no heavy shade.
Planting vireya in soils and potting mixes with excellent drainage is important. In addition to vireya growing in the soil, they can also be found growing as epiphytes. An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant, such as a tree, but is not a parasite on that tree and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it.

Vireya are well adapted for growing in pots and may even grow well indoors in a well-lit area. They come in a variety of beautiful, vibrant colors such as salmon, pinks, orange and yellows.

For those interested in learning more about vireya, join the Hawaii Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society or search for a local chapter in other areas.