Friday, October 20, 2017

The Beautiful Vireya

Vireya are part of the rhododendron family, 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, also called tropical rhododendrons, are successfully grown from Volcano down to the coast.  There are about 300 species of vireya. Azaleas are part of this group.
Vireya grow well in the sun.  Yet locations of intense sunlight along with high afternoon temperatures 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. No hot summer sun, no heavy shade.
It is important to plant vireya in soils and potting mixes that have excellent drainage. In addition to growing them in the soil, and sometimes in cracks and crevices, 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.  The epiphyte 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 room. 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 to see if there is a chapter in your area.