Plant of the Month for September 2013

Rhododendron keleticum; photo by Todd Boland
Rhododendron keleticum

Description and general information:

This dwarf rhododendron is a low, prostrate evergreen.  The foliage is shiny with leaves less than 2 cm in length. the flowers are purplish-crimson with darker spots.  They are quite large in comparison with the plant's size; up to 4 cm across. The flowers are either solitary or in groups up to three.  In the wild, this species is found on moist alpine meadows and slopes in SE Xizang, NE Burma and NW Yunnan at elevations of 3400-4000m.

In some references this species is called R. calostrotum subsp. keleticum but the Flora of China elevates it to species status.

Cultivation:

This rhododendron prefers full sun in an open site.  In the right conditions it is free-flowering and almost ground-cover-like.  A well-drained medium that is moist-retentive and acidic is required. Hardy through zone 5.

Bloom period:

This is among the latest-blooming of the dwarf rhododendrons. May in southern regions but into July in more northern.

Propagation:

Seed, cuttings

Seed:

Surface sow as seeds need light to germinate.  A high-peat medium works best.

Division:

Not practiced

Cuttings:

Current-season shoots may be taken in mid-late autumn.  This species is reasonably easy to root from cuttings.

Reference:

The Smaller Rhododendrons by Peter Cox

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