We are very happy to offer our customers plants that are in their first year of life. This is a very economical way of establishing variety while learning about the growth habits of their plants. We offer two different types of first year plants, both being “clones” of the parent plants, ensuring the characteristics of the named plant.
Cuttings: Cutting are usually taken in the fall and rooted over the winter in a warm and humid climate. They are cut from parent plants trimmed, “wounded”, dipped in a rooting hormone, and placed in a sterile bed to root over the winter. In the late spring, the result is the cutting taken from the parent plants with a root ball that ranges in size from a golf ball to a baseball with new growth emerging from the stem.
Tissue Culture: Tissue culture or micro propagation is a popular method of producing large numbers of rhododendrons for commercial production. Over simplified, it involves taking a small vegetative shoot section from the parent plant and putting it into a test tube. Through the use of agars and auxins, absolute sanitation, proper temperature and lights, the vegetative shoot is induced to grow into multiple “seedling-like” growths with no roots. This tiny juvenile vegetative shoot is then rooted. These plants tend to have a more minute shrub like look and will have slightly larger root balls.
From either method, you will have a healthy little plant that needs a bit more care than an established plants.
As in nature, new plants need extra protection from the elements. If nature had produced these plants, they would be seedling growing under the protection of the parent plants. Your plant will need to have protection also which includes filtered light, protection from wind and regular moisture. They will also be susceptible to fungus and insect.
Below is the hand out we send with each order of first year plants. The instructions are given to ensure that you have the most success with your plants, but please don’t get lost in the “must do this or must do that”. Consider yourself the plant parent and protect your little plants for their first year and you will be amazed how quickly you will have a full size plant giving you enjoyment in your landscape! Jim
Thank you for your purchase of first year plants. This is how most every rhododendron that is sold today starts! Please find below some growing tips and as always, please feel free to email or call if you have any questions.
PLANTING: Pot up or plant in a protected area. If using a pot, plant into 4” or one gallon. Use a loose, well-draining medium such as one containing some bark, compost, or perlite.
WATERING: Keep soil thoroughly wet but never soggy.
PROTECTION: Shelter from heat, frost, and wind for the first 6-12 months in a protected area such as a plastic covered hoop house. Keep it open and shaded in summer. Antidessicants such as Vaporgard or Wilt Pruf (available online via Amazon)can be used as protection from both heat and cold.
SHAPING: New growth is expected in 1-2 flushes the first summer. Pinching out the center bud will help the lateral buds develop thus producing a more bushy plant.
FERTILIZING: Use a liquid fertilizer 20-20-20 1T/gal. applied once every 7 to 10 days between April and August. Stop fertilizing in time to allow new growth to harden before first frost. Epsom salts, 1 T/gal., can be applied occasionally to add magnesium for better color.
WEEDING: Hand weeding is best because plants are shallow rooted. Preemergent herbicides are not recommended for these young plants.
DISEASE CONTROL: Root rot occurs in some varieties, especially in yellow flowered rhododendrons, when conditions are both hot and wet. In the Pacific Northwest this is in July and August. Well drained planting soil is essential. New biological products such as Rootshield (available via Amazon) or Actino-iron contain beneficial organisms that form protective colonies on the plant roots. These must be applied before problems are expected. Powdery mildew may be evident in some varieties and some climates. Use a systemic fungicide, such as one used for roses, so there is no need to spray leaf undersides.
PEST CONTROL: Weevils may be a problem. Watch for notching from the chewing beetles in the summer. Various insecticides may be used to control them. The grub stages of the weevil, which exists in the soil in fall, winter, and spring, does the most damage. It eats roots and underground stems and may completely girdle the plant and kill it.