Rhododendron macabeanum

kristincarolJuly 5, 2008

Does anyone out there in Northwestern gardening land grow this rhodie? I have had one for several years now and am wondering when I might expect a flower or two. From all the information I can gather, it appears that it is planted out in an acceptable place and gets what it should need to be happy (the foliage looks happy, just NO FLOWERS!!)

Can anyone help?

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I have this Rhody in a pot, but it will go into the ground this fall. Big-leaf rhododendrons frequently take 10 - 18 years to flower from the time they are planted out. That might be the reason they didn't catch on a long time ago.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Third year in my garden from a small graft, and it bloomed on one terminal this year. Long lasting and beautiful flowers.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 11:26PM
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Thank you for the input. I have had this plant for 6 years and before that it was in a pot for too long (in someone else's possession.) So it is nearly time for the big guy to give me a show. Or, at least, I hope it will while I still survive!

It is nice to hear that the blooms are long lasting. From the photos I've seen, they look to be of good substance.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 10:52AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Best to seek out and shell out for vegetative propagations of true-to-type superior forms rather than waste time, space and money on large-growing conspicuous shrubs that may not turn out to have the hoped for sterling attributes of such selections. I've seen some pretty punky ones in this area being grown as R. macabeanum. It has been said much of the motivation for the formation of the Rhododendron Species Foundation (and Botanical Garden) was the problem of poor forms being grown and circulated as wild rhododendron species. Many of these were probably unselected garden hybrids being grown from open-pollinated seeds gathered in gardens.

Any specimens not producing the characteristic heavy-textured, deeply colored and glossy leaves and spectacular new growths of a good form of R. macabeanum after getting up a good head of steam should probably be discarded and replaced. Note also that this species is not among the hardiest bigleaf rhododendrons, and like all of them needs a position out of wind and hot sun, and ample irrigation during summer - the oversize leaves of these kinds is a response to low light levels and high moisture levels - in their habitats it is so dull and damp during the growing season that they need to have jumbo leaves to both get enough light and get rid of extra moisture. In gardens here it is typical to see these making stubby growth with short internodes, due no doubt to inadequate watering or similar problems.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 11:31PM
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I have no way to know if mine is a superior or an inferior plant, but since I have 3/4 acre I won't sweat it much as there is plenty of room even for poor producers. The growth is far from stubby--8" to 12" on the new shoots sounds about right, eh? But no flowers nor any buds that look to be flower buds on the new growth this year.

As it is, I think from the information supplied by bboy that it might be getting a great deal more light than it prefers and I will need to keep it better watered. (It is in the extreme NW corner of my yard and requires 75' of hose to get there so it is something I tend to forget.)

Again, thanks for the information.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 9:50AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Lacking a label indicating it is a superior named selection you can anticipate flower quality by appearance of foliage of well-established specimens. Leaves should be "dark green and shiny above", hairy coating below "white to greyish-cream" or similar pale coloring and "compact woolly."

"One of the finest of all species and surprisingly hardy, considering its low altitude in the wild. Starts to bloom earlier than most big-leaved species and is well worth attempting in all sheltered lowland gardens in Britain. Flowers consistently in the RBG, Edinburgh.

The expanding growth buds look like red candles and these develop into beautiful silvery young growth with contrasting bright scarlet bud-scales. The huge yellow trusses of the better forms are truly magnificent and it is usually noticeable that the better flowered forms also have the best foliage. The paler flowered forms should be avoided.

It varies appreciably, considering its limited natural distribution. Leaf shape, flower colour and shape all vary as does the colour and development of the indumentum. This juvenile stage with little or no indumentum can sometimes be seen on young growth sprouting from the trunks of mature specimens. A very distinct species: the combination of large yellow blotched flowers and dark green rounded shiny leaves with greyish-white indumentum below cannot be found in any other species. It is an easily grown plant able to withstand wind, frost and drought somewhat better than its near relatives. It will bloom successfully under trees but the habit will become leggy"

--Cox, The Larger Rhododendrons, (1990, Timber Press, Portland)

where the species is rated hardy to between 15 and 5 degrees F.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 12:44PM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

Inspired by this thread, I went and dropped $50 on a R. macabeanum at Wells Medina Nursery today. :) I had been looking for something tall and evergreen for a shady, open spot in my garden, and this was perfect.

The plant tag said one nice feature of this species is that it can bloom when 2' to 3' tall. One of the other big-leaf rhododendrons they had at Wells said that it wouldn't usually bloom till it was 10-15 years old.

I can't wait for it to get huge! It's about 3' tall right now, and I can tell that about 10" of that is new growth this year. How fast did yours grow, R. macabeanum owners?

Based on bboy's comments above, I looked for a named form. They had one that was a seedling from a superior form chosen by Cecil Smith. They had three others that weren't named forms. The non-named ones looked nicer than the Cecil Smith one, with darker green and fuzzier leaves, so I asked the buyer at Wells about the non-named ones. He said that he's acquainted with the folks who collected the seeds in India, and that they went to great lengths to collect the best forms from the wild. This was a seedling from one of those collecting expeditions. He pointed out the slight variations in the leaf forms between the seedlings.

At any rate, it looks great!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 1:26AM
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Now I'm wondering how my form ranks compared to others out there. I got it at Sonoma Horticultural Nursery. I think it may have smaller and less fuzzy leaves than some out there. Darn.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 2:19AM
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thane(z8 Bellevue, WA)

It looks like the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way has eight different specimens, complete with each plant's lineage. You could take a visit and compare. I plan to!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 11:13AM
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Unfortunately, I have no idea of knowing what form mine might be. I do know, however, that it will put on 12" plus of growth a year and mine has put out a good number of new limbs so it is getting quite bushy. And the scales and general display of new foliage is so spectacular that I haven't missed the flowers much, to be honest.

I am a lazy-faire (sorry about the spelling!) gardener and have never fertilized this plant and it may be in a more exposed position than it prefers. I will make an effort to keep it as moist as it likes from now on.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 12:12PM
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Well, no flowers AGAIN this year and the plant is nearing 7'. Perhaps it is in too much shade as I was very responsible about the watering last summer so doubt that it was drought.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 9:59AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If raised from seed could still be too young and small to flower. Maybe next year you will see some trusses. Rhododendrons of this type are slow-growing trees that may take decades to mature under less-than-ideal garden conditions and live for centuries in nature (where there is still a forest left for them to live in).

There's a species rhododendron collection in a private garden just south of me, with various interesting kinds (including, I believe R. macabeanum) in full view of the street. At flowering time this year I read the tags of ones lining the sidewalk on one side of the property. The last one on the uphill side (the first one I looked at) turned out to be an R. grande(!) about chest high or so. The tag dated it from 1961!! It did have some trusses scattered through it, but was certainly not covered in flowers.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 12:40PM
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