Named from the Greek words ‘rodon’ meaning ‘rose’ and ‘dendron’ meaning ‘tree’, Rhododendron is a genus of over 1000 species of shrubs and trees, valued for their abundant, big, colourful bunches of flowers. Either deciduous or evergreen, most rhododendron species are native to the deep valleys of the Himalayas, but are also found across Asia, Europe, and North America. They belong to the heath family (Ericaceae).
Rhododendron ‘Festive Bells’ is a hybrid cultivar from the Rhododendron species in the section Schistanthe (formerly Vireya), and are still commonly referred to as vireya rhododendrons. Section Schistanthe includes over 300 species of rhododendrons distinguished for their tropical habitat, distinctive leaf scales, tailed seeds, and other diverse morphological features. They are mainly found in the Malesian region which includes Borneo, Malay Peninsula, New Guinea, Sumatra, Sulawesi and the Philippines. Most of the species are shrubs or small trees. Some of them are found in cloud forests and some are epiphytic.
Vireya rhododendrons have been widely cultivated and hybridised by horticulturists for their showy flowers. This particular hybrid, Rhododendron ‘Festive Bells’ is bred for its compact growing habit and deep red, waxy flowers. It usually flowers in the November to December period and is thus aptly named for this holiday season!
Check out this pretty rhododendron in the Lost World of Cloud Forest.
Written by: Arthur Voo, Research Executive (Research and Horticulture)
Arthur has been working closely with plants for more than 10 years, whether in a park, nature reserve or glasshouse. These days, if he isn’t taking care of plants in the glasshouses, he likes to spend his time hiking and looking for interesting plants in the wild.