Notes on Rhododendron lacteum
By Del and Ray James
R. lacteum, a species found in the Yunnan, Tibet and Burma region, is one of the most desirable, yet one of the most difficult to obtain in good form and to grow.
A number of years ago, seeds sent to us from England were planted, and although several germinated and did well for a time, on the whole they have proved to be variable and difficult to handle.
As an experiment it was decided to try grafting R. lacteum scions onto hardy R. ponticum understock. One graft was very successful and the plant has developed into a well-shaped, sturdy growing shrub.
The leaves on this particular form are leathery, oblong elliptic, cordulate at the base, very dark green above, with a suede like indumentum below.
In 1950 the first bloom appeared on the grafted plant, and in the Spring of 1957 it flowered well. It proved to be an excellent yellow, unspotted, with 25 to 35 flowers in a truss. One especially fine truss had 40 flowers by actual count.
The plant has been grown out of doors, protected by a lath house only, and did not appear to have been damaged in the November, 1955 freeze, nor the following cold winter of 1956-57.
From our experience it would seem that when a good sturdy form of R. lacteum is grafted onto a R. ponticum understock, many of the factors that make the species difficult to grow in cultivation, may be eliminated. It has certainly been successful with this particular form and well worth trying.
Many of the plant collectors make the statement that R. lacteum cannot be excelled in either foliage or flower, and we agree.