The Tender Species
Some of the less hardy rhododendron species are especially good from the standpoint of appearance of the flowers, fragrance, and other characters. Quite frequently an ardent rhododendron fan may read the description of a tender sort and be tempted to try it even though he knows that his conditions are a little too rugged for assured success. It is possible, of course, to plant in a protected place, or even to use a planter which can be moved into a building or greenhouse during the worst of the winter cold. However, it is not easy to find plants of many of these tender species. If they are found they are likely to be open-pollinated seedlings and possibly not as desirable as the type description would indicate.
In certain special cases, perhaps, the raising of such tender sorts from seed might be helpful. It is well known that a group of seedlings will vary not only in visible characters but in physiological characters such as hardiness, adaptability, and others. There is, therefore, a possibility that one of a lot of seedlings may exhibit a little more hardiness than the usual type plant. There is no real assurance of this, of course, but if one has a couple of dozen seedlings of a tender sort there may be one or two which would be a little hardier than the rest, and of course there will be variations in leaves, type of growth, and flower characters. This adds to the interest and excitement of growing rhododendrons. I do not mean to indicate that tender species may be changed into ironclads but certainly it would not be unusual if in a lot of seedlings, one might be found which would stand 4 or 5 degrees colder weather than the average of that species. In some cases that would make the difference between a plant which could be grown with a little protection, and one which would be just too tender to bother with.