Tip from Nova Scotia
Rose Bay, Nova Scotia
Here in Nova Scotia in Nor-Eastern America the winters are quite long and quite dark. You would presume it a somewhat ridiculous place to grow vireyas - plants that come from very close to the equator where day and night lengths are about equal and the temperatures much more amiable than the 50-54°F nights in our double-skinned poly house.
Some of our plants have suffered the indignity of frozen tips when the heat failed and they received 4 degrees of frost one night. They survived but had contorted leaves in the next flush. Many of the vireyas bloom in January and February under these conditions.
We have the problem of tall, lanky growth with Rhododendron laetum, R. christianae x R. macgregoriae, 'Narnia', R. lochiae x R. christianae, 'Vladimir Bukovsky' and others. In order to get them to break lateral growth at the base and reclothe their long bare trunk, we wrap a flexible stainless steel wire around the trunk several times about 6-8 inches above the soil, pull it quite tight and fasten it well. This is often above the second internode. As the trunk grows and expands, the plant is gradually choked and the dormant buds (usually the lowest set) will activate and send out a flush of vegetative growth. When this happens take off the wire and you will have a more attractive and better formed plant.
Dick Steele not only raises vireyas in Nova Scotia but breeds magnolias, heathers and hollies.