JARS v41n2 - Picking Off Your Rhododendrons

Picking Off Your Rhododendrons
Mark Konrad, M.D.
Sewickley, Pennsylvania

Setting priorities on our time becomes very important as we get more and more involved with any hobby. Because of this we are soon forced to do things more quickly and efficiently.
With this in mind, "Picking Off Your Rhododendron" describes an easy method for reducing the transplanting time for tiny seedlings. Just after germination, in the dicotyledon state, I use a toothpick to pick up the newly germinated seedlings. The toothpick is easily made into a special tool which is sharpened at one end and notched on the other. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Picking out tool.
Figure 1. Picking out tool.
Photo by Mark Konrad

With this tool the seedlings can easily be transferred to the surface of a newly prepared flat. Regardless of the media, I always use a very thin coating of Canadian peat which has been sifted through a very fine screen. This allows for a smoother surface which offers better contact when the seedlings are laid on the surface. This coating also affords better visualization of the seedlings for proper distribution. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Dicotyledon without 
leaf formation.
Figure 2. Dicotyledon without leaf formation.
Photo by Mark Konrad

The notched end of the toothpick is slipped under the dicotyledon leaves if these have already formed. Again roots and all are just laid on the surface of the new media. Usually more seedlings are transferred than necessary, since they can be easily eliminated later. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Dicotyledon with leaf 
Figure 3. Dicotyledon with leaf formation.
Photo by Mark Konrad

After transferring it is imperative to have proper moisture conditions until growing contact is made, which is usually only a few days. This can be accomplished by using either a plastic film or glass cover for a few days if your growing method does not allow the surface to remain damp.
In summary, this method can help save time transplanting tiny seedlings. It offers a convenient, systemized approach that allows for a process of uninterrupted early growth. Over a span of many years I have found it to be quite practical.

Dr. Konrad has developed many practical approaches to growing rhododendron. For other suggestions on efficient seed propagation see "Rhododendron Pediatrics", by Mark Konrad, ARS Journal Vol. 40:2, Spring 1986.