Joe Bruso 
President of the American Rhododendron Society (MA Chapter) 

About the Author
My name is Joe Bruso, President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society (ARS). I joined in 1988 and have come a long way from buying rhododendrons, to propagating, and now doing my own hybridizing. Hybridizing is the process of crossbreeding different species of plants, to produce a unique plant. My goal for hybridizing is to produce plants with outstanding foliage and exotic flower color, including peach and yellow! 

About the American Rhododendron Society
The ARS is an international organization that was founded 75 years ago. The Massachusetts Chapter works to educate members and the public about Rhododendrons, distribute plants and seeds, and provide opportunities for lovers of Rhododendrons to meet and have discussions! Another great benefit of membership is that it provides access to plants that are hard to come by otherwise. Over the years, our membership has accumulated thousands of forms of species and hybrids that are mostly unavailable anywhere else.  

Why Rhododendrons?
The genus Rhododendron is very diverse, containing over 800 species and many subspecies. Over 100 species can be grown in central Massachusetts. Species range from rock hardy natives, to exotic tropical types suitable for a greenhouse in our area. Hybridizers have produced hybrids in every size and color imaginable. With this number of plants to choose from you can never learn everything or get bored!  

The blooms are what usually attract people to this plant. However, if you look beyond the showy flowers, this plant can keep gardeners interested all year long! There are endless possible uses in landscaping because of the variation in leaf size, shape, hardiness, color, and plant size and form. 

About the Rhododendron Show 
The Massachusetts Chapter has been holding a Show and Sale for several decades. Throughout the event, we are working to educate visitors, exhibitors, and members. Several very knowledgeable rhododendron growers are always available to answer questions, including addressing problems. The show generally consists of two primary features:

1. The display of cut flowers organized by type. These are judged by trained judges and awarded ribbons and prizes as warranted.
2. A plant sale where member-grown rhododendrons and companion plants are sold to the public. 

Tips for Beginners
If you are new to rhododendrons, here are some important things you need to know:

  1. Plant with the crown at the same level as the surrounding ground, never deeper.
  2. Water new plants regularly; once a week at first, more often during hot and dry weather, less often after the first year. 
  3. Cover the root ball with mulch to help retain moisture.
  4. Go very easy with the fertilizer, especially with those with high nitrogen content

More Resources
Additional information can be found at the following sites:  

     The Massachusetts Chapter website with general information, activity schedule, etc. 
     The Massachusetts Chapter Facebook page.
     The National organization’s home page–  with a wealth of information 

Interested in Joining?
Please consider joining the Massachusetts Chapter ARS.  We would love to have you join us to learn more about the genus, obtain plants and take part in our shows and social activities.  To do so, contact Joe Bruso at, or see details on how to join within the Massachusetts Chapter’s website