Rhodos at home on the West Coast

  • Apr. 23, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Rhododendrons always look best in groupings.

When we think of rhododendrons, we usually conjure up images of lush foliaged varieties smothered in huge trusses of blossoms.

According to the respected Oregon rhododendron authority, Ted Van Veen, more than 800 species and 10,000 named varieties grow within 1,300 kilometres of the North Pole and as far south as the sand dunes of Florida.

The well-known rhododendrons growing in Manning Provincial Park are just one example of the uniqueness of some varieties.

Although other species survive in other parts of the province, the West Coast is really the best home for these lovely plants.

Rhododendrons are easy to grow, but far too many folks have problems because they do not understand their needs.

As the renowned Oregon rhododendron expert Harold Greer, points out, rhododendrons are foraging plants and won’t tolerate some situations.

First, according to Greer, they must have a constant supply of moisture. Plants set out under huge trees often lose the battle for water and die because few folks realize that large trees can draw as much as 450 litres of water a day during periods of warm weather. Rhododendrons need access to moisture, especially during cold or hot weather to prevent desiccation of their lovely foliage.

Secondly, rhododendrons need well drained soil. Slow draining soil or high water tables are the kiss of death for rhododendrons.

Phytophtora, or root rot, is a serious concern in rhododendrons, and little can be done to save a plant once this disease sets in.

This is not to say rhododendrons must be grown in sandy or gravelly soil, quite the contrary. They love soils rich in organic matter and peat, but water must drain away quickly.

The third requirement for rhododendrons – and this is a very important one – is aeration. It is essential that rhododendron roots have access to oxygen. I always like to mix fir or hemlock bark mulch into the planting hole to provide adequate aeration.

Once you understand the soil requirements of rhododendrons, it’s then up to you to find a plant to suit your particular location.

Most rhododendrons have a hardiness rating. This rating, often given in terms of zones, indicates the minimum temperature a well matured plant can take without serious injury.

In the eastern Fraser Valley, for example, often vicious northeast winds dictate that H1 and H2 varieties are more likely to survive than some of the less hardy ones.

Varieties, like ‘Anna Kruschke’, ‘Trude Webster’, ‘Rocket’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’, will all tolerate temperatures of  –26 C with minimal winter damage.

Folks are still confused about the amount of sun a rhododendron can tolerate. I always use this rule of thumb:  the larger the leaves, the more shade it will tolerate; conversely, the smaller the leaves, the more sun it will take.

Unless a rhododendron has exceptionally large leaves, it has no business being in the shade, otherwise it becomes leggy and really quite unsightly.

When you hear that some rhododendrons do not like the sun, it means that they should not be planted against a south or west facing wall with intense reflected heat, unless this situation can be alleviated by planting a small shade tree to act as a screen between noon and 3 p.m. to protect the rhododendron from the sun’s hottest rays.

Out in the open, however, rhododendrons do just fine, especially if they are surrounded by complementary plantings.

When planting new rhododendrons, it is essential to very gently loosen the roots of container grown plants to encourage them to take off in the new soil.

Field grown, burlapped rhododendrons must have the sack left on to prevent the rootball from falling apart.

As many varieties of rhododendrons are now coming into bloom,  it’s a golden opportunity to visit your local garden shops to choose some of your favourites.

Remember:  rhododendrons always look best in groupings, either with other complementary plants or by themselves in groups of threes.

From the tiniest miniature ‘Impeditum’ to the huge ‘Anna Rose Whitney’, your landscape will surely benefit from these wonderful plants.

 

Brian Minter owns and operates Minter Gardens just outside of Chilliwack.

Just Posted

Ridge Jr. B Flames making additions

Four players sign, two coaches join mix.

UPDATE: Two-vehicle incident on Abernethy Way, Maple Ridge

Road near 227th Street reopens in both directions.

Maple Ridge elementary protest to protect against climate change

Grade 7 Albion students march in front of municipal hall.

Maple Ridge teacher celebrated as inclusive education champion

Carissa Keenan teaches at Harry Hooge elementary.

Haney Rotary ups bursary amounts

Total is $19,000 this year, up from $11,000 in 2018.

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Burnaby facility to dispose of 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s trash from Philippines

All 103 containers will be disposed of properly within Canada before the end of the summer

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Man wants guilty plea revoked in 2012 collision in Abbotsford that killed Chilliwack woman

Michael Larocque was charged in relation to crash that killed Eileen Kleinfelder

High-risk sex offender released into Surrey

Earon Wayne Giles, a Newton “tag-team rapist,” was released from prison Friday and is now living in Surrey

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

UPDATE: Vancouver man dies after crash between motorcycle, transport truck

Police believe speed was a factor in Thursday collision

Trial slated to start Monday for accused killer of Abbotsford cop

Oscar Arfmann faces first-degree murder for death of Const. John Davidson

Most Read