arhs Yachts International
arhs Yachts International

Horticulture Information

Introduction: Rhododendrons in Atlantic Canada

The rhododendron is perhaps the most beautiful and exotic plant we can grow outdoors in Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic area with its copious rainfall, mists, fogs and rather cool summers has proven to be ideally suited to a large number of rhododendron varieties. Some varieties may even be grown in the very coldest localities. Getting them established is the trick.

In the wild, rhododendrons range from giants of 70-90 feet to diminutive ground-hugging dwarfs barely a few inches high. The leaves of some species exceed 30 inches in length and 12 inches in width; others never reach a 1/2 inch in length. Some have flower trusses as large as a basketball while others have tiny thimble-size flowers. Some are fragrant, some are not. Colours cover the entire spectrum.

Rhododendrons are survivors of the ice-age and have managed to adapt themselves to the changing conditions of their environment. The largest concentration of these plants in the wild exists in the Himalayan area and Western China. We have two native species in the Atlantic Provinces: Rhododendron lapponicum – an alpine dwarf and Rhododendron canadense – the bog azalea.

Rhododendrons look best when planted in large beds with other rhododendrons, azaleas and suitable companion plants. A backdrop of evergreens in the distance will provide shelter and a compatible setting.

Companion plants include:

Trees: oaks, magnolias, Japanese maples, styrax, stewartias, halesias and dogwoods.

Evergreens: pines, dwarf conifers, all broadleaf evergreens.

Perennials: a few include hostas, hardy geraniums, heucheras, woodland plants, trilliums, lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits, rodgersias and many more that appreciate similar conditions.