05/08/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Rhododendron 'rock stars' descend on Sidney B.C. for convention

The "rock stars of the rhododendron world" and their followers have descended on Sidney, B.C. to share their love for the woody plants at the 70th Annual American Rhododendron Society Convention.

"The world is coming to Sidney," said Peter Lewis of the Cowichan Rhododendron Society, as guests flock in from the U.S., Europe and China.

"It's an all-star venue."

If you want to keep up with the conversation — or just impress your flower-minded friends — here are three things you may not know about rhododendrons.

1. To deadhead or not to deadhead? That is the question.

Deadheading — or removing the dead flowers — is the subject of endless debate and Lewis said it won't be settled anytime soon.

"There's two camps. A lot of people like to deadhead their rhododendrons because it gives it a very neat appearance, but once the rhododendron grows up seven or eight feet high, it's very difficult to get up there to take the seed pods off," he told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

Lewis said removing the flowers will make it more vibrant, because it helps the plant make seeds for next year, but leaving the flowers does not create any problems with plant.

2. Not an invasive species, except in Iceland

Rhododendrons are a native species to Vancouver Island, but they're also native worldwide.

"I think Iceland is the only place that doesn't have any," said Lewis.

However, the wrong genus in the wrong place can cause problems.

The Rhododendron ponticum, or common rhododendron, is native to southern Europe and southwest Asia, but were planted in England by Victorian gardeners.

"They got totally out of control. Now there are many, many hectares that have been swallowed up by the rhododendrons," said Lewis.

The Pacific rhododendron, the Lapland Rosebay and the White-flowered rhododendron are all native to B.C.

3. New rhodos are being created all the time

Hybrid rhododendrons are being created all the time, with different characteristics.

There are many different hybrids. In fact, renowned American grower Jim Barlup created a new variety just for the convention, known as Champagne Lace.

"Honest to God, it looks like a bottle of bubbly. Just fantastic," said Lewis.

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