Shrub or small tree, 2–5 m. Leaves 10–18 × 3.2–5.5 cm, elliptic to oblanceolate, apex apiculate, upper surface with deeply impressed veins, lower surface with a two-layered indumentum, the upper layer loose, woolly, persistent, yellowish at first but soon becoming white or greyish, composed of ramiform hairs, the lower layer white and compacted. Flowers 7–12, in a loose inflorescence, magenta-rose fading pale pink, with crimson flecks and a basal blotch, broadly campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, c.40 mm; ovary densely tomentose, style glabrous. Flowering March-April.
It is susceptible to bark-split in cold winters in Britain. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China W Sichuan, Guizhou
Habitat 1,300–2,600 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Awards AM 1963 (E. de Rothschild, Exbury) to a clone 'Swinhoe'; flowers Roseine Purple, with a dark crimson blotch.
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note Allied to R. denudatum (q.v.). Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub up to 5 ft high in the wild; of stiff erect habit when young; branchlets clothed with grey down. Leaves of stiff, hard leathery texture, elliptical-lanceolate, tapered at both ends, margins recurved, 3 to 6 in. long, 1 to 13⁄4 in. wide, dark dull green, much wrinkled above, clothed beneath with a dull white felt; stalk 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long. Flowers in a compact truss of eight to twelve flowers, opening in April. Calyx minutely triangularly lobed and, like the short flower-stalk, felted with white down. Corolla purplish lavender at first, turning paler, with a blackish crimson blotch at the base and spots on the upper side, bell-shaped, five-lobed, 2 to 3 in. wide. Stamens ten, anthers brown, ovary clothed with erect white bristles, style 11⁄2 in. long, glabrous or slightly downy at the base like the stamens. Bot. Mag., t. 9609. (s. Arboreum ss. Argyrophyllum)
Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by the French missionary David near Mupin in 1869; introduced by Wilson from the same area in 1903. The flowers vary in colouring, and the better lavender-coloured forms are very pleasing. There is a particularly fine form at Borde Hill in Sussex, with lavender-purple flowers about 3 in. across and a deep maroon blotch at the base of the corolla. The species is moderately hardy at Kew but is seen to better advantage farther south.
The Award of Merit was given on April 30, 1963, to the clone ‘Swinhoe’, shown from Exbury. Flowers Roseine Purple with a dark crimson blotch; lobes frilled.