Kalmia flowers

A small group of spring flowering, evergreen shrubs related to the rhododendron. Needs a moist acid soil. Most varieties form a neat tidy bush that needs very little pruning.

Family: Ericaceae
Botanical Name: Kalmia (kal-mee-a)
Common Names: Sheep laurel, mountain laurel, calico bush, spoonwood tree.

Foliage: Evergreen, elliptic leathery leaves.

Flowers: Clusters of shallow cup-shaped flowers in a variety of shades of pink.

Flowering Period: Spring or summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil (clay, sand or loam). Acid or neutral pH.

Conditions: Partial shade. Plant in a north, east, west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Shrub.

Origin: America.

Hardiness: Hardy in all of UK .

Toxicity: May cause severe discomfort if eaten. Wear gloves when handling and wash hands after.

Planting and Growing Kalmia

Plant in moist but well-drained acid soil in sun or dappled shade.

Thrives with rhododendrons and other acid loving plants.

Taking Care of Kalmia

Mulch in spring with leaf mould or well-rotted ericaceous compost.

Pruning Kalmia

Pruning is not necessary except to remove spent flower heads and occasional tidying of the bush.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by mealybugs and vine weevil. Generally disease free.

Propagating Kalmia

Increase from seed or semi-ripe cuttings in midsummer.

Popular Varieties of Kalmia

Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep Laurel), is a compact form with dense clusters of deep rose-pink flowers. Height and spread to 2ft (60cm). One of the best garden forms is 'Rubra'. For sale at Van Meuwen.

Kalmia latifolia (Calico Bush, Mountain Laurel) is the main species in cultivation. Grows into a dense, bushy, medium-sized, evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves. Bears large clusters of bright pink flowers in late spring and early summer. Rarely grows more than 6ft (2m) tall in Britain but can reach 25ft in its native region. For sale at Suttons. A good number of garden worthy cultivars are available, including:

  • Elf intense white blossoms. For sale at Crocus.
  • Kaleidoscope decorative lightly scented burgundy flowers. For sale at Crocus.
  • Tiddlywinks fresh pink flowers. For sale at Crocus.

Kalmia polifolia (Bog Myrtle) is a dwarf form, which is very hardy and grows well in wet soil. The flowers are a bright pink or purple.

Companion Plants for Kalmia

Mountain laurel grows well with other acid loving plants, such as:

Azalea in bloom


erica heather