Kalmia – Popular Shrubs for the Garden
Allied to the rhododendrons and belonging to the same family as the heathers (Ericaceae), the Kalmias need a lime-free, preferably peaty,.
In its native America, Kalmia latifolia, the most commonly grown species is known as the Mountain Laurel and its bright pinkmake the mountains of the Eastern States very colourful in May and June. There it grows to 25-30 feet, although in Britain it seldom exceeds about 8-10 feet, but is well worth growing where the soil is suitable. No is needed, but, as with rhododendrons, it is worth removing dead flowers.
Kalmia angustifolia, the, is a good deal less tall, reaching at the most 3 feet and usually less. It has narrow leaves and rosy-red flowers. An even more dwarf form is Kalmia polifolia, about a foot or so in height, flowering earlier than the others, its purplish flowers opening in April.
All these kalmias prefer semi-shade and moist, though not perpetually boggy, soil. Peat and leaf-mould dug in at planting time and also used subsequently as a surface mulch, will do much to create the right conditions.