An evergreen shrub of sturdy, rounded shape 3 to 5 ft high; young shoots stout, greyish brown, at first clothed with pale grey bristles, finally quite glabrous. Leaves leathery in texture; narrowly oval, oblong or oblanceolate, notched at the apex, tapered at the base, margins slightly decurved, 1 to 3 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. wide, dark rather bright green above, paler and dull beneath; stalk stout, 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers closely packed in a terminal umbel 11⁄2 in. wide, opening in March or April from the axils of pointed oblong scales that are fringed with minute hairs. Each flower is about 1⁄2 in. wide, with a tube 5⁄8 in. long, the four spreading lobes ovate and blunt, white tinged with purple inside, two of the lobes more deeply stained than the others, all rosy purple outside. Ovary glabrous, egg-shaped, with a short style and a rounded glabrous stigma. Fruit roundish egg-shaped, red, 1⁄3 in. wide. Bot. Mag., t. 8855.
Native of W. China from Kansu to N. Yunnan; discovered by Przewalski, the Russian traveller, in 1873; introduced by Farrer (No. 271) in 1914 and also some four or six years earlier by Wilson from farther south (plants from this seed were originally known as D. wilsonii). It is closely related to D. retusa but is scarcely so ornamental a shrub, the umbels being smaller although the flowers are more brightly coloured. It is more free in growth and the leaves are longer and more tapered towards the end. Judging from specimens collected in the wild, D. retusa is more branched, with short branches, and the young stems are densely downy or hirsute. In contrast, wild specimens of D. tangutica ate much less branched and the branches longer and straighter; the young stems are glabrous or soon become so.
Farrer also introduced, under his No. 585, a form with creamy-white flowers and paler green leaves. This is now rare in cultivation: according to Eliot Hodgkin (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 86, p. 483) all the present stock descends from one plant grown by the late Dr Jenkin of Hindhead, who increased it by grafting. He adds that it is semi-evergreen, straggling in habit, but a beautiful plant.