An evergreen shrub up to 20 ft high in the wild, the quite young shoots clothed with a loose, white scurf, or sometimes glabrous. Leaves oblong-lanceolate, tapered at the base, pointed, 21⁄2 to 5 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. wide, glabrous and bright green above, the lower surface covered with a close white scurf; stalk 1⁄2 in. or less long. Flowers borne in May in a lax truss of as many as twelve; flower-stalks slender, up to 11⁄2 in. long. Calyx small, with glabrous triangular lobes. Corolla white blush or pink, more or less spotted with pink on the upper lobes, broadly funnel-shaped, about 11⁄2 in. wide. Stamens twelve or fourteen, shorter than the corolla, white with down at the base (but glabrous in var. leiandrum Hutch.). Ovary downy; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 8767. (s. Arboreum ss. Argyrophyllum)
Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by the Abbé David in 1869 near Mupin; introduced by Wilson in 1904. It is a fine species at its best, with flowers of a delicate pink very freely borne, and makes a well-shaped narrow bush. It is also very distinct in the pure white undersurface of the young leaves. It is a variable species. Typically, the flowers are narrowed to the base, but in var. cupulare Rehd. they are nearer to cup-shaped. The leaves may be rounded at the base, not tapered as described above for the more typical form. Award of Merit May 1, 1934, when shown by Gerald Loder, Wakehurst Place, Sussex (this may have been var. cupulare).
var. nankingense Cowan – Leaves larger, very silvery white beneath, and with large trusses of pink flowers, which are more than 2 in. across. Found by A. N. Steward on the Lao Shan, Kweichow province, in 1931, and introduced by him to the Edinburgh Botanic Garden in the following year. Award of Merit April 30, 1957, when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor Great Park (clone ‘Chinese Silver’).
R. hypoglaucum Hemsl. – A close ally of R. argyrophyllum, perhaps a geographical subspecies. It is found to the east of R. argyrophyllum, in N.E. Szechwan and Hupeh, and according to Wilson, who introduced it in 1900, it is locally abundant in thin woods or, at its altitudinal limit, growing in open country among rocks, and attaining a height of 20 ft and as much in width. The flowers are white or pink, more or less spotted, sometimes densely so, rather like those of R. argyrophyllum var. cupulare in shape, borne in May. The main distinction from its ally seems to be that the leaves are relatively broader, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, and the ovary is usually glandular as well as hairy. Bot. Mag., t. 8649.