An evergreen shrub 3 to 6 ft high; young shoots clothed at first with brownish-red wool. Leaves narrowly oblong-lanceolate, sharply pointed, tapered at the base, 2 to 41⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 1 in. wide; dull green and glabrous above, covered with loose brownish-red wool beneath; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers opening during March and April in trusses of four to eight; stalks 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, loosely downy. Calyx shallowly five-lobed. Corolla bell-shaped, 11⁄4 in. long and wide, five-lobed; in colour it is very variable, ranging from blood-red to yellow tinged with rose. Stamens ten, about 1 in. long quite glabrous; anthers black-purple. Ovary clothed with whitish felt; style about as long as the stamens, downy only near the ovary (if at all). Bot. Mag., t. 9290. (s. and ss. Neriiflorum)
R. floccigerum was discovered by the French missionary Soulié on the Mekong-Salween divide near Tseku. Forrest, who sent home seeds for the first time in 1914, found it in various parts of N.W. Yunnan, from the Chungtien plateau to the Salween-Irrawaddy divide and south to the mountains between the Chienchuan river and the Mekong. It is a hardy but early-flowering species of comparatively dwarf habit, with flowers which, in the best forms, are quite as fine a red as in R. neriiflorum. But the colour in this species varies a good deal and a plant at Kew bears flowers of rich salmon red. Some of an indeterminate mixture of rose and yellow shades are very poor and dull. One of the best is depicted in the Botanical Magazine (loc. cit. supra). The species is hardy enough for Kew. The narrow leaves, covered thickly beneath with loose rufous floss, constitute one of its most distinctive characters in the section to which it has been assigned.
var. appropinquans Tagg & Forr. – Differing in the more or less glandular branchlets and petioles and in having the mature leaves glabrous beneath except for traces of flock on the midrib. Introduced by Forrest. Award of Merit March 19, 1957, when shown by Lord Digby, Minterne, Dorset (a form with flowers of a pale cream colour, edged with pale cherry-pink).