A deciduous shrub up to 10 or 15 ft high; twigs bristly when young. Leaves in a terminal cluster of about five, each 21⁄2 to 5 in. long, 11⁄2 to 3 in. wide, obovate or somewhat diamond-shaped, tapering at the base, blunt or slightly notched at the apex, glabrous on both surfaces except for a few scattered bristles above and loose down beneath when young. Flowers in clusters of three to six, on glandular-hairy stalks about 1 in. long, opening in April or May. Calyx about 3⁄16 in. long, glandular-hairy, with ovate lobes. Corolla 3 to 31⁄2 in. across, widely funnel-shaped, with five rounded lobes, white or soft rose, spotted with reddish brown on the three upper lobes. Stamens ten, downy towards the base. Ovary and lower part of.style glandular. Bot. Mag., t. 7373. (s. Azalea ss. Schlippenbachii)
Native mainly of Korea, but also found in bordering parts of Russia and China; long cultivated in Japan, but not indigenous there. It was discovered by Baron Schlippenbach on the coast of east Korea in 1854 and collected again nine years later in the Korean archipelago by Richard Oldham. The first introduction was by J. G. Veitch in 1893, from a Japanese garden, but most of the cultivated plants in Britain derive from the seeds which Wilson collected in Korea in 1917 and 1918.
R. schlippenbachii is a plant of exquisite beauty, and its fine leaves, suffused with purplish red when young, are the largest and most striking among azaleas. Unfortunately it suffers from a defect very common in trees and shrubs from the mainland of north-east Asia: it is excited into growth by early warmth only to have its young growths destroyed by frost. So far as winter frost is concerned it is quite hardy, but is a hopeless subject except in warm or elevated districts where spring frosts are infrequent. Being an inhabitant of thin oakwoods in a region with hot and sunny summers it needs plenty of light and does not thrive in very acid soils. A light soil enriched with leaf-mould is better than a peaty one.
R. schlippenbachii received an Award of Merit when shown by Messrs Veitch in 1896. A form with Rhodamine Pink flowers from Bodnant was given a First Class Certificate in 1944, and the clone ‘Prince Charming’ from Leonardslee received the same award in 1965 when shown by Sir Giles Loder. In this too the colour of the flowers is Rhodamine Pink.