An evergreen shrub up to 31⁄2 ft high, of twiggy habit; young shoots very slender, erect, densely scaly. Leaves oblong-lanceolate, abruptly pointed, tapered at the base, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long, 1⁄6 to 3⁄8 in. wide, dark green above, greyish beneath, scaly on both sides; stalk 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers three to six in a terminal cluster 11⁄2 in. wide, opening in April. Calyx very small but distinctly lobed, scaly, fringed towards the end of the lobes; flower-stalk very short and scaly. Corolla lavender-blue to purplish blue, 3⁄4 to 1 in. wide, the ovate lobes sometimes reaching to within 1⁄8 in. of the base; throat downy; stamens ten, downy at the base, 1⁄2 in. long. Ovary scaly; style purple, distinctly longer than the stamens, glabrous. (s. Lapponicum)
Native of N.W. Yunnan and S.W. Szechwan; discovered by Forrest on the pass between Lankiung and Hoching and introduced by him from the type-locality in 1913 (F.10014). It is a characteristic species of the rhododendron moorlands, found at altitudes up to 14,500 ft. The undersides of the leaves resemble those of R. impeditum, the scales being spaced at about their own diameter apart, with a green surface between, but the leaves are relatively narrower, and it is taller-growing. The flowers vary in colour from pale lavender-blue to a deep near-blue, and both extremes are attractive; they are frost-resistant and the plant itself is of course completely hardy. A lavender-blue form was awarded a First Class Certificate when shown from Exbury on May 1, 1934.
In their revision of the Lapponicum group (1975), M. N. and W. R. Philipson submerge R. scintillans in R. polycladum Franch.