Kalmia latifolia is an unusual shrub which is native to eastern North America. It is a beautiful shrub with interesting flowers that is suitable in the cooler regions of Australia.

Plant details

Common name: Mountain Laurel, Calico Bush
Botanical name: Kalmia latifolia. A close relation of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Climate: It grows in a cool climate.
Description: An evergreen shrub or small tree from 3-10m (10-33′) with intricate flowers that come in colours from white through pink and red to purple. The flower buds look like rosettes of piped icing decorating a cake. The stamens are caught in a little pocket when the flower opens and when insects visit the flowers they unhitch the stamens from the pockets and in doing so become covered with pollen which then pollinates other plants visited by the insects.


mountain gardens specimen plant


acid soils partial shade

Cost and availability

Kalmia latifolia may be difficult to find. Look for it from November through February at specialist cold climate plant nurseries or ask your local nursery to order it in. A 15cm (6″) pot costs around $12.

Further reading

For more information about Kalmias consult Kalmia, Mountain Laurel and Related Species by Richard A. Jaynes (Timber Press, 1997), rrp $60. ISBN 088 192 367 2.