Print Friendly Page


Kalmiopsis fragrans

syn. K. leachiana LePiniec Form, K. leachiana Umpqua Form
Family: Ericaceae
Pronounced: kal-mee-OP-sis FRAY-granz

Geographic Origin:
Plant Group:
Sunset zones: 4-6, 14-17.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Heat zones: 9-7.
Mature size:
Height: 12 inches (30 cm).
Width: 12 inches (30 cm).
Flowering period:
Late March to early April.
Flowering attributes:
Racemes of cup-shaped flowers with 1/2 inch long, rose-pink petals.
Leaf attributes:
Aromatic, glossy, 1 and 1/4-inch long, elliptic-oblong, green leaves.
Growth habit:
Partial shade to full sun.
Gritty, humus rich, well-drained soil.
Propagation Methods:
Sow seed in spring.
Take cuttings in summer. Pruning Methods:
Minimal pruning after flowering is over to remove dead branches.

Rainy Side Notes

Endemic to southwestern Cascade Mountains in Oregon, Kalmiopsis fragrans is a rare and beautiful shrub that grows handsomely draped down rock walls or in the rock garden. In 1930, Lilla Leach discovered this small genus growing in the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon. The species she found was K. leachiana, whose epithet was named in her honor. The shrubs genus name named by LillaKalmiopsis comes from its resemblance (– opsis) to Kalmia(mountain laurel) shrubs.

How many shrublets can boast that they have a wilderness area named after them? If a Kalmiopsis had pride, their tiny seed heads would be huge, because the U.S. Forest Service named its major nativity the Kalmiopsis Wilderness! The LePiniec Form was later found further north in the Umpqua National Forest in the Southern Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Recently the name was revised after determining it was a new species—K. fragrans. In 2007, Robert Meinke and Thomas Kaye from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University published their research findings that Kalmiopsis fragrans was a different species of Kalmiopsis and not a distinct form of the species K. leachiana.

I've grown this little shrub in my garden since 1999. From a tiny start to mature height and width of twelve inches, it grows gracefully and is easy to care for. I planted it in the shade of a large rhododendron, pruned as a small tree with trunks exposed underneath for more planting space. The Kalmiopsis receives morning light and afternoon shade once the sun reaches overhead. I give the shrublet a deep watering every other week during our annual drought; however, when I first planted it, I watered it more frequently. Although I provide pruning recommendations, I've never needed to prune my own. As long as you provide it with its basic needs, Kalmiopsis fragrans is a charming, easy care, native shrub.

Photographed in author's garden.

Rainy Side Gardeners —