Rhododendron indicum ‘Alba’

Probably a cultivar of Rhododendron indicum Sweet but see History and Notes. ‘This Azalea is said to have been introduced from China, by Mr. Brookes, of the Nursery, Ball’s Pond, in 1819.  It is now commonly cultivated in our greenhouses, and is, I believe, generally considered to be a white-flowered variety if Azalea indica. […] But if the two plants be compared, many differences will be discovered which have led me to describe the present as a species.  The A. indica, for example, is a very free growing plant, arriving at a height of eight or ten feet, with long, twiggy, pendant shoots. […] A. ledifolia blossoms at the same season, with the indica, namely, at the latter end of the winter, and in early spring, and requires the same treatment.  It is not indeed a plant which boasts such vivid colours as the common Indian Azalea, but it is not less worthy of cultivation on account of the extreme delicacy and pure whiteness of the flowers, and their fragrant scent.’  [BM t.2901/1829].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The Chinese, and especially the Japanese, cultivate a great variety of A. indica, of which a very few kinds are known in England, 4 varieties only having yet been introduced: viz. the common single red, the double purple, the pure white, and the orange.’  John Lindley included a list of 25 varieties known to exist in China and Japan and not introduced at this stage, although one of these, the double purple, presumably A. indica purpurea plena, was noted as being at Mr. Brookes’ nursery.  [BR f.811/1824].  ‘[Azalea indica alba] bears a close resemblance to the single-flowered form of the old greenhouse Indian Azalea, and is used as a stock on which to graft the best varieties of R. indicum.’  [LBC no.1253/1828].  ‘This old white kind is always admired.’  The plant in question was seven feet by six.  [FC p.137/1848].  Flore des Serres figures Azalea indica umbellata alba, with single white flowers, presumably an improved form.  [FS f.1329/1858].  R. mucronatum was introduced to Europe in 1819.  [JD]. ‘The introduction of Azalea indica alba and phoenicea, together with the seedlings raised by the late Mr. Smith of Norbiton, tended still further to recommend the azalea to popular favour; and the appearance of A. variegata, lateritia, Gledstanesii and Danielsiona, completely established its merits’.  [Gard. Chron.  1852].

For more information on Indica Azaleas see Rhododendron indicum Sweet.

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.104/1843].  In a list of plants sent to Rev. R. R. Davis, Moreton Bay, 30th March 1846, Macarthur gives the alternative name of Azalea ledifolia when referring to Azalea indica alba.  [MP A2933-2, p.107].  


Paxton's Dictionary lists a number of A. indica alba varieties: magniflora, plena, Smithii, striata, superba and triflora in later editions.  According to Millais, Azalea Indica alba is also synonymous with Rhododendron (Azalea) mucronatum.  See also Rhododendron phoeniceum G.Don.  

Published Jun 04, 2009 - 05:07 PM | Last updated Sep 13, 2011 - 03:06 PM

Figured is a single white azalea with large flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.2901, 1829.

Rhododendron indicum ‘Alba’ | BM t.2901/1829 as Azalea ledifolia | BHL


More details about Rhododendron indicum ‘Alba’
Family Ericaceae
Region of origin

Garden origin, China

  • Azalea ledifolium G.Don
  • Rhododendron mucronatum G.Don


Common Name

Indica Azalea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea Indica alba 


Confidence level high