Rhododendron indicum ‘Optima’

Probably a cultivar or hybrid of Rhododendron indicum Sweet. Galle lists two azaleas named ‘Optima’.  The first is a late flowering amoena hybrid with large, deep pink flowers which may correspond the plant named Optima figured in Paxton's Magazine of Botany [MB p.55/1845].  The flowers are bright scarlet with deeper spots.  English bred, its parents are unknown.  This is similar to Azalea optima described in the Floricultural Cabinet: ‘Bright rosy-scarlet; flower large and showy.  the plant six feet by four.’  [FC p.137/1848], and: ‘Fine orange, with darker blotch on upper segment; flower large, good form, and very showy.’  [FC p.148/1850].  This is probably Macarthur’s plant.  Wilson & Rehder provide some information on the probable origins of this plant.  ‘Azalea “Optima” with dark scarlet flowers [and] Azalea “Prince Albert” […] were undoubtedly derivatives of R. simsii and representatives of the “Indian Azaleas” of to-day, and the first introductions into America [in 1847] as far as I can discover.’  [Wilson & Rehder p.48].

Galle’s second azalea is an old Ghent Hybrid with yellowish-white flowers, edged reddish-orange, and with a yellow blotch.  This is unlikely to be Macarthur’s plant.

Horticultural & Botanical History

For more information on Indica Azaleas see Rhododendron indicum Sweet.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.112/1850].  Obtained from Kew Gardens, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849.  In the confirmatory list sent by Macarthur to King it is marked with a ‘o’, meaning new to the colony, but with a superimposed cross.  The latter may mean that Macathur subsequently learned that it was not new to the colony.  [ML A1980-3].  It was also included among desiderata to Loddiges’ Nursery, 13th February, 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.172] and is not amongst those notated ‘died’ although it was requested again on the 1st February, 1849 [MP A2933-1, p.185].


Published Jun 06, 2009 - 04:45 PM | Last updated Sep 12, 2011 - 03:18 PM

Figured are three azaleas, including Optima, with a bright red, single flower.  Paxton's Magazine of Botany p.55, 1845.

Rhododendron indicum ‘Exquisita’, ‘Optima’ and ‘Broughtonii’ | MB p.55/1845 | RBGS


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

Garden origin, England or Belgium

  • Azalea optima Hort.


Common Name

Indica Azalea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea Indica optima 


Confidence level high