The Kalmia Genus (Spoonwood)

Kalmia is a small genus, containing about 10 different species of evergreen flowering shrubs, and all belong to the Erica or heath plant family, Ericaceae. 

These plants all hail from North America and Cuba, and produce fantastic clusters of showy flowers, adding a wealth of interest into any garden.

Kalmia (Spoonwood)

Kalmia At A Glance

Kalmia plants are grown in many gardens for their ornate flowers and structural form. The blooms are available in many colors, including white, pink, purple, and lilac.

It is worth knowing that Kalmia plants are not suitable for gardens which see many pets or children, as they are notorious for being poisonous.

For example, Kalmia angustifolia is known by the common name Sheep’s Laurel, as it has been known to kill many sheep that were curious enough to sample a leaf or two.

Other species within the genus can be harmful to people and animals, where they cause skin irritation on contact, and ingesting the plant causes poisoning.

One of the most popular species in the genus is the mountain laurel, or Kalmia latifolia, which happens to be the flower of choice for two states: Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Kalmia Name Meaning

The genus name honors Pehr Kalm, a friend of Carl Linnaeus (you might notice that he has named many genera after his friends), a botanist who collected it. 

The common name, spoonwood, comes from the stories that Dutch settlers told Kalm, about Native Americans making spoons from the wood of the branches.

This is unlikely, as the plants are toxic.

Kalmia Flower Significance

Kalmia flowers can either be symbolic of perseverance, resilience, or as a warning of betrayal.

Kalmia Growing Requirements

Kalmia shrubs are hardy in USDA zones 4 through to 9, and bloom throughout spring and summer.

They can reach between a foot and 16 feet tall, depending on the variety you choose.

Kalmia shrubs will only grow in acidic soil, preferring plenty of drainage and moisture.

The flowers will be produced in partial shade and full sunlight, though you’ll see the most blooms in a sunny position.

They don’t need a lot of water, and are very low maintenance plants.

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