Learn Daphne plant care steps that will have you growing these fragrant shrubs with pretty flowers and often evergreen leaves in no time!
My first Daphne plant was an accident. Okay, not really an accident…just not planned for.
I went to an end of season plant sale a few years ago and came home with a small evergreen shrub that was supposed to bloom in the late winter. Since finding plants that flower in the winter is hard to do, I thought I would give it a try.
I planted it on the side of my house and it seemed to do quite well. In February it had a couple of pretty blooms, and I was thrilled…it really does bloom in winter!
And then it died.
The next year, a friend of mine was at another plant sale, and found a variegated Daphne for a really good price. So she bought it for me.
This time, I planted it in the front yard under my Japanese maple…right by the front walk.
When it bloomed in February, its sweet scent filled the air. You could smell it as soon as you opened the front door. How could such a small plant create so much perfume??!!
Plus its variegated leaves definitely brightened up the garden in the winter!
And that’s how I learned both how finicky Daphne is and why I wanted it in my garden anyway.
Since then, I have accumulated a few more Daphne shrubs (and had a couple more die), but I think I have finally figured out how to grow them successfully.
Keep reading to find out what I’ve learned about Daphne plant care.
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Where To Plant Daphne
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Zones: 5 – 10 (depending on variety)
Size: 3′ to 5′ tall and wide (depending on variety)
Having grown a few of these plants now, one thing I know is that they can be a little fickle. As I mentioned before, that first Daphne wasn’t the only one I’ve planted that died.
Plant Daphne In Its Forever Home
To get Daphne to survive, it’s important to plant them in the right location. Which is probably true of most plants, but even more so for Daphne because they are almost impossible to transplant.
Apparently, the Daphne shrub has a large network of fine roots that really don’t like to be disturbed, so trying to move them later almost never works.
Give Them The Right Amount of Light
Most prefer part shade, although some will take more sun or more shade depending on the variety you get.
Prepare The Soil
Well-drained soil that isn’t too wet or too dry is a must! If the soil is too wet, root rot will set in and your plant will not survive.
Since I live in an area that has clay, drainage can be a problem. So I mound the soil up a bit to make sure the Daphne plants have a good base to grow in. And add lots of organic compost.
Depending on who you talk to, Daphne needs alkaline soil or acidic soil. So I’m not sure what the real story is there. But I can tell you that my soil is acidic and they seem to do just fine (I don’t add anything to make the soil around them less acidic).
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How To Care For Daphne
Although Daphne is finicky getting started, once it gets established, it is actually really easy to maintain. I think it’s primary need is to be left alone…perfect for the lazy gardener like me 🙂
Mulch is a big help in keeping the soil moist, and Daphne really seems to appreciate it. So making sure they have a 3″ to 4″ layer of mulch around them is my big tip for keeping Daphne happy.
Other than that and keeping them watered, I don’t do much with them.
They seem to survive better being a little too dry rather than a little too wet.
Daphne rarely require pruning, and doing so seems to set them back (so I avoid it).
If you do need to prune a Daphne for some reason, keep in mind that many Daphnes start forming buds for next year’s flowers the summer before. So you’ll want to prune them right after they finish blooming if you still want to have flowers in the spring.
I don’t fertilize my Daphne shrubs.
Apparently because of their large root system, Daphne is particularly good at getting nutrients from the soil. So most will do just fine without regular fertilizing as long as they have adequate water.
Chemical fertilizers can burn those fine roots causing more harm than good.
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My Favorite Daphne Varieties
Zone: 7 – 9
Light: Part Shade
Size: 4′ to 5′ tall and wide
Bloom Time: Late winter
Daphne odora (or Winter Daphne), as the name implies, has very fragrant blooms that start appearing in late winter.
Most have pink or white flowers and evergreen leaves.
Mine is a variegated variety ‘Aureo Marginata’ that really stands out in my shade border.
Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’
Zone: 6 – 9
Light: Part Shade
Size: 2′ to 3′ tall and wide
Bloom Time: Early spring and early fall
Eternal Fragrance Daphne is an evergreen variety that blooms on both old and new wood. That means, it blooms in spring on the old wood, and then blooms again in late summer through fall on the new wood. I figure why settle for a Daphne that only blooms once a year when you can have one that blooms twice?
And it still has that beautiful fragrance that Daphne’s are known for.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’
Zone: 4 – 8
Light: Part Shade
Size: 3′ to 4′ tall and wide
Bloom Time: Mid spring
Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ is a variegated variety with pink flowers that fade to white, semi-evergreen leaves and a beautiful fragrance.
It also is a little more tolerant of cold winter weather than most Daphne plants so is a great variety for Northern gardeners.
Zone: 5 – 7
Light: Sun to Part Shade
Size: 3′ tall and wide
Daphne genkwa (or Lilac Daphne) has quite different characteristics than the other Daphne plants I’ve mentioned so far. It blooms in full sun in the late spring and unfortunately does not have the evergreen leaves or the wonderful fragrance as the others. However, I still include it on my list of favorites because of its stunning purple flowers that are great for cutting. They make it worth your while even if they don’t have a scent.
Hopefully you have found some inspiration to grow your own wonderfully scented Daphne shrub, even if they can be a little finicky 🙂