- Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’
- Daphnes aren’t fickle, just misunderstood
- Most Read
- ANN LOVEJOY | Fickle daphne is worth the effort
- Problems of Daphne
Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Grown for foliage
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
Where to Grow:
Unknown – Tell us
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Flowers are fragrant
Unknown – Tell us
Late Spring/Early Summer
Unknown – Tell us
Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
From semi-hardwood cuttings
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
San Anselmo, California
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Daphnes aren’t fickle, just misunderstood
- Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ Photo: Robin White – Timber Press.
Photo: Robin White – Timber Press. Image 1 of / 3
Image 1 of 3 Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ Photo: Robin White – Timber Press. Daphnes aren’t fickle, just misunderstood 1 / 3 Back to Gallery
“Oh, I love daphnes, but aren’t they finicky?” I get this comment a lot this time of year as people gaze wistfully at our nursery’s daphne collection. I’m at a bit of a loss to respond because I love these spring-blooming shrubs, can heartily recommend them and yet have heard many a story about daphne heartbreak.
The short answer for daphnes is: Give them conditions they like and you’ll be rewarded with years of beauty and heavenly scent. Everyone is familiar with the shade-tolerant Daphne odora, but there is a whole world of daphnes out there to be discovered.
One of my favorites is D. x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’. It’s a bit cliche to say a plant is aptly named, so let’s just say that ‘Eternal’ is one of the longest bloomers in the daphne genus. Once established, it will flower from April to November, an unusually long period for any shrub, let alone a daphne.
Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ forms a compact, bushy shrub, about 24 to 30 inches tall and wide, and features rosy pink buds that open to creamy white flowers. Even by daphnes’ high standards, the blooms on ‘Eternal Fragrance’ are intensely sweet. In fact, this plant should come with a caution: “Inhaling fragrance may cause temporary amnesia,” as in: “I came out in the garden to do something, but now I’ve forgotten what that was.”
Daphnes are also misunderstood in a few other ways. In milder places in the Bay Area, they’ll be happiest in a good amount of sun, especially this hybrid. Not only will the plant perform better, but having sufficient sun will extend its bloom season. And you’ll naturally want to plant this handsome evergreen shrub near a walkway, entrance or frequented area in your garden to enjoy its heady aroma and attractive deep-green foliage. Because of its modest size, ‘Eternal Fragrance’ can easily be displayed in a container, which might give certain gardeners the flexibility to position it for maximum effect. Daphnes are deer resistant, adding to their versatility.
Another misconception about daphnes is that they are “thirsty” plants. Not true. Daphnes require a minimal amount of water once they are established. In fact, the leading cause of this shrub’s early demise is poor-draining soil and overwatering (that and being planted in too much shade).
Did you know?
Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ was introduced into Britain in 2005, before it was available in the United States. It’s a cross between D. caucasica and D. collina.
Grow in moderately fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil in full to partial sun in coastal areas and in filtered sun in hotter zones. Mulch to keep roots cool. Deep water weekly in first year, then cut back once plant is established. Protect from cold winds. Daphnes don’t like to be disturbed once they’ve been planted. They do well left in pots large enough to give their roots space. Hardiness zone 6, though it may go deciduous in zones 6 and 7. Note: Ingestion of leaves may cause severe discomfort.
Southern blight, crown and root rot, aphids and scale insects are common.
You can find this and other daphne species at Sloat Garden Center in San Francisco, Grand Lake Ace Garden Center in Oakland and Orchard Nursery in Lafayette.
Famed for its intense rose-citrus perfume, Daphne odora flowers in winter and spring, filling the air with its delightful fragrance. The waxy star shaped flowers bloom in tight clusters amid leathery dark green leaves.
This evergreen woodland shrub is fairly slow growing and does best in cool to temperate climates. Daphne doesn’t like its roots being disturbed, so avoid installing anything around the base of the plant.
Daphne tolerates light frosts and grows to about one metre high and wide. As the flowers offer fragrance but little visual impact, plant near other evergreen flowering shrubs or groundcovers like hellebores for colour.
If you have kids, remove the bright red berries as they’re poisonous and wear gloves to trim the plant because some people are sensitive to the sap.
TIP The bitter taste of the berries discourages animals from grazing.
In the garden
Use this easy-to-follow planting and maintenance guide to grow healthy daphne at home.
POSITION daphne in moist, rich, well-drained soil in a spot that gets morning sun, part shade or all-day winter sun and provides shelter from strong winds.
PLANT with care, ensuring you don’t damage the roots when you take the plant from the pot. Don’t tease the roots out before planting.
If your soil is heavy or has clay subsoil, plant daphne into an elevated mound, as good drainage is essential.
CARE for plants by feeding with a slow-release fertiliser in early spring and spray with a weak foliar fertiliser every two weeks during the growing season. Potted plants need fertilising more than those in the ground, which can often do without.
WATER regularly but check the moisture level in the soil with your finger first so as not to over or under water the plant. Cut back water a little in summer for more blooms.
Daphne likes damp, not wet, soil and tolerates short periods of drought much better than wet feet.
MULCH plants with a 70 to 100mm layer of well-rotted organic material to keep roots cool.
Keep mulch away from the stem to avoid any rot problems.
PRUNE lightly, just clipping flowers for indoors, or trim when blooms finish in spring and cut back any wayward growth to keep the plant’s shape.
WATCH FOR root rot from over watering and poor drainage, which can kill the plant. Let daphne dry out slightly between waterings or, if drainage is poor, plant in a raised bed.
Yellow leaves can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Correct by spraying the plant with 20g of Epsom salts mixed with one litre of water.
Aphids and scale can attack the plant and lead to sooty mould. Hose or scrape off offenders and check leaves regularly so numbers don’t build up.
Pick small bunches of daphne for indoors, as the scent is intensified by warmth. Image: Getty Images
Daphne can be grown in a pot but choose a large container with room for root growth as it doesn’t like being repotted. Use a good quality potting mix with water crystals and fertiliser.
Move the plant into the shade over summer, or keep the water up during hot, dry periods as potting mix will dry out more than garden soil.
TIP Position flowering potted daphne near windows and doors so the perfume can be enjoyed.
Beware the berries
Daphne’s red berry-like fruit is highly poisonous if eaten, although the plant will rarely produce berries after flowering. If you notice berries growing on daphne plants, remove them straight away, especially if there are small children around. In the case of berries actually being ingested, seek medical attention immediately.
Daphne’s red berry-like fruit is highly poisonous if eaten although the plant will rarely produce berries after flowering. Image: Getty Images
Choose a variety
Daphne has pink or white flowers, with some that open pink before fading with time. The leathery leaves can be completely green, or have yellow or white margins. The variegated leaf forms add colour year-round.
A neat yellow edge brightens the foliage on this variety and provides an attractive backdrop to red flower buds. Flowers open as a rosy purple then fade to white. It grows to a metre high, tolerates frost and thrives in dappled shade.
Flowers open as a rosy purple then fade to white, it grows to a metre high, tolerates frost and thrives in dappled shade
This new daphne is tougher than the old cultivars and spot-flowers throughout the year after the first flush in winter. It has a compact growth habit, just 600mm high, and is heat, frost and dry tolerant. It will also cope with alkaline soils.
This new daphne is tougher than the old cultivars and spot-flowers throughout the year after the first flush in winter
Featuring cream or white flowers with a rich fragrance, alba is best in a spot with dappled light and prefers acidic soil. Its low and compact growth habit makes it particularly good for pots, where it will flower over many weeks.
Featuring cream or white flowers with a rich fragrance, alba is best in a spot with dappled light and prefers acidic soil
Make stem cuttings
Propagate daphne from healthy stem cuttings in December. Allow six to eight weeks for roots to develop before gently tugging at the cuttings to check them.
ANN LOVEJOY | Fickle daphne is worth the effort
Evergreen, glossy and tidy in shape, daphne is among the most desirable of garden shrubs. Like jasmines, the daphne cousins are the darlings of romantic gardeners, thanks to their swooningly sweet perfumes.
This infatuation is not too surprising, really. After all, fabulous fragrance, lustrous leaves, handsome habit, what’s not to like? Well, how about disease prone, persnickety and fickle? The sad truth is that most daphne species combine many desirable traits with some equally frustrating ones. Even so, these compact, evergreen shrubs will always be worth a try, as a happy daphne is definitely cause for delight — and even joy.
Recently, one reader asked why his Daphne odora is developing yellowing leaves, while another wondered why her Daphne Eternal Fragrance seems to be heading for heaven. Well, friends, if your daphne is struggling, it probably isn’t your fault. Unless, perhaps you pruned it. Or transplanted it. Or overwatered it. Or under-watered it. Or planted it in midsummer. Or didn’t plant a grafted daphne deeply enough. Or didn’t mulch it, or mulched to close to the trunk. Or tried to grow it in a constricting container.
According to the Royal Horticulture Society, ‘Daphne can suffer from a number of disorders and diseases which can lead to sudden dieback or yellowing of the foliage. They are also prone to establishment problems, leaf browning, waterlogging, nutrient deficiency, honey fungus, Phytophthora root rot, fungal leaf spot and virus.’ They may also get botrytis, leaf spots, canker, twig blight, crown rot and various viruses. Other than that, piece of cake, right?
Oddly enough, yes. If daphnes like their setting, they can last for 10 years and may even persist for decades. Most daphnes are compact, rounded shrubs, often used as stars of a rock garden or edging plants for larger borders. Since the delicious scent is one of its strong points, daphne is best grown where the flowers will be appreciated on a daily basis. Pleasing a daphne is part art, part skill and part magic. Most prefer that legendary substance, well-drained-yet-moisture-retentive soil that’s rich in humus. Soggy soils are fatal, as are bone dry situations. Ground cover daphnes (those that reach 18 inches or less) — such as D. arbuscula, D. cneorum and D. genkwa — prefer full sun and near neutral, well-drained soil. The larger species, such as D. odora, D. bholua, D. blagayana, and D. mezereum, like their heads in the sun and their roots in the shade. These gals do best with morning light and afternoon shade. Most prefer light, neutral soils, though purple flowered Daphne mezereum tolerates acidic clay soils quite well. Ironically, so does Daphne laureola, a fragrant, handsome evergreen shrub now considered a class B noxious weed in Washington state. Thus, the one daphne that is utterly reliable is the one we are supposed to shoot on sight (weed it out or keep it from setting seed).
As for the readers’ questions, yellowing foliage on D. odora could mean it needed chelated iron (more likely if the soil were slightly alkaline), but more likely it means the drainage is insufficient. Daphne Eternal Fragrance (Daphne x transatlantica Blafra) is supposed to be among the easiest to please, so I imagine that here, too, drainage may be the problem, though excess sun/shade is a possibility, too.
So why bother with these prima donnas? Because as winter fades, the piercing sweetness of those rosy little flowers is utterly enchanting. So try, try again, and be patient; even the best daphnes settle in slowly.
Problems of Daphne
Shrub Dies Suddenly means Improper Cultivation
Daphne shrubs in general and fragrant daphnes in particular are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. They have the disconcerting tendency to up and die suddenly for no apparent reason. Often the cause is a subtle change in their environment–too much water or fertilizer, exposure to rapid temperature change, the proximity of another plant. Usually the cause is not known.
Leaves Curled, Discolored due to Aphids
Aphids are spindly-legged, pear-shaped insects little bigger than the head of a pin. Also called “plant lice,” they attack tender branches and flower clusters on shrubs. These pests suck sap from leaves and stems, causing the foliage to curl, pucker, and turn yellow, while reducing the plant’s vigor. Sometimes ants, attracted by the aphids’ honeydew secretions, wander over the plants and protect the aphids from natural predators. Check under the daphne leaves for small groups of aphids.
To dislodge light infestations, spray the undersides of the leaves vigorously with water three times, once every other day, in the early morning. Spray insecticidal soap every 2 to 3 days for heavier infestations. As a last resort, use pyrethrum spray, spraying it directly on the aphids. Take care to use pyrethrum late in the day to minimize killing honeybees and other beneficial insects nearby. Destroy nearby ant nests by breaking them open and pouring boiling water on them. On evergreen shrubs like fragrant daphne, apply a “light” horticultural oil spray on the foliage in the early spring to suffocate over wintering eggs.
For more information see file on Controlling Aphids.
Cottony Masses on Plant Parts indicates Mealybugs
Mealybugs are 1/5 to 1/3 inch long, with oval, flattened bodies. They are covered with white waxy powder and adorned with short, soft spines around their edges. These insects sometimes gather in cottony white masses on daphne roots, stems, branches and leaves, sucking sap and reducing the plant’s vigor. Infested daphne leaves look yellowish; severely infested plants are unsightly, do not grow well, and may die. Honeydew secretions from the insects’ feeding encourage mold growth on the shrub foliage and attract ants.
Control mealybugs by spraying them with an alcohol-insecticidal soap spray every 2 to 3 days until the pests disappear. Mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and with one pint of insecticidal soap mix. To kill over wintering mealybug eggs spray daphne foliage and stems with a light horticultural oil in March or April, just before new growth starts.
Leaves And Branches Encrusted With Small Bumps because of Scale Insects
Scale insects are covered by hard, rounded waxy shells, which may be colored white, yellow, or brown to black. These small bumps are found ranged along stems and twigs of infested daphnes. They are about 1/10 to 2/5 inch in diameter. The first sign of a scale attack is often discoloration of the tops of the leaves, followed by leaf drop, reduced growth, and stunted shrubs. Some species of scale insects excrete honeydew, which coats foliage and encourages ants and the growth of sooty mold, a gray to black coating on the leaves and stems. Heavy scale infestations may kill daphnes.
Handle mild scale infestations by simply scraping the telltale bumps off plant surfaces with a fingernail, or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Heavy infestations require spraying. Use a mixture of alcohol and insecticidal soap every 3 days for 2 weeks. Mix 1 tablespoon of alcohol in a pint of ready-to-use commercial soap spray. Light horticultural oil sprayed on dormant plants in late winter or early spring will smother over wintering scale. Apply insecticides when the young larvae (or “crawlers”) have hatched and before they start forming their new scales.
For more information see file on Controlling Scale.
Sudden Wilting; Death due to Southern Blight
This fungal disease of many types of woody plants thrives in hot weather and acidic soil. Although it is most common in the southeast, it appears sporadically in the north. It tends to attack young shrubs that have not yet developed corky bark on their stems. The infection starts near the soil line, appearing as a dark, discolored area covered by a webbing of fungal threads, eventually girdling the stem. The disease can kill a daphne shrub in less than 1 month. Because the fungus lives in soil and plant debris, it is important to collect and discard in the trash all weeds and plant parts near infected shrubs. Dig up and get rid of soil near sick plants. In the North kill this blight fungus by pulling off the mulch around the daphne shrub to expose the soil to winter frost. Researchers are developing an antagonistic fungus that can some day be used to control this disease.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease
Brown Spots On Leaves means Leaf Spot
Some types of fungi cause thick brown spots to develop on both sides of daphne leaves. These leaves then turn yellow and wilt, eventually dying. Treat infected shrubs by promptly picking off all leaves and twigs that show symptoms and discarding them in the trash. Spray affected shrubs with copper fungicide according to directions on the package.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease.
Branch Tips Turn Brown; Die Back due to Twig Blight
A blight disease caused by a fungus occurs on daphne through the Northeast out to the Pacific Northwest. It causes branch tips to turn brown then die back until the entire branch, or even the entire shrub, is killed. Shrubs over 5 years old are usually not seriously affected. In late winter, prune and burn affected twigs and branches.
Spray plants with copper fungicide or lime sulfur fungicide when symptoms first appear and then every 10 days in wet seasons. Avoid overhead watering. Daphnes do not respond well to pruning even under the best of circumstances, but this is the best way to attempt to control this disease. Prune to increase air circulation around shrubs, taking care to sterilize pruning tools by dipping them in household bleach to prevent the disease from spreading. Because the fungus spores collect on the mulch beneath the shrubs, removing the old mulch and replacing it with fresh material may help prevent an outbreak from recurring.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease.
Foliage Burned because of Dog Urine
Dog urine will discolor daphne branches and foliage, and kill them. Spray vulnerable foliage with anti-transpirant spray to protect it. Where there are chronic problems, screen the shrub or spray its lower branches with pet repellant. Given daphne’s delicate constitution, these measures may be as harmful as the original problem, however. For more information see the file on Dogs and Cats