Carol Mackie produced its own genetic mutation with reverse variegation (white leaves edged in green). Christened Briggs Moonlight, it has pink flowers. Another pink-flowered hybrid, Albert Burkwood, at three-feet tall is fitting for small gardens. All the Burkwood hybrids are hardy to at least Zone 5.

D. mezereum, also known as February Daphne, is an old favorite, a deciduous shrub that produces blooms on bare branches in early spring. Its rich purple flowers have a sweet, intense scent.

Mr. Lasseigne and Mr. Bieber both love D. genkwa, the lilac daphne, an Asian species that bears flowers reminiscent of lilacs. A large-flowered form of D. genkwa improves on the original with blossoms that are twice as large and more deeply colored. Neither genkwa has scented flowers, but both are hardy in Zones 5 through 9, and grow no larger than 3 feet tall.

For a rock garden, try D. cneorum, the garland daphne, just 12 inches tall, with white flowers. D. collina, also at home in rock gardens, grows to about 18 inches, with evergreen foliage and pinkish purple blossoms.

Mr. Lasseigne stressed that while daphnes can thrive in average to poor soil, they must have excellent drainage. In the South, they also need protection from full sun.

From time to time daphnes are susceptible to a malady that causes seemingly healthy plants to suddenly die. Mr. Lasseigne blames environmental stresses; Mr. Bieber says it’s the phythoptera fungus, saying it can be discouraged by disinfecting pruning and propagation tools and by pre-emptive use of a fungicide.

It’s only a matter of time before the popularity of this fragrant, hardy plant spreads. For information, write to the Daphne Society, 58 Kaintuck Lane, Locust Valley, N.Y. 11560, (516)671-6590, or send an e-mail message to [email protected] Membership is $20. The society has a collection of about 40 varieties at the Planting Fields Arboretum, Planting Fields Road, Oyster Bay, N.Y. 11771, (516)922-9200; admission is $4.

With their sweet, fruity fragrance and delicate blooms of white, pink or lavender, daphne plants are a beautiful addition to any late winter and early spring landscape ideas. “These shrubs bloom early when not much else is going on in the garden,” says Mike Duvall, woody program manager for Star Roses & Plants. “Once established, these plants are very easy to care for, and they have a nice compact form that doesn’t require pruning.” Here’s how to grow daphne plants in your garden, and what you need to know about these pretty, appealing shrubs. (Check out the best evergreen shrubs, best flowering shrubs, and fast-growing shrubs too.)

What kinds of daphne shrubs should I plant?

Daphne shrubs grow in USDA Hardiness zones 6 to 9. Read the plant tag, because different species have different light requirements ranging from full shade to full sun, though most need some sun to bloom. In hot climates, these plants tend to do better with shade later in the day, so they’re not baking in the hot afternoon sun. Many species are evergreen with flowers that appear as clusters or along stem tips. Most daphne shrubs don’t get huge, maxing out at three to four feet tall and wide with a nice rounded shape, says Duvall.

Andrew WaughGetty Images

Varieties to try:

  • Eternal Fragrance
  • Marianni
  • Carol Mackie

Where do I buy daphne shrubs?

These shrubs have become incredibly popular in the last few years, but they’re still not mainstream, which means you probably won’t find them at big box retailers. They’re also slow-growing, which makes them pricier than other types of shrubs of the same size. Independent garden centers and nurseries are more likely to carry daphne shrubs. Look for them in late winter to mid-spring. You can also buy from online retailers, which tend to have a better selection.

Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ $34.95

How do I plant daphne shrubs?

The best time to plant daphne shrubs is in the fall, though spring is okay too. “The most critical part of the process is selecting the right location for these shrubs,” says Duvall. “They don’t like dry compacted soil or overly wet feet.”

Dig a hole about twice the diameter of the pot and about the same depth. Don’t put them in too deep, which is a common mistake; they actually prefer their root ball to be set about a ½ inch higher than the ground around them. If your soil isn’t rich and fertile, add compost to the hole, refill soil around the plant, water well, and mulch. Water a few times a week for the first few weeks and during dry spells as they get established the first year.

You can also plant these shrubs in containers and place on either side of your entry to enjoy their amazing fragrance. But make sure there’s a hole in the pot for drainage, and don’t let water sit in the saucer beneath the pot. One note: All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested, so be careful about placement—and keep kids and pets away.

skymoon13Getty Images

How do I care for daphne shrubs?

The great thing is that daphne plants can be low-maintenance shrubs once established, says Duvall. At the start of their second season in the ground, give them a little 10-10-10 slow-release granular fertilizer. If there’s a broken or damaged limb, trim it off. But you don’t need to prune to maintain their shape. In fact, these shrubs bloom on last year’s growth, so put down your pruners so you don’t cut off next year’s blooms.

Arricca Elin Sansone Arricca SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more.

How to Grow Daphne

Daphnes are grown for their lovely scent, and for winter interest as many varieties of the shrub flower in late winter and early spring. Daphnes have a strong, sweet scent and attractive red, pink and white flowers. They are generally evergreen, or semi evergreen, and their foliage is attractive and some varieties have variegated leaves, as in the image to right. Because Daphne has an intense scent, and they are often blooming in the late winter when less of the garden is accessed, it is a good idea to plant Daphne near a path so as to enjoy the scent. The Daphne in the centre image was situated near a sheltered wall alongside a path. The sheltered spot in which this Daphne is grown may well account for its success in terms both of size and the number of blooms on the shrub, it is flowering really well.

Daphnes are fully hardy only really in sheltered gardens, and grow more reliably in the South and West. D. Odora, the Daphne illustrated above left is the most hardy, H4 which is -5-10 although much depends on the position of the plant as it needs a sheltered spot. Daphne is difficult to graft and propagate, which means they are difficult to produce, as a result they tend to be more expensive than some other shrubs. Given the expense, and the fact that Daphnes are tricky to grow, it is important if you do buy one that it is planted in the right place to do well.

Daphnes like moist but well drained soil and will not tolerate either being water logged, or drought. Daphne need a neutral to slightly alkaline soil, if it is sandy add organic matter. A heavy clay soil may not be ideal and the most tolerant of clay soil are Daphne laureola and D. Mezereum. All Daphnes will do best in a sheltered spot with sun, although D laureola will tolerate shade. Daphnes are not suitable to grow in container and dislike being pruned. Avoid pruning unless absolutely necessary and then only after flowering. Daphne are slow growing shrubs, it can take 7-10 years to reach mature size and then only around 3-5 feet depending on the variety. Daphnes are mostly winter or spring flowering.

How to grow daphnes

Daphnes are guaranteed to lift your spirits in the depths of winter.


When there’s not much else in flower and you catch an amazing scent, it’s mostly likely to be from the beautiful flowers of a daphne. They’re an ideal shrub for smaller gardens and work well near paths and doorways where the sweet fragrance of the flowers can be appreciated. Most are evergreen, too, providing extra colour and structure. They also make good cut flowers and the scent intensifies when brought indoors.

Take a look at our handy daphne grow guide, below.

When there’s not much else in flower and you catch an amazing scent, it’s mostly likely to be from the beautiful flowers of a daphne. Planting Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Where to plant daphnes

Daphnes are woodland shrubs and need a spot in dappled shade. If possible, plant your daphne near a door or pathway, to catch the stunning scent as you pass by each day.

Purple-pink flowers on bare Daphne mezereum stems

How to plant daphnes

Make sure the soil is light and free-draining. If your soil is heavy clay, try a raised bed filled with plenty of garden compost and leaf mould.

Follow our step-by-step guide to planting evergreen shrubs.

Smaller species of daphne can be grown successfully in containers if you pay attention to adding plenty of drainage and choose a pot deep enough to accommodate the roots.

Pink and white flowers of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Daphne care

Daphnes have a reputation for being tricky to grow. However once established, they should flower reliably, providing they’re not disturbed.

They only required minimal pruning – if you’re cutting flowering stems to bring indoors, this should suffice, plus a little trim in summer to remove any damaged stems or any that spoil the overall shape of the shrub.

Protect during longer periods of cold weather with a generous mulch and cover with horticultural fleece.

Water regularly, but don’t overwater – daphnes don’t like extremes of drought or cold, damp roots. Apply a generous mulch in spring and autumn to feed and protect the roots.

It’s worth noting that daphne is highly toxic if eaten and the sap can irritate skin and eyes, so handle with care.

Propagating a daphne by layering

Propagating daphnes

Daphnes can be grown from seed, but this is a very long-winded process and isn’t as reliable as taking semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. Daphnes can also be propagated by layering.

Follow our guide to taking semi-ripe cuttings.

Yellow-bordered leaves and pink flowers of Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Daphne: problem solving

Root rot, usually due to poor drainage, is one of the most common problems. Make sure the right soil conditions are right and don’t overwater. Yellowing foliage or die back can be caused by lack of nutrients in the soil or waterlogging.

Daphnes can also succumb to honey fungus, phytopthora root rot and fungal leaf spot as well as virus infections.

Daphnes don’t respond well to hard pruning.

Advertisement Pale-pink Daphne x transatlantica ‘Pink Fragrance’

Daphnes to try

  • Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ RHS AGM – an upright growing evergreen shrub with pink and white very fragrant flowers
  • Daphne x transatlantica ‘Pink Fragrance’ – a compact, semi-evergreen shrub with richly scented, pale-pink blooms. As the flowers are produced on new growth, it keeps flowering from spring through to late autumn
  • Daphne mezereum – a shade-loving woodland shrub that will also tolerate full sun provided its roots never dry out. The clusters of pink, lilac and violet flowers appear on bare stems in late winter, fading as the new spring foliage appears
  • Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ RHS AGM – the evergreen leaves have delicate yellow borders that offset deep red flowers in early spring
  • Daphne laureola – also known as spurge laurel, this species daphne has pale green scented flowers in late winter and early spring, followed by black fruit

Daphne Care

SERIES 18 | Episode 22

In the cooler parts of Southern Australia, Daphne odora is a plant that captures the imagination of gardeners because of its fragrance, but there are 50 different species of daphne throughout the world – some are deciduous and others are evergreen.

Daphnes are generally neat, compact plants that are at home in dappled shade. Daphne species vary in habit – some are erect, while others are rounded or even spreading. The showy rounded heads of the small flowers open from mid-winter to late spring, depending on the species, and they can be in delicate shades of white, cream, yellow or pink. Daphne odora has pink and white flowers and there is a variegated form with white flowers, and they’re all fragrant.

Daphnes, either in the garden or in pots, are rewarding plants, but there are a few things that can go wrong.

Look out for leaves that are light green, and that hang down. This indicates the plant might need a feed. After it has finished flowering, give it some fertiliser, especially iron chelates. Often daphnes also suffer from root rot. The plant could easily have been over-watered, and the roots then rot causing the leaves to look bedraggled.

Another problem that daphnes have is the leaves suddenly hanging down limply, and feeling leathery and dry. Most often, this is also caused by over watering. About 20 years ago, there was a daphne virus, but, with proper hygiene and better plant propagation methods, rarely do you get virus in daphne. People think that daphne love to be moist all the time, but you should just water the daphne and let it dry out. Use mulch to keep the roots cool.

If daphnes are over or under watered, it causes them great stress and that’s when insects like scale attack. Scale looks like little brown or black dots that appear on the leaves, their undersides, and the stems. Underneath the scale’s protective helmet is an insect. Just squash them, or smother the scale with white oil or canola oil.

Daphnes like morning sun or an easterly-facing spot – anywhere that’s got shade from the hot afternoon sun. Don’t forget really good drainage is also important.

When you’re planting out a potted daphne, just be careful – the roots should be white and healthy. Try not to damage the roots as you’re planting, so there is no need to tickle them out. Just plant it and mulch to cool the roots, and when it finishes flowering in spring, fertilise with organic matter, and prune it at that time too. Keep it moist over summer, cool the roots and you’re home and hosed with your daphne.

The rewards of having a happy and healthy daphne plant become obvious in those months when their lovely scent wafts through your garden. Picking some and placing it in a vase inside will fill the house with perfume.

Daphne Plant Types: Growing Daphne Plants In The Garden

Lovely to look at and enticingly fragrant, daphne is a delightful landscape shrub. You can find daphne plant types to suit most any need, from shrub borders and foundation plantings to stand-alone specimens. Find out about the different daphne plant types and how to care for them in this article.

Growing Daphne Plants

Before you decide that this fragrant beauty is just what you want, there are a couple of things you should know about daphne. First of all, the plant is poisonous. In fact, it is so toxic that chewing on the flowers, foliage or red berries can be fatal. You should never plant daphne shrubs where pets or children play.

Another potential problem with daphne is that it is known to die suddenly and seemingly without cause. Because of this tendency, you should think of it as a temporary plant. Place the shrub in areas where you can easily remove and replace it as it becomes necessary.

If you can live with these two drawbacks, you’ll find that caring for daphne plants is not difficult. Grown as an informal shrub, it doesn’t need pruning, and this makes the plant practically carefree. For a more formal appearance, trim the tips of the stems after the flowers fade.

Daphne Plant Varieties

One challenge of growing daphne plants is choosing a type. There are several varieties of daphne, and these are the most commonly grown and easily available:

  • Winter daphne (D. odora) is the variety to choose if you like a powerful fragrance. Four feet tall with narrow, glossy leaves, it is the type most likely to suffer from sudden death syndrome. The flowers bloom in late winter. ‘Aureo-Marginata’ is a popular winter daphne with variegated leaves.
  • Garland daphne (D. cneorum) is a low grower that reaches heights of less than a foot, making it ideal for rock gardens and edging pathways. The trailing branches spread about three feet. Covered with flowers in the spring, you can cover the stems with mulch after the flowers fade to encourage rooting. The best varieties include ‘Eximia,’ ‘Pgymaea Alba’ and ‘Variegata.’
  • D. x burkwoodii can be evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous, depending on the climate zone. It grows three to four feet tall and blooms in late spring, often followed by a second flush of flowers in late summer. The popular ‘Carol Mackie’ is a variegated variety.

How to Care for Daphne

Daphne grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 or 5 to 9, but check the type you want to grow since there is a lot of variation from plant to plant. It needs a location with full sun or partial shade and moist soil. Well-drained soil is a must. Choose your site well because daphne doesn’t like to be transplanted.

Plants grow best if they are given a thick but light layer of mulch. This helps keep the roots cool and the soil moist. Even though the soil is covered, check to make sure it never dries out. It’s best to water the shrub when rainfall is scarce.


One of the best things about winter in Australia is the fragrance of daphne in flower. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) originally came from China. As well as the green-leafed variety with pink and white flowers, there is also one with a creamy yellow border to the leaf (‘Aureo-marginata’) and a pure white flowering form (‘Alba’).

Daphnes have a reputation for being very touchy plants. They often drop dead suddenly but if the right growing conditions are provided, they will last a long time and develop into large shrubs.

Tip: Daphnes grow well in large containers in potting mix and are quite reliable. They become touchy once they’re planted in the ground.

Growing conditions

If you are going to grow daphne in the ground, they require perfect drainage and a cool, sheltered spot. For good drainage grow the plant in a raised bed, that is a garden bed where the soil is built up by 20-30cm (8-12″). It is best grown in drier areas of the garden, e.g under eaves. Daphnes do not like to be constantly wet. A light pruning by taking off the flowers will prevent the plant from becoming woody.

If this is not possible a pot is the next best alternative.

When potting a daphne, put some plastic fly-wire over the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. This is not for any horticultural reason, but to stop soil from leaching out of the drainage hole with each watering. Then add the potting mix, selecting a potting mix that meets the Australian Standard. It is a good idea to add a little peat moss to your mix to improve drainage and water-holding capacity of the mix.

Note: In some instances daphnes are grown in soil, dug up and sold in a pot. Any soil should be gently hosed away before it is repotted into potting mix.

Take care when potting, especially if you are handling a large plant. If you damage the roots in the repotting process, it is important to keep the repotted plant in a sheltered spot for several weeks to give it a chance to establish new roots. It will also need close attention in hot or windy weather until it is firmly established.

Tip: For good growth on your daphne, add a sprinkle of gypsum to the potting mix.

Fragrant daphne: the right variety for every garden

There’s a scented daphne variety for every garden.

Compact form, glossy evergreen foliage, hardy, easy-to-grow and above all – heavenly-scented flowers just when we need a lift in the midst of dreary winter – why doesn’t every garden have a daphne bush?

Daphne is undemanding. It will grow in shade, under trees or in awkward narrow borders on the shady side of the house. It copes with cold and wind but it is worth growing in a better position as it looks glossy and attractive all year round. If your daphne is by a path or doorway it will be easier to enjoy the deliciously scented flowers in winter and early spring.

Plant in light or dappled shade in well-drained soil with plenty of added compost. Drainage, especially in cold winter conditions is essential to avoid root rot. Plant on a slight mound if the soil is poorly drained. The roots are delicate so be careful when planting and avoid transplanting an established bush. Mulch with bark or leaf mould but keep the mulch away from the stems.

Avoid lime as daphnes (like rhododendrons and gardenias) don’t like alkaline soil with high pH. If leaves turn yellow it may be a sign of poor drainage or nutrient deficiency due to incorrect pH. Check the drainage and if yellow leaves persist use Sequestrine or a dose of iron chelates. Direct sun all day long may also cause yellow leaves but too little sun means less flowers.

* Grow wintersweet for blooms and fragrance during frosty weather
* Gardening guru Lynda Hallinan on NZ’s most lovable shrubs
* Best plants for winter scent

NEIL ROSS / NZ GARDENER Daphne odora ‘Leucanthe Alba’ has creamy white flowers and glossy dark green leaves.

Feed with slow-release fertiliser in spring after flowering and again in autumn. Don’t over water.

The bushes are compact and there’s usually no need to prune apart from picking the flowers. A small flowering sprig in a little bud vase will perfume a room for days. Don’t cut back below the foliage and don’t take more than a few stems at a time.

Some people have success growing daphne in a pot that they move to a “sniffable” spot when it’s flowering but daphne can be temperamental in a pot, dropping its leaves and refusing to flower. If you do want to give it go use a big pot so it doesn’t dry out too quickly. Don’t plant anything else in the pot as the roots hate to be disturbed. Place the pot in a sheltered, light (but not too sunny) position. Top up the potting mix if it compacts down and exposes the root ball. Top dress with rhododendron food (one formulated for pots) in spring and autumn.

ANTHONY TESSELAAR PLANTS Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ has much bigger blooms that grow along the stems.

The pink and white odora daphnes, Daphne odora ‘Leucanthe’, Daphne odora ‘Leucanthe Alba’and Daphne odora ‘Leucanthe Rubra’ are the ones you are most likely to see at the garden centre along with Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ which is widely available this year. Bred by Taranaki plant breeder, Mark Jury, ‘Perfume Princess’ was released in Australia in 2015 and won Plant of the Year at Australia’s Nursery and Garden awards. It has much larger blooms than comparable Daphne odora varieties, a longer flowering season and can even flower down the stem.

Daphne odora varieties form rounded shrubs about a metre high or they are available as standards from Wairere Nursery.

There are many other daphnes with different growth forms. Plants can be tall or prostrate, flowers of various sizes can be pink or creamy white but they all have wonderful scent.

BLUE MOUNTAIN NURSERY Daphne bholua ‘White Ice’ has small flowers but lots of them all winter long.

Not all varieties are commercially available in New Zealand but it is worth seeking out a different daphne for a special spot in your garden.

At Blue Mountain Nursery in Tapanui, Denis Hughes grows several varieties of Daphne bholua all of them upright in habit to around 2m. These include ‘Jacqueline Postill’ which is deep pink and white, and ‘White Ice’ which is Denis’ favourite and is a feature of his own garden. It’s strategically positioned by the front door and flowers prolifically all winter and into spring.

At Larnach Castle near Dunedin, Margaret Barker grows Daphne blagayana, a dainty prostrate plant with heavenly perfumed creamy flowers in August. It hails from southeast Europe and throws out long, somewhat straggling branches. Margaret wires the long branches down, inducing them to layer. Leaves from overhead trees supply natural mulch and the daphne slowly spreads. Her plant is now more than 2m wide, thriving under trees in partial shade. It will grow in sun or shade, even among stones if there is humus, provided the roots are kept cool.

STEN PORSE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Daphne blagayana is a low-growing prostrate plant.

Daphne cneorum is a low alpine plant (less than 30cm) to so really needs a cool spot to thrive.

Daphne x burkwoodii has slimmer leaves and little starry flowers. There’s a variegated form too. Both grow to around 1m.

Where to buy plants

Garden centres, Kings Plant Barn, Bunnings and Mitre 10 will most likely have Daphne odora and Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’.

For other varieties try:

Wairere Nursery

Blue Mountain Nursery

Greenleaf Nurseries

NZ Gardener

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