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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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