A group of dwarf to medium-sized, slow growing, winter flowering shrubs. Ideally suited for the smaller garden. Although not easy to grow, there are very few plants in the garden that can compete with the exquisitely delicate perfume of a Daphne in full flower.

Family: Thymelaeaceae
Botanical Name: Daphne
Common Names: Japanese daphne, winter daphne

Foliage: Evergreen or deciduous simple green leaves.

Flowers: Highly fragrant clusters of small, tubular, four petal flowers. Available in shades of pink, reddish-purple, white or yellow-green. Often followed by colourful berries.

Flowering Period: Late winter to early spring.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Best grown in a south or west-facing aspect, in a sheltered location.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Small shrub.

Origin: Europe to Central Asia, China and Japan.

Hardiness: From fully hardy to part-hardy in the UK, depending on variety.

Toxicity: All parts of this plant are poisonous, especially the berries.

Planting and Growing Daphne

Grow in a sheltered, sunny position in any good, well drained, moderately fertile soil, that does not dry out. Keep the root run cool. Not suitable for exposed locations.

They dislike transplanting or root disturbance so choose your planting site well and add plenty of organic matter at planting time.

Daphne are not the easiest of plants to grow. They are very slow growing and can become straggly and often prone to a variety of problems, including sudden die-back or yellowing of the foliage. However the rewarding rich spring scent is certainly worth the effort of growing them.

Taking Care of Daphne

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Do not over water or allow the soil to fully dry out. Mulch with organic matter in spring to retain moisture and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Pruning Daphne

Pruning is not normally necessary except to shape or restrict growth. cut out any unhealthy, dead, diseased and damaged wood in late spring.

Remove suckers from grafted plants.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids can be a problem on young growth. Can be affected by viruses, leaf browning, nutrient deficiency, honey fungus, Phytophthora root rot and fungal leaf spot.

Propagating Daphne

As these plants can be short lived, it may be prudent to take a few cutting as insurance against loss.

Softwood and semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in summer. Alternatively, sow ripe seeds under the protection of a cold frame and keep moist.

Popular Varieties of Daphne Grown in the UK

Daphne blagayana is a mat-forming, deciduous shrub with large creamy-white flowers in spring. Height to 12in (30cm).

Daphne x burkwoodii is a semi-evergreen, with pale pink flowers in May and June. Height to 4ft (1.2m). A wide variety of cultivars are available.

Daphne cneorum is a mat-forming, evergreen with rose-pink fragrant flowers in clusters at the tip of shoots in April-May. Height to 1ft (30cm), spread to 3ft (90cm).

Daphne laureola (spurge laurel) is an evergreen shrub with greenish-yellow flowers in February, March followed by black berries. Ideally suited for woodland and deep shade. Height and spread to 4ft (1.2m).

Daphne mezereum is a deciduous shrub with highly fragrant, pink or white flowers, held in clusters along its leafless branches in February-March, followed by red berries. Height and spread to 5ft (1.5m).

Daphne odora (China) is a hardy evergreen shrub with light green leaves. Pink or reddish to pale purple, fragrant flowers appear in February to March. Height to 4ft (1.2m), spread to 5ft (1.5m). A good number of cultivars are available, including Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' with green leaves finely edged in gold. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Daphne tangutica is a medium-sized evergreen shrub that produces clusters of purple buds on the tips of each branch, opening to star-shaped, white flowers flushed with lilac. Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Daphne x transatlantica is a compact non-stop flowering form, with white to light pink flowers from April to October. Ideal for containers and pots. Available from Thompson & Morgan.