From the Desk of Ed Hume: Daphne

February 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment


One of the truly outstanding Winter-flowering, fragrant shrubs is the Daphne family.  There are a number of varieties that offer pleasant fragrances at various time of the year, but the Winter Daphne “Odora” and the February Daphne “Mezereum” are among the most popular.

The most important thing that I like to recommend to home gardeners is that any fragrant plants should be planted near the entry area or wherever foot traffic is heavy so that their fragrances can be fully enjoyed.  Remember, Daphnes are only one of several plants that flower during the Winter that are fragrant.  A couple others you might want to checkout are Sarcococca and the witch hazels.

Probably the favorite Winter Dahpne is Odora.  This is a semi-evergreen variety that flowers in late Winter and early Spring.  The flower clusters are soft pink and reddish on the backside of the petals.  There are a few varieties with variations of flower colors, and the green leaves have yellow margins.  This is one variety that grows best in places that protect it from the hot mid-day sun.  The plants usually only grow about four-to-five feet tall and wide unless they are crowded by other plants.  Two tips: First, they benefit from a little dolomite applied on the soil at planting time.  Second, make certain the soil is well drained.  In a severe Winter they may die back a little, but they generally seem to recover within a few months.

The other popular Winter variety is Daphne Mezereum, commonly called the “February Daphne.”  The flowers are reddish purple and appear on the stiff, upright branches of this variety.  The flowers are often followed by bright red berries, which are attractive but believed to be poisonous.  This variety is deciduous, which means it loses its leaves over Winter.  It grows about 3 ½-4 feet tall and about 2 ½ feet wide.  Plant this variety in full sun.

I need to mention one other variety that flowers later in the Spring because it is the most popular of all Daphnes and is possibly the showiest and most fragrant as well.  It is often call the “Garland,” “Rock,” or “Rose” Daphne.  The variety is D, cneorum.  It is a lower-growing Daphne that is often used in rockery plantings or as a low foreground plant.  It only grows about a foot high and up to three feet wide.  The clusters of pink flowers (or red, in the case of the Ruby Glow) are intensely fragrant and cover the small evergreen foliage.  On a rare occasion the plants will flower again in the Autumn.  This variety also grows and flowers best when planted in full sun.

As I mentioned earlier, Daphne need to be planted in soil that is well drained.  Feed them with an organic rose-type fertilizer in Mid-February and/or May.  If you find it necessary to prune them, the best time is immediately after blooming.

If you’re interested in these plants and would like to add some to your garden, it is worth mentioning that nurseries and garden centers carry their widest selection of Daphne varieties when the plants are in bloom.  Don’t miss out on the timing!




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Ed’s Podcasts: Tool Care Clip of the Week: Planting Fruit Trees

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