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DAPHNE SHRUBS


There are about 70 species of Daphne although only a few of them are commonly grown in the UK. They can broadly be split into two types; those which are classified as alpines and the larger more tolerant garden shrubs which are dealt with in the article. In the UK the commonly grown shrubby forms are either evergreen or semi-evergreen and have decidedly scented flowers.

Good quality and healthy Daphne shrubs are more expensive than the average shrub because propagation from seed is erratic and taking cuttings has a higher than normal rate failure with some species almost always failing. Often, they are propagated by grafting, typically onto Daphne tangutica which grows easily from seed. Once established, most Daphne shrubs grow away fine.

Top value Daphne shrubs

Use the checklist below to decide if a Daphne is suited to your preferences and garden conditions:

HOW TO PLANT A NEW DAPHNE


Follow the steps below to ensure your Daphne is planted correctly and in the best position:

Daphne odora
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Daphne odora

CARE OF DAPHNE


The primary care need for Daphne is to ensure that they have the correct amount of moisture at the roots. They will require watering in dry conditions but should never be water-logged. Too much water causes fungal diseases. If you remember, a handful or two twice a year of blood fish and bone will feed them all they need. Do not add any quick release nitrogen rich fertilisers.

They should not be pruned, a simple clear up of dead leaves and debris around the plant will do them fine. An annual layer of well rotted mulch around the plants in June time will conserve moisture and over time will help to keep the texture of the soil open and free draining.

Mantis Tillers and Rotovators

HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE DAPHNE


Daphne require no pruning and do not respond well to being pruned. Ensure they have sufficient space to grow to full size when they are planted.

GROWING DAPHNE IN CONTAINERS


Daphne are only suited for growing in deep containers because they need room for their roots to spread. We would advise only planting them in the open ground. 

We would suggest a Philadelphus / Mock Orange or Choisya as excellent alternatives for container growing. Good flowering potential and they can easily be kept to the size of the container.

PESTS AND DISEASES OF DAPHNE


Daphne are unlikely to suffer and problem with pests however, if you notice an aphid attack then it is best to treat it as soon as possible. The reason is that they can quickly encourage and spread fungal diseases.

The main disease of Daphne are fungal infections and general ill health causing browning or yellowing of leaves. These are almost always caused by environmental factors, the key on being too much or too little watering. Get the moisture correct at the roots and your Daphne should be problem free.

They are also susceptible to Honey Fungus but this is not specific to Daphne, so are many shrubs. If they are affected by this fungus it's best to remove the shrub and plant something which can resist it.

See also the comment at the end of this page dated 2nd January 2018.

BEST VARIETIES OF DAPHNE


DAPHNE ODORA


This is one of the most frequently planted varieties because it has a delicious scent. They have a height and spread of 1.5m / 5ft at maturity. The flowers are a delightful pink / white mix, produced in January to March. This is one of the more robust of the Daphne species and grows well in full sun or part shade. Avoid planting this species if you soil is alkaline.

It forms a neat, dense, rounded shape and requires very little care. It is hardy down to -10° / 14°F and is evergreen. A particularly good variety is Daphne odora Aureomarginata which has glossy green leaves with golden edges. This first gained an Award of Garden Merit in 2002 which was reconfirmed in the RHS 2013 trials.

This variety is available to buy online from the GardenFocused recommended suppliers by clicking here. Plants are sold with a one year guarantee

DAPHNE TRANSATLANTICA


Not so widely available as some other Daphnes but well worth seeking out because it flowers for longer than other species. The reason is that most Daphnes flower on stems produced the previous year but "transatlantica" flowers primarily on new wood. There is a primary flush of flowers in April to May followed by more flowers through to September.

The flowers have the same heady scent as "odora" above with lighter pink and white, trumpet shaped flowers. These are easy care shrubs and fully hardy to -15° / 5°F. The lance shaped leaves are dark green and glossy and are there for 10 months of the year. They are "semi-evergreen" rather than fully evergreen and will loose many of their leaves in winter though not all.

Daphne transatlantica
Daphne transatlantica

The RHS only got round to trialing this species in 2012 and have already given Daphne translatlantica (Eternal Fragrance) Blafra  an Award of Garden Merit. Other varieties of transatlantica are equally as good. This variety is available to buy online from the GardenFocused recommended suppliers by clicking here. We thoroughly recommend it.

DAPHNE BURKWOODII


Burkwoodii (a hybrid) has deeper coloured flowers than the two varieties above, typically light purple. The same delicious scent is present and in good years the main flush of flowers in May is often followed by more flowers in September. It also grows to around 1.5m / 5ft high but is very upright with a spread of only 1m / 3ft so is ideal for gardens where space is at a premium.

Hardy down to -15° / 5°F, get the moisture levels correct at the roots and this is an easy care shrub. It does naturally drop some leaves in summer time but these soon grow back. The variety Daphne burkwoodii Somerset is an excellent choice. This shrub is available to buy online from the GardenFocused recommended suppliers by clicking here.

DAPHNE SUSANNAE 'CHERITON'


A delightful low maintenance evergreen shrub which forms a dense cushion about 40cm / 16in high and 90cm / 3ft wide. Lavender-pink, highly scented flowers appear in early April (the picture below was taken in mid-April) and last through to May. The leaves are an attractive deep, glossy green.

It is ideal as a rockery plant or the front of a border which is very well-drained. In this type of position it is almost maintenance free. It is frost hardy down to -10C / 14F. It does best in full sun and prefers a neutral soil. This is a slow growing shrub and will take 10 years or more to reach full size.

Daphne x Susannae 'Cheriton' in April
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Daphne Susannae 'Cheriton'

DAPHNE PROPAGATION


Daphne can be propagated from seed, cuttings or grafting. They are more difficult compared to most other shrubs and some simply don't grow from seed or cuttings. Even grafting is a slightly complicated process and for that reason we refer you to this article here about the grafting process.
 

DAPHNE SUMMARY


Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Daphne.
 
HARDY 5 star hardiness rating(to -10° / 14°F) variable
   
CLAY SOIL No
SANDY SOIL Yes 
   
DRY SOIL No
   
SHADE No, partial or full sun
   
EVERGREEN Yes (variable)
   
EASY CARE 3.5 easy care rating
SMALL GARDENS Yes
   
POT / CONTAINER No
   
FLOWERING 4 star hardiness rating
   
FLOWER TIME Variable (late winter to late spring)

Sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article above. Our new
Daphne comment / question and answer page
lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of that page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.

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