Daphne is a genus of 70 beautiful evergreen shrubs native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. A few species and hybrids are commonly grown for landscape cultivation. For example, Daphne x burkwoodii hybrids are highly sought after for their exotic beauty (like Crepe Myrtles). The plant produces white to light pink tubular flowers in spring or early winter, followed by small red berries.
Daphne is a fantastic choice for small yards, serving as excellent foundation plants or specimens for shrub borders.
Most common Daphne shrubs:
- Daphne ‘Burkwoodii’
- Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postill’
- Daphne ‘Pink Fragrance’
- Daphne ‘Darjeeling’
- Daphne ‘Aureomarginata’
- Daphne mezereum var. rubra.
Caring for Daphne plants requires a delicate balance of maintaining moist but well-drained soil, and being aware that they are not the easiest shrubs to grow (sorry, beginner gardeners).
These plants, unlike the Aloe Vera plants, are known to suddenly die without an obvious cause, so it’s best to think of them as temporary and plant them in an area that allows for easy removal. However, if the right balance of conditions is achieved, well-established Daphne shrubs can be relatively easy to care for, requiring minimal maintenance and pruning.
It’s important to pick the type of Daphne shrub that is best suited for the environment and zone, and when planting, the root crown should be elevated about 1/2 inch by setting it slightly higher than it was growing in the nursery pot.
- Soil: These plants require well-drained, but moist soil with plenty of compost and a slightly acidic pH level. Keeping it cool with a three-inch layer of mulch in the summer is recommended. Keep in mind, that it’s crucial to ensure that the soil does not hold excess water, as Daphnes cannot tolerate standing in it.
- Light: Daphne plants generally bloom best in part shade conditions, although some varieties can tolerate full sun. Varieties grown for their variegated leaves will still display well in relatively shady conditions, but flowering may become a pipedream.
- Water: During the first year of growth, Daphne shrubs should be watered at least once a week or whenever the top inch of soil is dry. After that, established plants still need a balance of consistent moisture and good drainage, with at least 1 inch of water per week.
- Temperature: Daphne shrubs can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9, but in zones 4 and 5 they should be considered semi-evergreen or deciduous, as they tend to lose their leaves and grow new foliage in early spring.
Give it a read
To propagate Daphne shrubs, take semi-green cuttings from healthy new growth in late summer.
- Cut the severed branch into 4- to 6-inch segments, each containing mature leaves, and remove the leaves from the lower half of each cutting.
- Plant each cutting in a mixture of potting soil and perlite, water thoroughly, cover the pot in plastic, and place it in bright indirect light.
- When roots develop, transplant them into a large pot with well-draining potting mix and keep growing in the container for a full year or more before planting it in the landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Daphne need sun or shade?
Most Daphne plants produce optimal blooms when planted in areas with partial shade, although a few types can withstand full sun exposure.
Are Daphnes toxic to cats?
Yes, daphnes are toxic to cats. All parts of the plant, including flowers, leaves, and berries, contain toxic compounds that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.
What is the lifespan of a daphne plant?
Even though Daphne plants can live up to a decade, they tend to die without any signs. Just make sure you are keeping their soil well-drained but slightly moist and keep them out of direct sunlight.
Does Daphne need a lot of water?
To keep your daphnes happy and healthy, make sure to water them regularly, but not too much as they don’t like being too dry or too wet. A good tip is to use a generous amount of mulch during the spring and autumn seasons to give them some extra nourishment and protect their roots.