The fragrance of Daphne odora, or Winter Daphne, is iconic and signifies the start of Spring in a way that few other plants can match. It is a shrub that brings energy and life to coincide with the lengthening days. Every garden deserves a Daphne.
Daphne Blooms & Fragrance
With an aroma that has a true floral sweetness combined with a bright, citrus high-note, these clusters of small, four-pointed flowers produce a shocking amount of fragrance for their size.
Beginning in late winter when most plants are still dormant, the buds of Daphne odora start to swell and by mid-February begin to open and reveal their sweet scent. Each flowering head begins blooming from the outermost ring of flowers in, producing fragrance and flowers for weeks, well into March.
While it is ideal to have winter daphne planted near your front door or a busy walkway to maximize fragrance, it can also be a great addition further into the garden, ensuring that you get out into the landscape to experience its heady aroma.
Winter Daphne Varieties
New cultivars of Winter Daphne are appearing each year and are garden-worthy additions to the tried-and-true classic varieties.
Daphne odora ‘Aureoamarginata’ – This classic Winter Daphne features variegated leaves that are deep green with yellow margins, and has white flowers with a pink reverse and a powerful, sweet fragrance.
Daphne odora ‘Marianni’ – A denser form similar to ‘Aureomarginata’ but with less spacing between leaf nodes, ‘Mariana’ is a Winter Daphne with strong variegation and small, tight fragrant flower heads.
Daphne odora ‘Perfume Princess’ – Bred to flower even earlier in the winter, this Winter Daphne has soft pink blooms atop solid, deep green foliage and a classic Daphne fragrance.
Daphne odora ‘Perfume Princess’ White – If the strong variegation and pink tones of ‘Aureomarginata’ have turned you away from Winter Daphne in the past, then ‘Perfume Princess’ White is the plant for you! Similar to ‘Perfume Princess’, this cultivar has clear white flowers on deep green leaves.
Daphne odora ‘Aureoamarginata
Daphne odora ‘Perfume Princess’ White
Daphne Growth Habit
Daphne odora are evergreen shrubs with long, narrow leaves that have a glossy appearance all year long. In extreme cold, Daphne may defoliate and lose its leaves, but they will regrow when the weather warms and flowering is complete.
Daphnes are low-growing shrubs that typically have open centers, revealing their smooth, grey-brown bark. Slow to grow, these long-lived plants ultimately reach 3–4 feet and can grow 4–5 feet wide. Daphne is deer and rabbit resistant, making them ideal for front gardens or unfenced areas. The form and habit of Daphne compliments a wide range of plant palettes and styles.
Recommendations for Planting Winter Daphne
Daphnes perform best in partial shade conditions where they are protected from harsh afternoon sun. In high heat or sunlight, the leaves may take on a scorched appearance.
Daphnes needs to be planted in soil that drains well, but that receives regular water even in the winter months. If the water is stagnant or poor draining, they will take on a wilted appearance and develop root rot. If planted under an eave, supplemental water in the winter may be needed.
Adding compost or pumice to clay soils can improve drainage and break up clay soils. Planting the top of the root ball slightly above the soil grade will also improve drainage in challenging conditions and ensure that the top layer of roots receive adequate oxygen.
Choosing the best location for planting from the start is important because daphne plants do not transplant well and don’t like to have their roots disturbed. When planting, do not loosen up or break up the rootball as you might with other plants—just place in the planting hole and backfill firmly with soil.
Daphne Care & Maintenance
Although sensitive to poor drainage, new plantings require regular watering for the first few years to develop a healthy root system.
An organic, all-purpose fertilizer like G&B Organics All Purpose can be applied in March as the plants finish flowering and prepare to put on new leafy growth.
Removing branches with blooms and bringing them indoors is one of the true pleasures of early Spring and should be done as often as you feel like it, with a priority on removing inward facing or crossing stems.
The best time for general pruning is directly after the flowering period and is typically done to reduce inward growth and improve the structure of the plant, rather than to restrict growth. Daphne plants should be hand-pruned down to a branching node and never sheared.