Last updated on May 10th, 2022
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Daphne’s are a wonderful plant to grow for providing extra colour during the winter, especially when February hits and there is limited colour elsewhere in your garden.
But it’s not just the winter colour that makes this plant so popular it’s in fact, the beautiful scent that goes with it. These are great shrubs to place near paths or doorways because of the sweet fragrance they offer as well as the evergreen nature of them which gives you structure and colour all year round. In addition to enjoying the sweet aroma as you make your way along your garden path, you can cut the flowers and bring that fragrance inside with your mixed flowers.
Where should you plant Daphnes?
Plant shrubs in partial shade and alpine varieties in full sun
These are naturally woodland shrubs which means they need an area that has dappled shade without indirect sunlight. They are typically placed near doorways or paths so that you can enjoy the scent throughout the season.
You can also get smaller alpine Daphnes and these need to be planted in full sun and grow well in pots. The shrub varieties do not generally do well in pots, however, if you decide you want to try and grow one in a pot, use a deep pot and John Innes potting compost mixed with around a third of grit sand.
How to plant Daphne
Once you find the right area without too much direct sunlight, you need to verify that the conditions are right. Starting off with the perfect growing conditions at the beginning will go a long way towards keeping your plant healthy without any subsequent issues.
Pests and diseases tend to harm plants that are already suffering or stressed because of incorrect growing conditions. Daphne is a little prone to diseases, so getting the planting area right gives them a good start.
Plant them in well-drained moist soil
The soil needs to be moist but free-draining soil so fork in plenty of organic matter. If your garden is one with a lot of clay it won’t do well, so we recommend trying (as an alternative) a raised bed with an appropriate mixture of compost and potting soil.
If you have containers you can pick smaller specimens, most of which are alpine varieties, but make sure they have enough drainage and can be moved to areas like your front porch where they will receive plenty of sun.
Although not advised, if you want to try and grow a larger shrub variety in a container, be sure to pick containers that are deep enough for the large root system because they generally are deep-rooted shrubs.
How to plant a Daphne in the ground
- Dig a hole that is 50% larger than the pot in which your plant was supplied. The hole should be around the same depth and width as that pot, maybe a little deeper if you are planting a grafted plant.
- Soak your plant after removing it from its pot before placing it in the hole. At the same time, soak the hole so that both are thoroughly drenched. Before you place the plant in the hole be sure to tease the roots at the bottom so that they are better able to establish themselves.
- Place the plant in the centre and hold it upright so that you can display the best side wherever you plan to visit most and then backfill the area. Plant it to the same depth as it was in the pot, if you have a grafted plant, bury the graft union at least 5cm (2in) below soil level which will encourage better rooting and improve vigour.
- Pat the soil down firmly and mulch around the base of the plant with organic matter but keep it away from the stem.
These plants have a reputation for being a bit tricky to cultivate at the beginning, but once they get established, assuming you don’t disturb them, they will flower pretty regularly without any issues and best of all require very minimal pruning.
Keep the soil moist and don’t allow it to dry out
These plants do not enjoy extremes to any degree whether it’s drought or cold which is why you should be sure to water them regularly without overwatering them. Mulch should be applied in the spring with fertiliser in the spring and autumn to help protect the plant during winter and during its growing season.
Note: If at any time you are physically handling your plant it is recommended that you wear gloves. The plant is highly toxic if ingested and the sap it excretes is an irritant for the eyes and hands so exercise caution when handling it.
Very little pruning required
The regular maintenance required after your plant has established itself is pretty limited and takes the form of minimal pruning. You should trim them in the summer to get rid of any damaged stems and if you are cutting away flower stems for indoor floral displays, this should suffice for the pruning and only prune into green growth.
They do not respond well to hard pruning which is why a limited trim is sufficient.
If you live in an area that has a long cold weather snap you should add generous layers of mulch around the base to keep the roots protected. For plants being grown in pots and containers cover the container in bubble wrap and the plant with horticultural fleece.
Pests and Problems
One of the big problems you need to look out for is root rot. Poor drainage is one of the most common causes of this issue. It is, for this reason, you need to make sure you have good soil conditions before you plant your Daphne and that you never overwater.
Nutrient deficiency and overwatering
If you notice the foliage is dying back or discoloured, it could be indicative of a nutrient deficiency or overwatering. You will know which problem you are facing assuming you have regularly fertilised or not fertilised your plant and if you evaluate your watering schedule.
You should also keep your eyes peeled for honey fungus and fungal leaf spot. Again, fungal infections and viruses are symptomatic of an already stressed plant. A perfectly healthy and happy plant isn’t targeted by these issues anywhere near as often as unhealthy plants. So, if there’s bad circulation because the plant is too crowded, there’s not enough sunlight, or you’re waterlogging the plant, these can cause the plant to become stressed in which case it can succumb to fungal infections or root rot.
Treat fungal infections with a fungicide spray at first signs and remove any badly affected growth.
You can propagate from seed but these are not nearly as reliable as cuttings. The best way to propagate this plant is to take semi-ripe cuttings near the end of summer or by layering.
How to take semi-ripe cuttings
- If you take semi-ripe cuttings you should cut material just above a leaf node and place them in a plastic bag that has been sprayed so that it’s wet on the inside. You can seal the bag and leave it in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours, although we recommend planting cuttings straight away.
- Fill pots or trays with individual models in using a mixture of potting compost, shredded bark, and perlite. Water the pots beforehand so that the water flows through from the top to the bottom successfully and thoroughly moistens the entire mixture. You should allow it to drain before you put the cuttings in.
- Prepare the cuttings by removing all of the lower leaves so that there is nothing but two sets of fully grown leaves left at the top.
- Dip the end in hormone rooting powder (if you have it), make a hole in the compost and insert your cutting. Firm it in place and then cover it with a plastic bag that’s been tented so that it doesn’t come into direct contact with the cuttings. You can place several cuttings into your pots.
- Move the planted cuttings to an area that is well-lit but out of direct sunlight and keep an eye on the circulation you allow with the propagation lid or the plastic cover and how often you water. You don’t want the cuttings to dry out but it’s important that you never overwater because this can cause them to start to rot.
By layering, we are just encouraging it to root as it would naturally and taking advantage of this. This process requires much less work than taking a cutting. Below is the process to follow.
- Find a healthy branch that is long enough that you can pin it to the ground without breaking it so it’s still attached to the main plant or one that is already dipping toward the ground.
- Using a sharp pair of secateurs or a knife, remove the leaves from the stem and create a shallow cut on the stem directly beneath a bud. It is through this area that the rooting process will take place.
- Use a hooked wire to pin the bare section of stem directly to the ground. Remember to use gloves during this process so that the sap doesn’t irritate your skin.
- Water the area where you’ve pinned the stem to the ground and place something like a brick over it to make sure it remains stable throughout the growing season.
- Once it has fully grown and developed its root system, you will have a second plant that you can either cut away from the main plant or uproot. You can place somewhere else in your garden and cut it away from the main plant or leave it where it is.