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How to Grow & Care for Daphne’s

Daphne shrubs are popular for their intensely fragrant blooms. Those that spread their heady scent throughout the garden in late winter or early spring, when few other plants dare to bloom, are especially prized. Many of these shrubs are ideal for even the smallest gardens due to their compactness, slow growth, and low maintenance. Plant them in front of borders or along paths and doorways, where you can easily enjoy their strong scent. There are numerous species suitable for sun or shade, so most locations can be accommodated. Throughout the entire year, evergreen shrubs provide shelter for a wide variety of animals, including valuable locations for birds to nest early in the season.

Daphne x transatlantica Pink Eternal Fragrance - Evergreen Daphne's
Daphne x transatlantica Pink Eternal Fragrance – Evergreen Daphne’s

Growing Conditions

The majority of daphne’s thrive in soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline and has some shade. They prefer conditions that are free-draining and moist. Despite their usual toughness, they still prefer a warm, protected spot.

They dislike soil that is wet or dry. The majority prefer not to be moved once established in the ground due to their deep roots, making them unsuitable for long-term planting in containers. Pruning is a bad idea because it can cause die-back.

Planting Daphne’s

Plant daphne’s near your front door, garden gate, path, or patio so you can enjoy their scent fully. You can have fragrance almost all year long if you plant multiple types.

Daphne’s are suitable for most garden styles, formal and cottage, jungle and woodland, depending on the species. They work well in rock gardens, woodland areas, and mixed shrub borders. The majority are small and slow-growing, making them great for small gardens.

In general, daphne’s would rather be in the ground than in containers. They don’t like drought or waterlogged soil, preferring well-drained, moisture-retentive soil with a lot of organic matter. The ideal location is in partial shade or sun if the roots are shaded.

Daphne’s may still be able to grow in conditions that aren’t ideal. You can grow in a raised bed for better drainage if you have heavy soil. However, prior to planting, add a lot of organic matter, like well-rotted garden compost or manure. There are a variety of cultivars that can thrive in cold sites, containers, full sun, and deep shade. Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to check the RHS website to make sure the one you want is right for your garden.

How to Plant Daphne’s

Daphne’s do best when planted early in the spring. Dig in a lot of organic matter, like garden compost, before planting. Since daphne’s can’t stand to be dry, this will help to keep moisture in the soil, which is especially important in free-draining, sandy soil. When using grafted plants, make sure to bury the graft union at least 5 cm (2 inches) below the surface of the soil. This will make it easier for the roots to grow and strengthen the plant. When handling daphne’s, gloves are recommended due to their high toxicity and the sap’s potential to irritate the skin.

Planting in Containers

It is possible to grow smaller alpine species in containers. Use an equal amount of John Innes No. 3, a peat-free multipurpose compost, and coarse sharp sand in a deep container. Place containers where the sun won’t scorch because the roots need to stay cool.

Ongoing Care

Water frequently for at least the first year after planting until the plant is established. After that, daphne should only require water during periods of drought. In areas with low rainfall or fast-draining or dry soils, such as sandy soil, water frequently throughout the summer. Dwarf daphne’s can dry out quickly in containers, so they need to be watered often. Daphne’s don’t like sitting in soggy soil, so don’t overwater them.

Daphne’s shouldn’t need to be fed because of their deep roots and generally slow growth. You can feed alpine daphne’s in containers twice or three times during the growing season, from April to September. In the early spring, top-dress containers by replacing the top 5 cm (2 inches) of compost with fresh compost or mulch.

Apply a generous layer of garden compost and mulch to the surface of the soil following the planting. This will assist in maintaining soil moisture and preventing weed germination. Leave a hole of 7.5cm (3in) around the foundation of the stem, to abstain from spoiling. In subsequent years, mulch should be applied to damp soil each spring to keep the roots cool throughout the summer.

Daphne Root System

Daphnes, often misunderstood for their seemingly poor root system, possess a unique characteristic that sets them apart. While their roots may appear long and thin, it is actually their natural growth pattern. This peculiar feature can sometimes lead to misconceptions about the plant’s overall health and stability. To ensure the successful establishment of young daphnes, it is advisable to provide temporary support, such as staking during transit and for a brief period after planting. This extra care allows the plants to strengthen, eventually becoming self-supporting and thriving in their new environment.

Daphne root system

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to remove my daphne from its nursery pot to make it grow quicker?

“Your Daphne’s should bulk up and grow into a dense habit if allowed space and time to grow. Their current habit should change slowly after you have planted them out with the extra space and nutrients encouraging growth. Make sure to mulch them when you plant out in a mild spell to protect roots in the case of a late frost,” says Grace Lynch, a horticultural advisor for the customer support team at Gardening Express.

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Updated on June 22, 2023

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