Daphne has romance and enticed many gardeners with their sweet fragrance and beautiful pastel blooms. They have also challenged a few of us at times and refused to grow. Whether you have succeeded or have been left defeated in growing one in your garden, I encourage you, if you are the later of the two options, to try again, don’t give up, as they can be grown successfully if given the right treatment.
Native to China, Daphne odora has been cultivated since the Song Dynasty, 960 – 1279AD, and was then later on spread throughout Japan and Korea. Today they can be found all over the world throughout many keen gardeners landscapes. It is important to note that these plants originally came from environments with humus-rich, moist soils with good drainage. To give them the best head start in our gardens, trying to achieve a soil texture with these key points is one step in the direction of success.
Daphne grows best in soil with a pH reading of 5.5 – 6.5, acidic. If your soil is too alkaline, adding horticulture grade sulphur will bring the soil pH reading closer to acidic.
Clay Soil: Holds a lot of nutrients, moisture but they can also become overly compacted, making it difficult to dig into and for plants roots to establish into as well. Usually, clay soils will need cultivation every few years, whether this is done by forking the soil or turning the soil over with a shovel. This will help make it more friable, also adding organic compost to the soil will also assist in this process. Sandy Soil: Sandy soils are very quick draining and hold very little to no nutrients, which isn’t ideal for Daphne. Adding plenty of well-aged organic compost and animal manures to the soil will improve the soil structure over time, making it more friable and having more microbial activity. Don’t add pet manure to the soi as this could potentially contaminate the soil; instead, look for what is sold in horticulture stores such as cow, chicken manures etc.
Aspect: Daphne odora grows best in a sheltered, shaded position protected from the hot afternoon sun to prevent foliage burn. Plant under the canopy of trees, morning sun or in potted containers. Suppose you have a blank area next to your front door that could be a prime position for one of these as you would be rewarded with the sweet fragrance from the flowers throughout your home. We do have sun-tolerant varieties available which can be grown in the afternoon sun without the risk of burning, Daphne Eternal Fragrance.
Why So Sensitive?
They have gotten a reputation for being sensitive, especially if their environmental conditions change rapidly. So, what does this mean? If they are given excessive amounts of water and do not have adequate drainage, they could suffer from root rot in the wrong aspect; suddenly exposed to more sunlight or given the wrong type of fertilisers, it could all result in the failure of the plants’ longevity.
When planting a Daphne, DO NOT ‘tickle’ or ‘ruffle’ their roots, resulting in the plant’s collapse and death. They can be grown in pots successfully and re-potted again later; transplantation success comes down to how they are handled.
These are low maintenance and only require tip pruning throughout the year. Daphne dislikes being pruned heavily; all that needs to be removed are old flowers after blooming and any broken braches which might occur throughout its life in the garden.
Daphne can be a fussy eater as they are sensitive to chemical activated fertilisers. Using pellet fertilisers and foods specially formulated for them is recommended. We use Harry’s Daphne Food in the nursery.
Apply fertiliser when first planted and again in the peak growing and flowering seasons. Apply to the plant’s drip line, look to where the outer growth foliage is and apply the food directly to the soil surface below that point.
Their flowers emerge in Winter when not a lot else is in bloom, and despite their fussy requests, believe it or not, they are low maintenance and only require a little bit of assistance throughout the year.