plant of the week – Daphne odora

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

 daphne odora aur2

This was the first daphne I ever grew so I have a bit of a soft spot for it. While it is not the most spectacular in appearance it is certainly in the top ranks for fragrance and the pale pink flowers that open from deepest pink buds are showy in their way even though they are small compared to the foliage. All but the weakest shoots end in a cluster of these buds that usually reveal themselves in spring as the green leafy scales open. I say usually because I would normally expect the blooms to open in March but for some reason mine has decided to open early this year with the first flowers entrancing me with their sweet, floral but citrussy fragrance already.

Daphne odora is an evergreen shrub, slowly achieving about 1m high and across over a decade or more. Strangely,  the hardiest and most common in the trade is ‘Aureomarginata’ which, as the name suggests, has leaves with a yellow margin. I am a fan of most variegated plants but this is not one I would plant for its variegation because it is too subtle. Curiously, however, this variegation seems associated with cold-hardiness and this is supposed to be hardy to minus 10C. Even so it deserves a sheltered spot and mine is in a pot of John Innes No 2 compost.

Daphnes are famous for being finicky and hard to grow but this is one of the easiest to please and although they all hate pruning, this one is at least tolerant of you picking off shoots with flower clusters so you can enjoy the scent of the flowers indoors. No pruning is necessary though.

It is supposed to be happiest in an acid soil but providing the soil is not too alkaline it is not fussy, hence the John Innes compost I put it in.

daphne odora aur

Find it a sheltered place where it gets sun for part of the day, ideally west-facing, and it will be happy. A sunny, south-facing spot tends to lead to rather yellow, scorched foliage, though it will bloom profusely.

If you have lots of money to splash around there are some newly introduced, very showy variegated forms now available which are very different and are so bright that the flowers almost seem to be over-egging the look.


Geoff’s rating 7/10

Garden rating 6/10

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4 Comments on “plant of the week – Daphne odora”

  1. garden98110
    January 14, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    Thank you for posting this snap of your first daphne. Once one has tended a garden with a daphne odora, it is difficult to imagine a garden without this familiar Spring-time scent. It is especially helpful to see your timely pics. One suspects our daphne odora are about a month away from blooming. – The Healing Garden gardener

    • thebikinggardener
      January 25, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      I agree about not wanting to be without the scent of daphne. The most common is still D. mezereum, I think because it is propagated in large quantities by the Dutch, but although it was the first i tried to grow it is not my favourite and so often riddled with virus. My ‘odora’ is now in full flower and competing with the sarcococcas for my attention.

      • garden98110
        January 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

        One of the most pleasing surprises of WordPress is the opportunity to learn so much so quickly about plants. Thank you for this useful information about D. mezereum. In our neck of the woods one sees most frequently the Daphne Odora ‘Aureomarginata’. This is evergreen, very fragrant, with leaves bordered by a light colored margin. This seems very hardy and survives longer and develops larger than all other varieties. One variety of Summer Ice planted three years ago grew nicely, also evergreen, with winter red berries. This plant suffered SPD (Sudden Plant Death). We are testing a new cultivar of Summer Ice.

        The Healing Garden is planted on ruderal landscape – tarmack and concrete backfill over hardpan. We have a temperate rainforest climate in which some plants thrive. Our soils have traces everywhere of volcanic ash and rock, because we live in the ‘Ring of Fire’. For millennium predators in the rainforests have added to the humus. The great bears and raptors bring the salmon from the ocean to the roots of plants. Daphne prefer a carefully chosen and prepared site. We are especially proud of our daphne, growing in a ruderal landscape and surrounded by parking lots. It is less than a hundred years since the ancient forest disappeared and therefore the land is still very fertile. Even in parking lots! – The Healing Garden gardener

        • thebikinggardener
          January 25, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

          Thank you for your comments – your garden sounds fascinating. I always find that D. odora becomes straggly in old age but no daphnes are very long lived. For a bigger daphne I would recommend D. bholua – I would recommend it anyway. The fairly new D. x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is worth a try too – it is easy to grow and flowers for most of the year though it somehow doesnt have the ‘wow’ factor for me. But that could be me being awkward and finding pleasure in plants that are temperamental!

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