9 Flowering Daphne Varieties For Your Landscape

Flowering daphne carries divine fragrance, flowers, and foliage. These attractive woody shrubs are multi-season jewels in the shade garden. In this article, gardening expert Katherine Rowe explores versatile flowering daphne varieties for your best fragrance-garden selections.

A daphne shrub with small purple flowers, which have a delicate and vibrant appearance, accompanied by small, glossy green leaves that create a contrasting backdrop.


Flowering daphnes are deliciously-scented shrubs with showy flowers on attractive evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous forms. They are jewel boxes in the shade garden, brimming with multi-season appeal. The captivating perfume may catch you first, leaving you looking for the source, often from compact plants loaded with blooms.

Some daphne varieties bloom in winter through spring, delighting the cold-season garden with an intoxicating fragrance conjuring subtropical climes. Other varieties flower heavily in spring and lightly repeat bloom through fall for seasonal bursts of fragrance and color.

The Daphne genus holds nearly 50 species of woody shrubs from Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Most bloom in red, pink, purple, and white shades with clusters of star-shaped, tubular blooms. Leaves are attractive even when plants aren’t in flower, and many variegated options add an elegant touch.

A Note on Growing Flowering Daphne

A close-up of a cluster of lavender daphne flowers, showcasing their delicate petals surrounded by green leaves, highlighting the intricate details of the plant.
Plant flowering daphne where its fragrance can be enjoyed.

Flowering daphne can be finicky, and the proper location makes all the difference. Plants are slow to establish and don’t like to be disturbed once planted. In Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, expert plantsman Michael Dirr advises, “Do not move, prune, or abuse in any way.” We have our stories of sudden daphne declines, but the rewards make planting them worth the trial and error.

Consistently moist soils with good drainage and organic material are essential, though plants are somewhat drought-tolerant when established. Daphne tolerates more sun in cool climates with moist soils but is best in dappled light to shade. Plants are well-suited to raised plantings and containers, which is helpful in areas with poor soils or extreme winter exposures.

Make sure to plant flowering daphne where you’ll enjoy its fragrance. It’s ideal as a woodland specimen, border planting, hedge, foundation addition, or potted arrangement. The pollen and nectar-rich flowers attract bees in a season when many other blooming plants are dormant.

If ingested, daphnes are toxic to people and animals, so be sure to plant away from curious nibblers. The sap can irritate the skin on contact.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

A sunlit 'Aureomarginata' daphne shrub with purple flowers is nestled among green leaves, set against a backdrop of soft, feathery foliage gently swaying in the breeze.
This plant matures in over fifteen years.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

This winter daphne variety is elegant in leaf, flower, and fragrance. Deep purple-pink blossoms emerge in late January to March, and their intensely sweet perfume may draw you in before you even notice the lovely blooms. Long, glossy green leaves have creamy yellow edges.

D. odora is native to China and Japan. ‘Aureomarginata’ is a bit more winter hardy than the species, down to about 10°F (-12°C). Where not hardy, plants overwinter in containers in sheltered areas protected from winter winds and freezing temperatures.

Other striking variegated D. odora cultivars include ‘Maejima’, ‘Moonlight Parfait’, and ‘Banana Split’. Leaves have wide foliar margins in ivory-yellow tones contrasting beautifully against deep green and purple-pink bloom clusters. ‘Alba’ features crisp white flowers.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

A close-up of lavender-hued 'Jacqueline Postill' daphne flowers with green leaves, set against a softly blurred background featuring additional blossoms in a similar color palette.
This award-winning plant grows slowly to a mature height of 12 feet.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 8-12’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Daphne bholua is native to the Himalayas. The semi-evergreen woodland shrubs have a strong upright habit and leathery, oval leaves with some ruffled edging. ‘Jacqueline Postill,’ a famed English selection, bears clusters of fragrant pink flowers brushed with white from December through February. Black berries follow the flowers.

D. bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ was cultivated in 1982 by English hybridizer Alan Postill of Hillier Nurseries, who named the beautiful plant after his wife. The species D. bholua made its way to England in the 1930s, leading to further cultivation. The hardiest and most successful varieties came from high elevations, and ‘Jacqueline Postill’ springs from the hardy stock of a parent selection that grows at 12,000 feet.

‘Jacqueline Postill’ daphne is a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit. Over a long growing period, plants reach 12 feet high. They are slow-growing and may take fifteen or more years to reach this mature size. Young plants take pruning well to produce bushier forms.

D. bholua, also called paper daphne or Nepalese paper plant, has been used for its bark for over a thousand years. The thin layer of outer bark is useful in paper-making, and the thicker interior goes toward making rope. Plants also have medicinal uses. If you’re lucky enough to find one to add to your collection, it will enchant the winter garden.

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’

White 'Carol Mackie' daphne flowers bloom on variegated green leaves, with a soft focus background of lush greenery, creating a serene and natural scene.
Creamy pink flowers bloom in late spring on this plant.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Carol Mackie’ is a low-growing deciduous daphne variety with beautiful foliage. Its gray-green leaves have creamy white margins and brighten shady gardens, and the leaves hold well into December. A profusion of fragrant pale pink flower clusters emerges in late spring. The masses of tubular, star-shaped flowers carry a heady perfume that wafts through the garden. 

‘Carol Mackie’ is known for its striking variegated foliage and cold hardiness. It’s a sport (genetic mutation) of ‘Somerset’ and named for Carol Mackie, who discovered it growing in her New Jersey garden in 1962. This daphne variety has a dense, rounded form. Small and narrow leaves look fresh all season.

The parent plant D. x burkwoodii ‘Somerset’ is another wonderful flowering daphne variety and a hybrid developed by English plantsmen and brothers Albert and Arthur Burkwood in the early 1900s. A Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit recipient, Somerset produces creamy pink flowers in late spring, a pretty complement to the bright green leaves. Like ‘Carol Mackie,’ the plants have a slow-growing, mounding habit.

Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’

A close-up of ‘Perfume Princess’ daphne flowers displaying lavender and purple hues, nestled among lush green leaves, capturing the delicate beauty and vibrant colors of the blossoms.
These blooms appear on branch tips and mature stems.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne x ‘DapJur01’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

‘Perfume Princess’ is a fragrant beauty with a higher tolerance for heat and sun. Evergreen shrubs have an upright form with spreading, slightly arching branches. Long leaves are deep, glossy green. Beginning mid-winter, dark pink buds open to rich pinky rose flowers that age to white. 

‘Perfume Princess’ is one of the earliest-flowering daphnes and among the longest-lasting in flower, blooming through spring. This hybrid is a cross of Daphne odora and Daphne bholua with unique traits of large flowers that bloom abundantly and carry a sweet fragrance with light citrus notes.

Blooms emerge on the tips of branches and along mature stems. Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ makes a beautiful foundation plant or specimen in dappled shade conditions.

Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’

Vibrant purple 'Eximia' daphne flowers up close, their delicate petals and clustered blossoms in sharp focus against a blurred background of lush green foliage.
This is an award-winning daphne recognized by the Royal Horticultural Society.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-30”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This low-growing daphne, also called rose daphne or garland flower, hails from rocky outcrops and mountains of Europe and southwest Russia. ‘Eximia’ forms a carpet of evergreen foliage and is covered with red buds opening to bright pink and rose flowers in April and May. Small leaves are dark green to blue-green on a spreading mat.

D. cneorum ‘Eximia’ is another award-winning daphne variety through the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Use this as a sweet woody groundcover, container specimen,  or rock garden choice.

D. cneorum is noted for its cold hardiness, sometimes even down to USDA zone 3 with winter protection. Once established, plants are relatively drought-tolerant. The petite, fragrant blooms repeat sporadically throughout the summer and especially in fall. 

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’

An 'Eternal Fragrance' daphne shrub, its emerald leaves glistening, adorned with vivid clusters of purple blossoms, basking in the warm embrace of sunlight, exuding a sweet, lingering fragrance.
Ideal for small gardens, this shrub offers repeat-flowering beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne x transatlantica ‘Blafra’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

‘Eternal Fragrance’ produces white flowers with a pink blush and golden centers from May to October. It flowers especially heavily in early spring and repeats sporadically for months to come. The heavenly fragrance lasts with each successive bloom.

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is a rounded shrub with open branching and a compact form. Its white flowers contrast beautifully with dark green elliptical leaves that reach two inches long and are semi-evergreen depending on the climate.

This RHS Award of Garden Merit winner is a tidy little shrub whose repeat-flowering is ideal for making a significant impact in small garden spaces. D. x transatlantica is a cross between D. caucasica and D. collina. D. caucasica features cold-hardy plants with upright growth, deciduous leaves, and white flowers that bloom in spring and summer. Evergreen with a compact habit, D. collina features deep pink blooms.

‘Eternal Fragrance’ is an English introduction by skilled hybridizers Robin and Susan White. Robin White sought an unfussy, more adaptable daphne for the home garden, and ‘Eternal Fragrance’ was the result. White also penned Daphnes—A Practical Guide for Gardeners, a valuable resource for growing these beauties.

Daphne mezereum

A branch of February daphne, vibrant with purple blooms, contrasts against a soft blur of additional blossoms, capturing the delicate elegance of early spring in its vivid hues and graceful form.
February daphne prefers full sun in cooler regions.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne mezereum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-7

Daphne mezereum, commonly called February daphne, is an upright, bushy shrub that reaches three to five feet tall and wide. In early spring, carmine-pink and lilac flowers emerge in clusters along upper stems before leaves appear on this deciduous or semi-evergreen daphne. Green fruits follow flowering and transition to yellow or red later in the season.

Daphne mezereum is native to woodland forests and marginal areas in parts of Europe and western Asia. Colonists brought it to the U.S., where the species naturalized in Canada, New England, and the upper Midwest. It is considered invasive in some northern states, such as areas of Maine and Massachusetts.

February daphne grows in full sun in northern climates with moist soil. In warmer zones, it needs partial shade for protection against scorch.

Daphne odora

Clusters of winter daphne blossoms, their delicate pink petals illuminated by sunlight against a backdrop of blurred flowers, creating a serene, floral scene with vibrant hues and soft focus.
Daphne’s myth reflects her transformation into a laurel tree in Greek mythology.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne odora
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Daphne odora is a classic flowering daphne variety, commonly called winter daphne, because it blooms from March through April. The species boasts the most powerful fragrance among daphnes. 

Buds are deep purple-pink among dark blue-green, glossy leaves that spiral around stems for a whorled look. Intensely perfumed lavender, pink, and ivory star-shaped flowers emerge in late winter. 

Winter daphne is attractive even when not in flower. Mounding forms are dense (especially when exposed to more sun) and open-branched.

The genus name Daphne reflects the ancient Greek word for “laurel.” It also reflects a story in Greek mythology where Daphne, a nymph, was transformed into a laurel tree by her river-god father to be spared an unwanted kiss from the god Apollo.

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

Lavender-hued 'Summer Ice' daphne flowers with variegated leaves, standing out against a blurred backdrop of other shrubs in a garden, capturing the essence of summer's delicate beauty in full bloom.
This plant’s semi-evergreen leaves drop in cold winters.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

‘Summer Ice’ glistens in the shade garden with slightly variegated leaves and buff, pinky-white flowers with yellow eyes. Gray-green leaves feature a buttery white trim. 

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’ blooms profusely in spring and lightly throughout the summer until frost. The cool temperatures of fall may see another flush. 

Growers note that ‘Summer Ice’ is unfussy in relation to other daphnes. It may be more tolerant of varying soils, light, and moisture conditions, though the primary cultural requirements remain. Plants grow best in organically rich soils with extremely good drainage and protection from harsh sun and winter extremes.

Plants reach three to four feet tall and four to six feet wide (taller than ‘Eternal Fragrance’) with a moderate growth rate. Dense branching creates an attractive, leafy form with multi-season appeal. ‘Summer Ice’ is semi-evergreen; leaves drop in cold winters.

Final Thoughts

Flowering daphne is a gorgeous addition to the shade garden or woodland border. In the right location, daphne is low-maintenance as long as essential cultural requirements are in place. These depend on the plant variety, climate zone, soil moisture, and drainage. A sandy, loamy soil with organic richness is ideal. 

Sometimes, daphnes are short-lived shrubs, while others grow slowly for decades. In either case, the delight they bring to the garden is worth incorporating into your collection.

Feature these lovely daphne varieties in containers for up-close enjoyment along walkways and near seating areas. The deliciously sweet fragrance, sometimes spicy or citrus-filled, will delight the senses. The pretty flowers, leaves, and fruits bring all-season interest.

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