How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Daphne Shrubs

Daphne shrubs enchant the shade garden with their sweet fragrance, flowers, and foliage. Their charm warrants a spot in any collection, whether they live for a decade or just a few years. Here, gardening expert Katherine Rowe explores how to plant, grow, and care for daphne shrubs.

A close-up of a daphne shrub showcasing lush green leaves contrasting with delicate purple blooms, offering a harmonious blend of colors in a natural setting, evoking tranquility and botanical beauty.


Flowering daphnes are deliciously-scented shrubs with showy blooms on attractive evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous forms. They are gems in the shade garden and offer multi-season appeal. The perfume will capture you first and send 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. Other varieties flower heavily in spring and lightly repeat bloom through fall for seasonal bursts of fragrance and color.


A close-up of purple daphne blooms, nestled amidst slender green leaves, captivate with their delicate allure, whispering tales of spring's gentle embrace in a harmonious dance of color and form.
The Daphne is a woody shrub belonging to the Thymelaeceae family.
Plant Type Woody shrub
Family Thymelaeaceae
Genus Daphne
Species spp.
Native Area Europe, Asia, North Africa
Exposure Full sun to full shade
Height 2-12’
Watering Requirements Medium
Pests and Diseases Scale, aphids, botrytis, leaf spot, Southern blight, tobacco ringspot virus, Verticillium wilt
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Sandy loams, neutral to slightly acidic
Hardiness Zone 4-9

What are Daphne Shrubs?

Daphne are woody, flowering shrubs with fragrant flowers. Plants are usually compact, making good specimens for small garden spaces and containers. Slow-growing beauties, daphne shrubs bring a touch of the exotic to the shady landscape in fragrance, flower, and foliage.


Its star-shaped flowers with sweet fragrance bloom in winter and spring.

Flowering daphne shrubs feature attractive foliage, dark green and glossy, or with variegation in creamy white margins. Leaves spiral around stems for a whorled appearance. Compact varieties have dense foliage and a spreading habit, while others grow upright with open branching. Plants are evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous, depending on the variety and winter climate.

In the winter or spring, bursts of star-shaped, tubular flowers emerge with an intensely sweet fragrance, sometimes spicy or with citrus notes. Some varieties bloom in late winter to spring, while others flush heavily in spring and continue to flower sporadically until fall. Flowers are usually shades of red, pink, purple, or white, sometimes with yellow eyes. The nectar and pollen-rich blooms attract bees at a time when many plants are dormant.

The blooms lead to small berries that begin green and transition to yellow, red, or black in the fall. The fruits support birds foraging late in the season. Daphne is toxic to people and animals if ingested, and the sap can irritate skin. (Birds aren’t affected by plant toxins).

Flowering daphnes make lovely foundation plantings, specimens, and container arrangements. They’re beautiful in woodland plantings and brighten dappled shade gardens with their color and fragrance.

Native Area

Vibrant purple daphne blossoms begin to bloom, nestled amidst delicate foliage, captivating with their subtle elegance and promise of impending spring.
Flowering daphne shrubs were introduced to England by explorers and botanists.

The Daphne genus includes nearly 50 species of woody shrubs from Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Its habitat includes Mediterranean-type climate conditions, with mild, arid summers and cool, wet winters. Other daphnes are native to the Himalayas, growing at high altitudes. Some varieties originate from eastern Europe and Russia’s rocky outcrops and pine woodlands.

Daphne’s natural growing areas reflect cool climates with low humidity and fast-draining soils. Extreme winter conditions and hot, direct sun and high humidity damage plants if not protected. Cold-hardiness is variety-specific, with some hardy to USDA zones 3-4. 

Explorers and botanists introduced flowering daphne shrubs to England, and colonists brought the plants to the United States. Two species of daphne, D. mezereum, and D. laureola, naturalize in parts of the northern U.S. and Canada and are invasive in certain areas.


A daphne shrub, bereft of blooms, rises proudly amidst grass and scattered, withered leaves, its foliage poised in quiet anticipation under the sun's gentle caress.
Growing in containers requires matching pot size to plant maturity for optimal growth.

Choosing the right garden site for daphne from the start is the key to its best success. Daphne is slow to establish, and its roots don’t respond well to being disturbed once planted.

Flowering daphne shrubs grow in the ground and containers. Containers make good options for areas with poor soils or cold winter temperatures and winds. Pots also make it easy to enjoy the fragrance, flowers, and foliage up close.

If opting to grow daphne shrubs in containers, make sure the pot size is related to the mature size of the plant to accommodate its roots. A large container is best so that plants grow undisturbed.

Daphne makes a beautiful addition to woodland arrangements, winter gardens, pollinator plantings, fragrance and sensory gardens, and rock gardens. They’re usually available for purchase as grafted plants and may be expensive because of the specialty and skill involved in propagating and growing daphne.


White daphne flowers, delicate and pure, bloom gracefully amidst green leaves, illuminated by the golden rays of sunlight, creating a serene and enchanting natural scene.
Protect them from winter winds by growing in sheltered areas.

Plant daphne shrubs in the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate, and there’s plenty of natural moisture. These mild conditions give the plants time to settle in before summer and winter temperature variations. Generally, daphne prefers a protected area that is warm and free of winds.

In areas with cold winters, protect daphne from exposure to winter winds by growing them in a sheltered area or on the south side of a house. Try overwintering containers in a protected space like a porch, garage, or basement.

How to Grow

Daphne shrubs can be finicky, but they aren’t necessarily high maintenance. They just have specific cultural requirements that allow them to grow with the best health and vigor.

Many daphne varieties grow slowly, with some newer varieties having a more moderate growth rate. Some are long-lived in the landscape, while others live for only a few years. Sometimes, daphne declines quickly without apparent rhyme or reason.

In the right spot, with regular moisture, daphne shrubs need little else. Their unique multi-season appeal is well worth adding to the plant collection.


Clusters of purple daphne flowers amidst lush variegated leaves, creating a harmonious blend of color and texture in a garden setting, offering a striking visual spectacle to behold.
Daphne shrubs do well in dappled light or morning sun with afternoon shade.

Depending on the variety and climate zone, daphne shrubs grow best in partial shade. In cool climates, they tolerate full sun as long as soils remain moist. In more southern climates, they need protection from direct sun to prevent leaf scorch. Some varieties, like D. mezereum, grow best in full shade.

Dappled light or morning sun with afternoon shade is a good setting for most species of daphne, which make excellent woodland border plantings.


A close-up of purple daphne flowers clustered together, set against a backdrop of  green leaves dappled with moisture, creating a serene and captivating natural scene.
Established daphnes are moderately drought tolerant but dislike prolonged wetness.

Daphne grows and flowers best with regular watering in warm seasons or periods of prolonged dryness. Water regularly throughout the growing season, especially in the first year as plants get established. Aim for about one inch per week or when the top two inches of soil are dry. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Check daphnes in containers often in the summer, as containers dry out more quickly than ground soils.

Once established, daphne is moderately drought tolerant. And while most daphne do best with even moisture, they won’t thrive in prolonged wet conditions. They do tolerate coastal conditions and mild salt.


A pair of gardening tools, featuring wooden handles, resting on rich, dark loamy soil, ready for planting and cultivating vibrant greenery in a nurturing garden environment.
They can adapt to various types with good drainage and organic matter.

Flowering daphne shrubs thrive in well-draining soils with even moisture, with soils drying out slightly between waterings (but without roots drying out completely). They prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 – 8.0 or less.

Sandy, loamy soils offer the fast-draining and organically rich qualities that daphne requires. With amendments and good drainage, daphne adapts to a variety of soil types. Soils with high organic matter improve aeration, moisture retention, and drainage while providing nutrients. 

If you have heavy soils like clay, opt for a container or raised bed planting. Some varieties, like D. mezereum, may grow in heavy soils with added organic amendments. Use a well-draining soil mix amended with bark or compost for improved aeration and drainage in containers.

Temperature and Humidity

A daphne shrub adorned with clusters of rich purple flowers, contrasted beautifully by its lush variegated leaves, adding a lively touch to the garden landscape.
Ensure proper air circulation in high humidity to prevent rot.

Depending on the variety, daphne grows in both warm and cold climates. Cold-hardy varieties include D. cneorum, D. x burkwoodii, and D. x transatlantica.

Plants respond to cold temperatures by dropping their leaves. In mild climates, the plants are usually evergreen or semi-evergreen. They are more likely to be deciduous in cold winter climates.

In areas with high humidity, ensure plenty of air circulation around plants. Humidity can lead to rot issues and decline in overly wet conditions.

For container-grown daphne, ensure roots stay cool and shaded in the summer to avoid baking and drying out. As noted, container plants benefit from protection against winter conditions.


An open compost bin with a gardening fork resting inside, ready for mixing organic materials to decompose naturally, fostering nutrient-rich soil for healthier plants and sustainable gardening practices.
Add fresh compost in spring by removing the top layer of soil.

Due to their slow growth and deep roots, fertilizer isn’t essential for daphne shrubs. Too much fertilizer leads to soft, weak growth, susceptible to breakage from winds or heavy snow. The organic amendments in the soil provide plant nutrients.

To enrich containers, top dress with new compost in the spring. Remove the top layer of existing soil to make room for the new.


Dew-kissed purple daphne flowers and leaves glisten under soft light, evoking morning serenity and nature's delicate beauty, inviting a serene moment of contemplation amidst gentle hues and intricate details.
Prune daphne plants cautiously to avoid dieback and maintain form.

With their slow growth, daphne shrubs require little maintenance. Prune dead or damaged canes in early spring. If variegated plants show entirely green branches, remove them so the plants don’t revert.

Other pruning is a little risky; it may cause dieback, but it also benefits larger varieties that become susceptible to breakage by keeping a bushy form. The best course is to prune daphne if necessary. 

Prune large upright plants like Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ to maintain form and prevent potential breakage by cutting back ¼ of top growth in early spring. Or, prune after flowering. Take care not to tear bark when cutting.

Add a layer of mulch to the area surrounding daphnes at planting and again each spring. Make sure not to mulch too closely to the stems so rot doesn’t occur. Mulch keeps roots cool in the summer and retains moisture. It insulates in the winter and suppresses weeds year-round. As mulch breaks down, it adds nutrients to the surrounding soil.


Daphne shrubs propagate best through hardwood cuttings, though they develop slowly and may take a few years to become robust plants. Cuttings may take up to a year to root. If you’re up for the challenge, take cuttings in the summer on semi-green growth (where old wood meets new).


A close-up of a purple daphne flower and its budding companions, nestled amidst lush green leaves, showcasing the intricate beauty of nature's delicate and colorful creations.
Propagate daphne by cutting healthy stems into 6-8 inch pieces with mature leaves.

Take multiple cuttings since not all may root. Here’s how to take daphne cuttings:

  • Cut healthy stems into six-to-eight-inch pieces, each piece with mature leaves.
  • Remove the foliage from the bottom ½ of each segment, keeping any upper leaves intact. Keep cuttings moist until ready to pot.
  • Optional: moisten the cutting and generously coat the lower stem with rooting hormone. Tap off any excess rooting powder.
  • Stick the cutting about half its length in a tray or small pot prepared with moist, well-draining soil and a perlite mixture. Place the cuttings in bright, indirect light.
  • Water/mist as needed, keeping the soil evenly moist.
  • When roots develop, transplant cuttings to a larger pot. Keep soil evenly moist until plants are leafy and ready for the garden.

When selecting daphnes for your garden, consider hardiness zone recommendations to narrow down the best options. White many daphne shrubs are in cultivation, some are easier to source than others because of their unique growing conditions.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Clusters of pink 'Aureomarginata' daphne flowers bathed in sunlight, their delicate petals unfurling gracefully, emitting a subtle, sweet fragrance.
This hardier cultivar of D. odora is suitable for USDA zones 7-9.

Daphne odora is among the most fragrant of the genus, and this variety of winter daphne 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 reach the plant. Long, glossy green leaves have creamy yellow edges. Mounded plants reach three to four feet tall.

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), and USDA zones 7-9. 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 x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’

White 'Carol Mackie' daphne flowers bloom vibrantly, their delicate petals contrasting with the lush, variegated leaves in the blurred backdrop.
The ‘Carol Mackie’ boasts creamy pink flowers in late spring.

‘Carol Mackie’ is a low-growing deciduous daphne with beautiful foliage. Its gray-green leaves have creamy white margins, 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’ named for Carol Mackie, who discovered it growing in her New Jersey garden in 1962. Plants are dense and rounded and reach two to three feet tall. 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, complementing the bright green leaves. Like ‘Carol Mackie’, the plants have a slow-growing, mounding habit.

Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’

A vibrant 'Eternal Fragrance' daphne shrub displaying lush green leaves and clusters of delicate purple flowers, emitting a captivating aroma that lingers in the air, evoking a sense of timeless beauty.
A repeat-flowering shrub called ‘Eternal Fragrance’ daphne boasts upright growth and white flowers.

‘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 throughout the seasons. The heavenly fragrance lasts with each successive bloom.

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

This Royal Horticultural Society 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. Deep pink blooms and an evergreen, compact habit distinguish D. collina.

‘Eternal Fragrance’ is an English introduction by skilled hybridizers Robin and Susan White. They sought an unfussy, more adaptable daphne for the home garden, and ‘Eternal Fragrance’ was the result. ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is hardy in zones 5-9.

Common Problems

Flowering daphne shrubs are relatively free of pests, though aphids or scale occur. Plants are sometimes susceptible to diseases like root and stem rot, which is usually a response to moisture or nutrient issues.

Ensuring proper cultural conditions and a diversity of garden plantings help mitigate pests and diseases by maintaining a balanced garden system. Attract beneficial insects to the garden for natural pest control.


A daphne plant with sparse purple blossoms and green leaves, hosts a forest bug amidst its foliage, adding a touch of wildlife to the serene garden scene.
Mixing castile soap with water creates an effective spray to combat plant insect infestations.

The best way to control insects is to spot them early to minimize infestation.


Scale are common garden pests that pierce plants to feed on sap. You may notice a sticky residue from sap-sucking pests. The little legless insects usually appear on the undersides of leaves and stems as black, gray, or silvery dots. Leaves may yellow and drop, with branches dying back in heavy infestations. Remove affected leaves (and branches, if severe).


Aphids are common garden insects usually treated with non-chemical means. Often, they cause no plant damage, but severe infestations cause plant stress. Signs of stress include curled leaves and stunted growth.

In pest outbreaks, spray the plant with a strong stream of water to deter and knock insects off the stems. Do this in the morning so leaves dry in the early sun.

Mix a few drops of castile soap in a quart of water to make a simple spray treatment. A horticultural soap or oil can rid the plant of insects if an infestation occurs, but be sure to follow label directions, as these affect beneficial insects as well.


A daphne shrub, adorned with purple blossoms, stands illuminated by sunlight, surrounded by a backdrop of luxuriant green foliage, casting a picturesque scene of natural beauty.
Botrytis root rot causes brown spots and fluffy mold.

As with pests, the best disease control is prevention through cultural conditions. In general, problem daphnes should be removed from the garden to minimize chemical treatments and promote the health of surrounding plants.

Leaf spot

Leaf spot is a fungal infection that manifests in yellow leaf spots in spring, which transition to red in summer and black in the fall. To treat leaf spot, remove damaged leaves (including fallen leaves). Gray spots occur on leaves when spines puncture them and need no action.


Botrytis root rot is a fungal disease especially prevalent in high-humidity conditions with limited air circulation. Brown spots and “fluffy mold” are indicators of botrytis. Take care not to overwater or overfertilize daphne, which weakens the plant.


Phytophthora is another fungal root rot that causes a slow decline in plants. It impacts feeder roots, preventing them from uptaking water and nutrients. The best control is proper cultural management, especially not overwatering.


Armillaria, or Honey Fungus, attacks and kills the roots of many perennial and woody plants. It often appears as a white powdery substance at the ground level. Sometimes, clusters of honey-brown mushrooms appear above the soil. The only control is to remove the plant and nearby soil to keep it from spreading to other garden areas.

Southern blight

This disease is caused by the pathogen Sclerotium rolfsii, which attacks herbaceous perennials in the heat of summer. It presents initially in partial die back of a portion of the plant. In late stages, white mycelium and sclerotia can be seen at the plant’s base around the soil line. Proper garden hygiene and sanitization generally prevents this disease.

Tobacco ringspot virus

This virus is observed through the characteristic oak leaf pattern in the center of the leaves. It can spread from other susceptible plants, including tobacco, via transmission by grasshoppers, thrips, and mites. Controlling these will prevent some of the spread. There is no cure for TRV.

Verticillium wilt

Partial yellowing and wilting of daphne branches are a sign you’re dealing with Verticillium wilt. Cankers and sudden death are late stage symptoms. As the disease crops up, prune away affected branches. Proper culture will often prevent or halt the disease. However, you should not plant in the affected area for a few months after disposing of any killed plants. Remove any fallen debris from affected plants for prevention.

If your daphne shows signs of disease, remove and destroy affected plant parts and any dropped leaves. Horticultural oils like Neem can treat fungal diseases early (but again, these impact beneficial insects, so be sure to follow application requirements). It’s best to remove plants with severe infestations.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do daphne shrubs flower?

Most daphne varieties flower in the winter and spring, bringing delights in color and fragrance to the cool-season garden. Pollinators appreciate the nectar and pollen-rich blooms. Some daphne shrubs flower heavily in the spring and continue blooming sporadically through fall.

Are daphne shrubs evergreen?

Daphne plants are often evergreen but also semi-evergreen or deciduous, depending on the variety and climate. Plants may drop leaves in areas with cold winter temperatures.

How tall do daphne plants grow?

Flowering daphne shrubs are often compact plants that reach two to three feet tall, making them ideal for small gardens and as low specimens. The height depends on the species and cultivar, though—some varieties reach 12 feet tall after years of slowly growing.

Final Thoughts

Flowering daphne shrubs are well worth the trial and error in finding the right garden site. Their glorious fragrance is unparalleled in the garden, especially in the winter when such richness is a surprise. Attractive foliage (I’m partial to the ribbons of creamy white along leaf margins) is pretty even when plants aren’t in flower.

Plant daphne in rich, well-drained soils and provide regular moisture. Let the plant decide the rest, and you’ll enjoy its beauty year-round. These are a gem for any garden collection.

A vibrant row of pink Piedmont azalea bushes bursts into full bloom within a sun-dappled forest garden. Towering trees, their bark veiled in emerald moss, cast dappled shadows on the colorful display, while other forest plants peek through in the background.


9 Native Azalea Varieties for Your Shade Garden

Native azaleas make gorgeous specimens in woodland and naturalized gardens. From blush pink to vibrant scarlet, a profusion of spring and summer blooms bring color and fragrance to the early-season garden. Pollinators can’t resist the nectar and pollen. Explore native azalea species with garden expert Katherine Rowe.

A close-up of Spicebush plants reveals wooden branches intermingling intricately. The tiny, umbel-like, greenish-yellow blooms add delicate charm to the scene. Lush branches in the background create a verdant tapestry of nature's beauty.


How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Spicebush

Are you curious about growing your own spicebush shrub? Spicebush is a native plant that makes a great addition to a shade garden or naturalized woodland garden. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of these interesting plants.

White clusters of 'Renhy' hydrangeas adding a soft elegance to the scene. Vibrant green leaves form a lush backdrop, enhancing the purity and elegance of the blossoms, creating a serene garden scene.


13 Beginner-Friendly Hydrangea Varieties

Hydrangeas can be tricky to grow, especially for a beginner gardener. Some varieties are sensitive to poor soil drainage, incorrect soil pH, too much sun, pruning at the wrong time, over-fertilizing, and too much water. Luckily, these 13 beginner-friendly hydrangea varieties will reward you with stunning blooms and low maintenance needs. Gardening expert Kelli Klein describes each variety in detail so you can choose the right one for your garden.

A close-up reveals the vibrant 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly tree, adorned with glossy, emerald leaves contrasted against ripe, red berries. Each leaf features pronounced, jagged edges, adding texture and depth to the tree's lush foliage.


How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Nellie Stevens’ Holly

Looking for a vigorous evergreen with multiseason impact? ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly grows quickly with attractive form, foliage, and fruits. Loads of bright red berries shine against glossy green leaves in winter. Explore how to plant, grow, and care for Nellie Stevens holly with gardening expert Katherine Rowe.

A close-up reveals the delicate beauty of petite deutzia flowers, showcasing five exquisite purple petals. Gracefully positioned behind the blooms, the ovate green leaves provide a verdant backdrop, enhancing the overall charm of this floral composition.


How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Deutzia

Deutzias are a genus of deciduous shrubs offering the sought-after combination of beautiful flowers and a low-maintenance lifestyle. Join Briana Yablonski as she covers the characteristics and care of deutzia plants.

This breathtaking landscape features a vibrant, green vista adorned with a diverse array of shrubs. These shrubs vary in size and shape, creating a captivating tapestry of textures and shades that harmoniously come together to paint a beautiful natural scene.


27 Evergreen Shrubs That Look Good Year-Round

Planning your garden around an evergreen foundation is a great way to maintain year-round interest in the landscape. Here are some of our favorite evergreen shrubs that make a stunning backdrop for showier plants during the warmer months while still looking nice in the colder ones.