Daphne is generally grown for its beautiful and intensely fragrant flowers.
They originate from low woodlands and or the mountainous areas of Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Those from higher altitudes tend to be deciduous, while those from lower altitudes tend to be evergreen and less hardy.
Daphne in flower
Some varieties have attractive laurel-like or variegated foliage with either an upright, rounded or prostrate habit.
Similarly they can range in size from large shrubs to small alpine plants.
Most Daphne, particularly evergreens prefer a shady site.
Deciduous varieties, will tolerate a sunnier site, providing their roots are shaded to keep them cool and moist.
They will grow in either acid or alkaline soil, but most prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil.
A free-draining soil that is not too wet in winter or too dry in summer is ideal.
Add organic matter to light sandy soil to hold moisture.
Avoid areas that are subject to water-logging, as such conditions may kill the plant.
In suspect areas add grit to the base of the planting hole to provide drainage.
When planting out grafted plants, ensure that the graft union is covered by at least 50mm (2") of soil to encourage rooting from the scion for improved vigour.
Daphnes do not take kindly to root disturbance, so where possible, buy pot-grown plants growing in soil-based compost, rather than peat-based compost!
This will reduce root disturbance, and as a consequence the plants, will suffer less from the shock of transplanting.
Daphne do not respond well to pruning.
They only need light trimming, severe pruning can result in die-back.
Remove damaged, diseased or wayward growth in early spring or immediately after flowering.
All parts of Daphne are toxic.
The fruits can cause gastric upset, and the sap skin irritation.
Wear gloves when handling plants.
Daphne can be difficult to propagate.
Take semi-ripe heel cuttings around Week 28-30 and place in a cold frame to root.
Alternatively, layer suitable branches circa Week 12 if weather conditions allow.
Some success can be had from potting on suckers and growing on in a coldframe until they become established.
Some species can be grown from ripe seed.
Remove the fleshy exterior and sow in seed compost with added grit, then sealthe pot in a polythene bag to hold in moisture.
Remove pot from the bag as soon as germination takes place.
Germination should normally occur by spring, though it sometimes takes a further year.
Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle.
Grow the plants on in a glasshouse for their first winter and then plant out in spring after the last expected frosts.
Pests and diseases:
Aphids, leaf spot, grey mould (Botrytis) can some times be a problem.
Daphne are prone to virus, affected plants will display yellow mottling on the leaves.
This will eventually kill the plant, so infected plants are best destroyed.
To avoid buying a virused plant, do not be tempted by those in flower.
Wait until you can buy them in leaf, then you can check for the tell tale signs.