As unmistakable and memorable as the smell of a leather baseball glove or Chanel No. 5, the first whiff of winter daphne lets you know that the seasons are changing and that it’s always good to be in a backyard — even on a cold winter morning, once the odor of this tiny pink blossoms looks even stronger. The evergreen shrub is handsome, too. A lot of people would agree: If your climate allows it, do all you can to grow daphne. Obviously, there is a caveat: The plant is a entire diva. And there is no sure way to keep it alive and healthy. But try.
Botanical name: Daphne odora
Common title: Winter daphne
Origin: Native to China and Japan
USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water necessity: Moderate; do not let the soil dry out
Light requirement: Partial color, especially where there is midday sun
Mature size: 3 to 4 ft tall and wide, and bigger
advantages and tolerances: Small but potently fragrant flowers can fill a backyard with odor; some sprigs attracted indoors will perfume a room. The lustrous-leafed tree matches into many landscape conditions. It is generally free of insect pests but is susceptible to often-mysterious origin maladies, creating its reputation as an unpredictable malingerer.
Seasonal curiosity: Blooms in mid to late winter and early spring
When to plant: Plant container-grown plants almost any time of year, though spring and autumn are generally the best times.
Distinguishing attributes. Daphne is a handsome evergreen with dense foliage and glistening green leaves; ‘Aureo-Marginata’ is a popular variety with variegated leaves. Fragrant pink flowers appear in tight clusters at the branch tips.
Growing tips: locate a place in partial shade where you can enjoy the smell and sight of the blossoms. Amend the soil thoroughly with compost and do not bury the cover of the main ball. Don’t overwater in summer — this promotes soil diseases. If your plant dies, try another place. Try it into a pot.
To control the shrub’s size and form, you can prune, or even shear back, a few inches after bloom. Cut bouquets of flowers liberally — this is all the pruning required to maintain bushy growth.
How to utilize it. Squeeze in a single daphne tree where people hang outside or walk close to the back or front entrance, near a patio, in the border of a shady border (be sure at least half a day of sun is available). Daphne looks great in a mixed border, in a bed that is raised and in a container. Or plant a set of three in a curve or corner on your backyard. Shown here is the typical size and form of a gently pruned seven-year-old plant: 3 ft tall and 5 ft wide.