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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Daphne

I have a Daphne odora which had aphids on it early this spring and I kept hosing it with water and got rid of the aphids (didn't spray with any chemicals). Lost a lot of leaves but now has new growth. Problem now is all the leaves look wilted like it lacks water and doesn't seem to be growing. I have watered it real good during the hot weather but it doesn't seem to be working. The plant is about 7-8 years old and has done well until this year. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Am I watering too much or is it because of the heat?


Daphnes can be a bit fussy, and as this article by Sarah Raven on Daphnes from the British paper the Telegraph mentions:

"Daphnes like life pretty constant, not too wet and not too dry, so, particularly when they're settling in, give them a little regular watering if the rain doesn't do it for you. They need and like good drainage, so always add plenty of organic matter (and some grit if you garden on clay). And don't despair if your plants don't go on forever. Daphnes rarely last more than 15 years and you'll almost never see a shrub older than 20. Plan on taking cuttings after flowering every five years or so to make sure you always have a daphne or two in your garden."

Signs of winter damage are similar to signs of drought problems, so it can be confusing. The foliage can be scorched if the plant receives hot afternoon sun, but your plant is in afternoon shade. To add to the confusion, yellowed leaves which drop can be symptomatic of excess water AND excess drought, as well as a delayed reaction to a cold winter. My own Daphne odora has this same problem, and always loses some of its leaves, develops new growth, but grows slowly. This plant requires good drainage, so that is another consideration.

Here is local gardener Ed Hume on Daphne odora:

"It is important to note that this type of Daphne needs to planted in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun. An eastern location or similar spot is ideal. In addition, this one is not quite as hardy as the others, and may need to be given some cover protection, should temperatures dip below 25 degrees. Frost or sun burn, will show-up in a blackening of the tips of the leaves and in severe cases the leaves are apt to drop from the plant. The dark green evergreen leaves often have a cream-colored margin along the outside edge."

Another local gardening expert, Ciscoe Morris, says the following:
"These plants will thrive in the right conditions, but you will be disappointed if you plant it in the wrong spot.Growing Conditions: Morning sun; organic, well-draining soil. Do not over-water in summer, especially in clay soil. Daphne odoras do best in morning sun and afternoon shade. Give it well-draining soil (amend with compost). During summer, water only as often as needed to keep it alive."

Based on all the variables, I suggest you water it less often, and check to make sure it has adequate drainage. This can be a challenging plant, so be patient and hope for the best.

Date 2017-01-06
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pruning shrubs, Daphne

I have some very healthy daphne bushes full of blooms and I am wondering if and how I should deadhead them... or do some judicious pruning now that their flowering season is about over. I live on Whidbey Island, Washington. The plants are two years old and doing very well where they are planted.


The standard advice with Daphnes is that they are usually best left unpruned. If you need to keep them compact, you may be able to do a little light pruning. Peter McHoy, author of Pruning: A Practical Guide (Abbeville Press, 1993) says that no Daphne species needs routine pruning, but it is a good idea to remove straggly shoots in early spring. If you do prune hard, it will be a year before flowering returns to normal. Writing in the New York Times, August 3, 2006, Leslie Land asks John Bieber of the Daphne Society about how to prune if you must: "Choose a dry morning shortly after spring bloom is over. Sharpen the shears. Cut back lightly; severe pruning is always a gamble. It is safer to take two or three springs to downsize a badly overgrown plant."

Another resource, with a description of the grab-and-snip pruning technique for mounding shrubs may be found in Cass Turnbull's The Complete Guide to Landscape Design, Renovation and Maintenance (2006). Although she advises against pruning Daphnes unless it's absolutely necessary, this technique can be used in spring. Cut off or cut back to a side branch and branch that is lying on the ground or extending into places where you do not want it to go. You can also remove some of the longest branches that are lying on top of other branches.

I would err on the side of conservatism, as Daphnes can be temperamental. Since yours are doing so well, I suggest that you only remove the bare minimum of leggy limbs, if you decide to prune.

Date 2017-06-09
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Daphne

Which Daphne from the Great Plant Picks lists would be happiest as a planting against a house foundation receiving full sun with a western exposure, and which would have the best fragrance?


Of the Daphne species and cultivars listed on Great Plant Picks the only one which might not want full sun against a foundation or heat- and light-reflective surface would be Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata.' The others, if planted with sufficient distance from the house to grow into their natural shape, all like full sun for maximum flowering.

Intensity of fragrance is fairly subjective, and all these Daphnes are described as having notable fragrance. This article, from the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, has some detailed descriptions.

One thing you could do is test the smell some of these plants in other gardens. We have examples of a few of them here at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Another consideration is the ultimate size of the Daphne you select. Daphnes aren't too pleased with being pruned, so choosing a species that won't exceed the space you have available would be helpful.

Date 2017-05-04
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August 01 2017 12:36:01