The Q&A Archives: Growing Daphnes

Question: My Mom is having trouble with her Daphnes. How can she get them to grow better? Should she feed them? Do they grow best in sun or shade?

Answer: There are three kinds of Daphnes commonly grown in the west, each with slightly different requirements. So, try to find out which kind you're growing and treat it accordingly: Daphne burkwoodii is an evergreen or semievergreen plant that grows 3'-4' tall at maturity. It prefers sun or light shade and little water during the growing season. The plant has closely set narrow leaves and produces small clusters of fragrant flowers (white, fading to pink). Daphne cneorum, or Garland Daphne, is a spreading evergreen, growing less than 1' tall. The trailing branches are covered with narrow, dark green leaves. Fragrant rosy-pink flowers appear in April and May. Give this plant partial shade from hot afternoon sun and water frequently to keep the root area moist. Daphne odora, or Winter Daphne, is an evergreen plant growing from 4' to 10' high, with thick, glossy, 3" long leaves, and pink to deep red flower clusters appearing on branch tips in February or March. This highly fragrant plant is unpredictable in its growth and flowering, having very exacting requirements. Give the plant well-draining, porous soil, good air circulation, shade for the roots but full sun for the tops. Apply little or no water during the summer, but feed the plant immediately after bloom with a balanced fertilizer (8-8-8). Once you figure out which Daphne you're growing, caring for it should be relatively simple. Enjoy!

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