The Q&A Archives: How to Prune Daphne

Question: I have a 'Carol Mackie' Daphne. It has leafy growth on about the top third of the bush and just wood on the rest. Will pruning it cause more green growth? When should I prune it, and how? There are some flowers on it right now (a slight second bloom)--is that normal for this variety? What type of soil does it prefer, and how should I fertilize it?

Answer: This daphne will occasionally bloom in the fall in addition to its normal spring display. It is late in the season to do any pruning, since pruning tends to stimulate growth, and the resulting new wood will not have much time to harden off before winter. You might try pruning it back very lightly immediately after the spring bloom next season. This should thicken up the incoming growth a bit, but the legginess or bare stems may be difficult to correct by pruning. You may find that the plant is losing lower leaves due to either over or underwatering, or possibly due to a fungal infection. In my experience, these shrubs tend to be touchy, in some cases for no apparent reason. Ideally the soil would be evenly moist and yet well drained and in no way soggy, and in light shade or full sun. In general this daphe would do better in a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Average soil fertility should be sufficient, with an annual spring top dressing of compost or a complete fertilizer applied according to the label instructions. Do not overfertilize it. Maintaining a layer of several inches of organic mulch should be helpful in keeping the soil slightly moist. Finally, you may want to make sure it is protected from winter wind even though it is quite hardy.

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