entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: featured flower: daphne

by Grace Bonney

Shrubberies sometimes get overlooked when we’re busy oohing and aahing over all the beautiful blooms shooting up around the garden. Lift your head a little and you’ll notice that there are plenty of lovely shrubs that have lots to offer. Daphne is one such plant, and it has no problem holding its own in the garden. Daphne’s small clustered flowers pack a wallop of fragrance that can easily fill an entire garden with a sugary citrus scent. Daphne typically blooms in mid-February so it is sometimes referred to as the “romance plant.” (A word of warning, though: some varieties of this pretty lady are also pretty poisonous, and its flowers, leaves and berries should not be planted or kept near children or pets. Similar shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons are also toxic and caution should be used when choosing a planting location.)

Originating in China and Japan, daphne gets its name from a character from Greek mythology who was turned into a laurel bush to escape the amorous attentions of Apollo. With such a worldly back story, it’s fitting that this shrub can grow in a variety of environs and climates. As a child visiting her grandparents in Australia, Alethea’s memories of daphne come from the giant bush that bloomed beneath her bedroom window. Her grandmother would place a tiny posy of the fragrant blooms on her bedside table, and the scent would waft its way into her dreams as she slept. Now the scent of daphne transports her back to her grandmother’s garden. Always excited to find more signs that spring is just around the corner, Alethea’s mum, Kay, tipped us off that there was an amazing Daphne odora bush in full bloom nearby her office this week. We headed over to the Oakland to photograph it and couldn’t believe how many flowers were covering it. Kay was as excited about the daphne as we were, brought a little too much indoors and ended up with a headache from the heady aroma. Just one small snip of these flowers is enough to fill a room with a delicious fruity scent, so don’t go nuts if you decide to bring some daphne indoors; sometimes less is more.

Some professional gardeners we spoke with told us that ignoring daphne is the best advice when trying to grow it. This shrub hates to be moved, so once you choose a location, that’s where she’ll want to stay. Because it is slow-growing, daphne also does well in containers and can live in the same pot for many happy years. It’s best to water your daphne once every few weeks or as little as possible in the summer months, and don’t water at all during the winter months. Expect a daphne plant to live from eight to ten years from planting, after that it’s cells cease to regenerate and the plants can die without warning. For exposure the daphne plant prefers dappled sunlight best. These little flowers perfectly compliment larger bouquets and arrangements filled with flashy flowers that may be light in the fragrance department. Tulips and ranunculus are great to look at, but don’t really have a whole lot to give as far as scent. A few daphne accents will have heads turning before they even land eyes on your flowers.

CLICK HERE for more beautiful Daphne images after the jump!

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  • Nothing smells as amazing as daphne! I’ve been hunting for a one-note daphne perfume for years; it makes me think of my almost-grandma, who always had a bush outside her front door, and my mom, who loves it as much as I do. My dad got her a daphne bush for Valentine’s Day this year!

  • ‘It’s best to water your daphne once every few weeks or as little as possible in the summer months, and don’t water at all during the winter months.’- sounds like a perfect plant for me ;-), such gorgeous flowers.

  • Yay… I love this post :) So good to know about different plants that you can grow in containers, as I think a lot of people in urban settings need inspiration!

    Is this plant okay to stay in a container for it’s lifetime..?

  • Is this plant only poisonous if you eat it? I am wondering about pets. My dog won’t eat veggies or plants of any kind, but is there a worry about the dog brushing up against it?

  • I love the scent of daphne! We have a beautiful one in our front yard that is getting ready to bloom.

    I have a question… if you cut daphne way back, will it regrow well? Our daphne shrub is about 5 feet wide, but looks toppled over. There are about 2 feet of bare branches connected to the truck that trail along the ground before the leaves and blooms start.

    I have thought about cutting it all the way back to the trunk but don’t want to kill it! It is a beautiful variety that I have not seen for sale anywhere. It was growing at our house before we moved in. It’s perfume fills the entryway to our home for weeks!

    • is that the daphne can plant in asian country, daphne can plant in trunk or seed? tq for yr reply

  • I love the box planter! What do put in the box so that the plant drains…just dirt? Or rocks at the bottom? Looks great.

  • I LOVE Daphne plants. I visited my parents house this past weekend and theirs was blooming, I stood and let the scent waft over me for quite a while and as an added bonus, it was so warm and sunny, it really felt like spring!

  • I LOVE the top pic with the Daphne planted in the box but what is the green moss looking stuff covering the soil? I have a similar box and would love to recreate this look!

  • Another good choice for fragrance early in the year is Sarcococca. Sometimes called Sweet Box. It can be a large or small evergreen shrub. Also an easy keeper – in containers (dwarf type) or in the ground – prefers shade though.

  • Daphne is incredible for its fragrance….But….One of the berries ingested can cause death….Apparently it can eventually cause kidney failure…The lining of the stomach is vulnerable to the berries. It is extremely dangerous…I don’t recommend them to those with children.

  • I love Daphne! There are tons of plants in yards around Portland, OR which is where I first encountered it. It smells so beautiful. I’m glad to know I can grow it inside.

  • Daphne is my favorite flower, the fragrance is amazing. My Mom has had a plant in the front of her home for years. I love that it blooms in the winter especially since my birthday is in Feb. I can’t grow it to save my life, but it is the best!!!

  • I was so excited to see this post– just like Alethea, I used to visit my grandparents in Australia (Melbourne) and Daphne seems to grow EVERYWHERE there. Really intense scent memories with this flower, I’m happy to see I’m not the only one :)

  • I want to clarify the origins and etymology of Daphne. The Daphne of Greek mythology was turned into a laurel tree, or sweet bay laurel (Laurus nobilis). It is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean that provides bay leaves for cooking as well as the crowns of victors, also known as laureates. The Daphne featured here is a lovely, but poisonous, shrub.

  • What a coincidence, my neighbor and I were just talking about the Daphne bushes in my front yard! We have the type that flower in winter/spring and again in summer, while he has one that only flowers in winter/spring. Ours are beginning to bloom right now and the scent is heavenly!

    One note — I think one of the pics above shows Daphne mixed with what look like ranunculus, which may be why people are talking about it reminding them of peonies. Daphne flowers are quite small, and not at all shaped like peonies.

  • the hercules powder is cool but how could we ignore the beauty and fragrance of daphne, its super marvelous .

  • for you NYC gardeners reading this post, Daphne does great in containers-we have a client with a daphne that is 20 years old..Please note that in our zone here (zone 7), it blooms in MAY…it’s SLOW to get established but worth the wait!

  • Once again D*S rescued me in figuring out what to do with “stuff.” I found some awesome vintage apple crates with various advertising logos on them and had no idea what to do with them. These would look great in my little courtyard garden! I’m on my way to the nursery right now. Thanks ladies!

  • My father worked for Hercules his entire life. My parents still have one of the powder boxes at their home. I forwarded to my mother to tell her to get that box out of the garage and put it to use!

  • Lovely pictures! Another great post Studio Choo. I’m tempted to grow one indoors, but I’m horrible with plants. I’ll keep a look out at the stores though, and soak in their lovely fragrance!

  • Daphne is my favourite flower! The fregrance is sooo romantic. I remember when I was child while going to school, there were little garden with this flower and when it bloomed I felt the spring is coming..

  • Hello everyone, thanks for all the great comments! Here are some answers to your questions regarding Daphne:

    Kate F – Demeter Fragrance Library makes a great single note Daphne perfume. You can find it here: http://www.demeterfragrance.com/Product.aspx?ProductID=851

    Kaarina – Daphne will do fine in a container for it’s lifetime and doesn’t mind being a little bit root bound. You may have to go up a pot size once or twice.

    Adrienne – Daphne is only poisonous if you ingest it. Brushing up against it or handling it will do no harm to you or your animals.

    Emily – Daphne is incredibly slow growing; that plant sounds like it’s pretty established and has probably been there for quite a few years. I would advise against cutting it way back, but rather cut off select branches to give it a nicer shape.

    Alexandra and Sarah – To plant in a box or container without proper drainage, we like to line the bottom of the box with a thin layer of pea gravel followed by a very thin layer of gardening charcoal. Next fill with dirt, and once the plant has been added finish with a layer of sheet moss.

    Kim – My grandparents are in Melbourne too!

    Best wishes,
    The Choo’s

  • I have a Daphne burkwoodii ‘Somerset’ that I planted right outside my front door. This Daphne is one that blooms two times a year. I love it. I love to sit on my front porch when it’s in bloom. It’s beautiful, it’s fragrant and I love fragrant plants in my garden. Thanks for the post!

  • we have 4wonderful daphne plants. This year they do not have fragrance at all. Their scent has always filled the entire backyard. Any clues as to why we are having this problem with them

    • I am wondering if there was any reply to Susan’s comment of February 15, 2015. I had the same problem this year. My daphne plant in a pot had no smell this year.

  • can daphne flower grow into pot? how to plant it? use seed or its tree trunk? tq for anyone reply