By: Teo Spengler
The beautiful, fragrant blossoms that appear on Daphne plants convince gardeners to invite them into the garden, planting them near the doorways or beside paths to appreciate their heady honey scent. But these plants are not always easy to grow, and even those with vigorous foliage don’t necessarily flower. If you find your Daphne not blooming, you’ll want to read some tips on how to get blooms on Daphne plants.
Daphne Plant Blooms
The genus Daphne was named for the nymph who, in a Roman myth, refused the god Apollo’s love and was turned into a shrub. The genus numbers some 100 species, including both evergreen and deciduous varieties.
Daphne plant blooms are among the loveliest of flowers, and most Daphne plants are grown for their exquisitely fragrant blossoms. However, some varieties of Daphne also offer small berries and attractive foliage. Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) blooms in the cooler months and is quite cold hardy.
Why is My Daphne Not Flowering?
Daphne can be very particular about planting and very long to flower. All too many gardeners end up asking: “Why is my Daphne not flowering?” Is your Daphne not blooming? If the year passes and you see no flowers on Daphne plants, there is some kind of a problem. It is true that Daphne takes time to establish and won’t flower for a few years after planting.
But if that time is passed and you see no flowers on Daphne plants, review your cultural practices. You want to make sure you are doing everything necessary to encourage Daphne flower blooms.
First, you’ll want to see where your Daphne is planted. Daphne plants do not thrive in containers long term, nor are they very happy when transplanted. All types of Daphne dislike and react poorly to root disturbance of any kind.
Assuming your Daphne is planted in a garden bed, take a look at the soil. If you want to know how to get blooms on Daphne plants, be sure the soil is well-draining, retains moisture and contains organic material.
In addition to the right soil, Daphnes want a few other elements in order to bloom. They require generous irrigation on a regular basis. Daphnes not blooming may be due to dry soil.
Also, check to see that your Daphne gets shelter from strong winds. It also needs some shade from the hot, mid-day sun.
Layer the ground around your plants with a good, organic mulch each spring. This helps keep their roots protected and cool from the summer sun. But keep the mulch a few inches (8.5 cm.) from the stems to prevent rot.
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Read more about Winter Daphne
How to Grow Daphne Shrubs
The Daphne genus includes more than 70 broadleaf evergreen shrubs native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Of these, a relatively small number of species and hybrids are commonly grown for landscape cultivation, including D. odora, D. mezereum, D. transatlantica, and especially the Daphne x burkwoodii hybrids, which include the popular 'Carol Mackie', 'Briggs Moonlight', and 'Somerset' cultivars.
Daphnes are quite attractive shrubs, producing white to light pink tubular flowers in May, followed by small red berries (drupes). The small oblong, light green leaves are evergreen in most climates, and the shrub usually forms a very nice rounded mound. Varieties such as 'Carol Mackie' are especially prized for their variegated foliage. Daphnes are relatively small shrubs that are good choices for small yards, where they make good foundation plants or specimens for shrub borders.
These are slow-growing shrubs that are generally planted from well-developed nursery plants in spring. It can take seven to ten years for these plants to reach their relatively small mature size. Be advised, though, that all parts of the Daphne are poisonous, especially the bright berries.
|Botanical Name||Daphne spp., Daphne x hybrids|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||1–5 feet tall, 2–6 feet across (depends on variety)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-draining soil|
|Soil pH||5.5–6.4 (slightly acidic)|
|Flower Color||White to light pink|
|Hardiness Zones||4–9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia, Africa|
|Toxicity||Highly toxic to humans and animals|
Problems of Daphne
Shrub Dies Suddenly means Improper Cultivation
Daphne shrubs in general and fragrant daphnes in particular are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. They have the disconcerting tendency to up and die suddenly for no apparent reason. Often the cause is a subtle change in their environment--too much water or fertilizer, exposure to rapid temperature change, the proximity of another plant. Usually the cause is not known.
Leaves Curled, Discolored due to Aphids
Aphids are spindly-legged, pear-shaped insects little bigger than the head of a pin. Also called "plant lice," they attack tender branches and flower clusters on shrubs. These pests suck sap from leaves and stems, causing the foliage to curl, pucker, and turn yellow, while reducing the plant's vigor. Sometimes ants, attracted by the aphids' honeydew secretions, wander over the plants and protect the aphids from natural predators. Check under the daphne leaves for small groups of aphids.
To dislodge light infestations, spray the undersides of the leaves vigorously with water three times, once every other day, in the early morning. Spray insecticidal soap every 2 to 3 days for heavier infestations. As a last resort, use pyrethrum spray, spraying it directly on the aphids. Take care to use pyrethrum late in the day to minimize killing honeybees and other beneficial insects nearby. Destroy nearby ant nests by breaking them open and pouring boiling water on them. On evergreen shrubs like fragrant daphne, apply a "light" horticultural oil spray on the foliage in the early spring to suffocate over wintering eggs.
For more information see file on Controlling Aphids.
Cottony Masses on Plant Parts indicates Mealybugs
Mealybugs are 1/5 to 1/3 inch long, with oval, flattened bodies. They are covered with white waxy powder and adorned with short, soft spines around their edges. These insects sometimes gather in cottony white masses on daphne roots, stems, branches and leaves, sucking sap and reducing the plant's vigor. Infested daphne leaves look yellowish severely infested plants are unsightly, do not grow well, and may die. Honeydew secretions from the insects' feeding encourage mold growth on the shrub foliage and attract ants.
Control mealybugs by spraying them with an alcohol-insecticidal soap spray every 2 to 3 days until the pests disappear. Mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and with one pint of insecticidal soap mix. To kill over wintering mealybug eggs spray daphne foliage and stems with a light horticultural oil in March or April, just before new growth starts.
Leaves And Branches Encrusted With Small Bumps because of Scale Insects
Scale insects are covered by hard, rounded waxy shells, which may be colored white, yellow, or brown to black. These small bumps are found ranged along stems and twigs of infested daphnes. They are about 1/10 to 2/5 inch in diameter. The first sign of a scale attack is often discoloration of the tops of the leaves, followed by leaf drop, reduced growth, and stunted shrubs. Some species of scale insects excrete honeydew, which coats foliage and encourages ants and the growth of sooty mold, a gray to black coating on the leaves and stems. Heavy scale infestations may kill daphnes.
Handle mild scale infestations by simply scraping the telltale bumps off plant surfaces with a fingernail, or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Heavy infestations require spraying. Use a mixture of alcohol and insecticidal soap every 3 days for 2 weeks. Mix 1 tablespoon of alcohol in a pint of ready-to-use commercial soap spray. Light horticultural oil sprayed on dormant plants in late winter or early spring will smother over wintering scale. Apply insecticides when the young larvae (or "crawlers") have hatched and before they start forming their new scales.
For more information see file on Controlling Scale.
Sudden Wilting Death due to Southern Blight
This fungal disease of many types of woody plants thrives in hot weather and acidic soil. Although it is most common in the southeast, it appears sporadically in the north. It tends to attack young shrubs that have not yet developed corky bark on their stems. The infection starts near the soil line, appearing as a dark, discolored area covered by a webbing of fungal threads, eventually girdling the stem. The disease can kill a daphne shrub in less than 1 month. Because the fungus lives in soil and plant debris, it is important to collect and discard in the trash all weeds and plant parts near infected shrubs. Dig up and get rid of soil near sick plants. In the North kill this blight fungus by pulling off the mulch around the daphne shrub to expose the soil to winter frost. Researchers are developing an antagonistic fungus that can some day be used to control this disease.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease
Brown Spots On Leaves means Leaf Spot
Some types of fungi cause thick brown spots to develop on both sides of daphne leaves. These leaves then turn yellow and wilt, eventually dying. Treat infected shrubs by promptly picking off all leaves and twigs that show symptoms and discarding them in the trash. Spray affected shrubs with copper fungicide according to directions on the package.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease.
Branch Tips Turn Brown Die Back due to Twig Blight
A blight disease caused by a fungus occurs on daphne through the Northeast out to the Pacific Northwest. It causes branch tips to turn brown then die back until the entire branch, or even the entire shrub, is killed. Shrubs over 5 years old are usually not seriously affected. In late winter, prune and burn affected twigs and branches.
Spray plants with copper fungicide or lime sulfur fungicide when symptoms first appear and then every 10 days in wet seasons. Avoid overhead watering. Daphnes do not respond well to pruning even under the best of circumstances, but this is the best way to attempt to control this disease. Prune to increase air circulation around shrubs, taking care to sterilize pruning tools by dipping them in household bleach to prevent the disease from spreading. Because the fungus spores collect on the mulch beneath the shrubs, removing the old mulch and replacing it with fresh material may help prevent an outbreak from recurring.
For more information see file on Controlling Fungal Disease.
Foliage Burned because of Dog Urine
Dog urine will discolor daphne branches and foliage, and kill them. Spray vulnerable foliage with anti-transpirant spray to protect it. Where there are chronic problems, screen the shrub or spray its lower branches with pet repellant. Given daphne's delicate constitution, these measures may be as harmful as the original problem, however. For more information see the file on Dogs and Cats
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If you live in an area with humid summers, your daphne may be hit by the daphne sudden death syndrome caused by the fungi Ryzoctonia, Phytophthora, Phytium, Thielaviopsis and other genuses. Fungi in the genuses Amillaria and Botrytis can breed in leaves accumulated at the bottom of the plant. If the roots are dying on your plant, there is little you do to save it, but if the leaves are dying on a single branch, you might be able to rescue the plant with a systemic fungicide. If you anticipate a long stretch of humid summer weather, pour a fungicide containing trace amounts of organic metal compounds over the daphne so it penetrates into the soil. If you do that, change the brand occasionally to prevent the accumulation of one trace element.
SERIES 18 | Episode 22
In the cooler parts of Southern Australia, Daphne odora is a plant that captures the imagination of gardeners because of its fragrance, but there are 50 different species of daphne throughout the world - some are deciduous and others are evergreen.
Daphnes are generally neat, compact plants that are at home in dappled shade. Daphne species vary in habit - some are erect, while others are rounded or even spreading. The showy rounded heads of the small flowers open from mid-winter to late spring, depending on the species, and they can be in delicate shades of white, cream, yellow or pink. Daphne odora has pink and white flowers and there is a variegated form with white flowers, and they're all fragrant.
Daphnes, either in the garden or in pots, are rewarding plants, but there are a few things that can go wrong.
Look out for leaves that are light green, and that hang down. This indicates the plant might need a feed. After it has finished flowering, give it some fertiliser, especially iron chelates. Often daphnes also suffer from root rot. The plant could easily have been over-watered, and the roots then rot causing the leaves to look bedraggled.
Another problem that daphnes have is the leaves suddenly hanging down limply, and feeling leathery and dry. Most often, this is also caused by over watering. About 20 years ago, there was a daphne virus, but, with proper hygiene and better plant propagation methods, rarely do you get virus in daphne. People think that daphne love to be moist all the time, but you should just water the daphne and let it dry out. Use mulch to keep the roots cool.
If daphnes are over or under watered, it causes them great stress and that's when insects like scale attack. Scale looks like little brown or black dots that appear on the leaves, their undersides, and the stems. Underneath the scale's protective helmet is an insect. Just squash them, or smother the scale with white oil or canola oil.
Daphnes like morning sun or an easterly-facing spot - anywhere that's got shade from the hot afternoon sun. Don't forget really good drainage is also important.
When you're planting out a potted daphne, just be careful - the roots should be white and healthy. Try not to damage the roots as you're planting, so there is no need to tickle them out. Just plant it and mulch to cool the roots, and when it finishes flowering in spring, fertilise with organic matter, and prune it at that time too. Keep it moist over summer, cool the roots and you're home and hosed with your daphne.
The rewards of having a happy and healthy daphne plant become obvious in those months when their lovely scent wafts through your garden. Picking some and placing it in a vase inside will fill the house with perfume.