Lottah Nursery Tasmania, Australia

Daphne species and hybrids with images

Genus consists of about 70 species, mainly from Europe and the temperate regions of Asia. It is worth remarking that there is considerable variation in seed raised daphnes which extend to form, flower color, fragrance, hardiness and deciduous nature. Not surprisingly there is no less variation in descriptions of species and their requirements. Daphne images on this page are from our own collection and do not necessarily reflect the variations available.

Daphnes are usually Winter or Spring flowering shrubs, both evergreen as well as deciduous, with clusters of single flowers forming some of the most intensely fragrant shrubs available for the garden and adding color and fragrance in an otherwise drab period.

D. odora is commonplace; what is not common are the remaining species and their variants, including the legendary D. macrantha with flowers 35 mm across, only known from a herbarium collection. We expect most of the daphnes listed here will continue to be rarities because of difficulties in propagation as well as slow growth compounded by minimal demand; other varieties have been imported by private collectors and are unlikely to become common currency anytime soon.

Berries and other parts of daphne are considered to be poisonous and care should be taken to ensure that children do not ingest the attractive fruit. Fortunately their taste should discourage all bar the most perverse from persisting.

A widely held view is that daphnes require acid soil conditions to flourish. Our experience is that they are tolerant plants; indeed, the fact that many species originate in limestone country indicates the contrary. We quote Brickell & Matthew on the subject: "... daphnes are tolerant of a wide range of pH, and, even in conditions of considerable alkalinity or acidity, can be grown perfectly satisfactorily provided drainage and feeding requirements are met".

Another fiction we would like to dispel is that tissue cultured daphne do not carry virus infections that cutting-propagated plants are prone to. The virus status of a clone is transmitted down the line regardless of method of propagation. Seedlings, however, are usually free from most virus diseases, but apart from the rare cases of apomixis, do not transmit clonal characteristics.

The classic literature on the subject, currently out of print, is by Brickell, C. D. and Matthew, B., Daphne: The Genus in the Wild and in Cultivation.
Robin White has produced a new book in 2006, Daphnes: A Practical Guide for Gardeners; this is expected to be the standard reference for gardeners for many years to come.
[2006/02/21 - Having seen the book we are able to recommend it highly.]

(click on thumbnails for larger images)

Daphne arbuscula D. arbuscula - our favourite daphne: evergreen prostrate dwarf species of slow growth but in our opinion this has the most intense fragrance of the daphnes with rose-pink flowers in mid-Spring, and under greenhouse conditions, flowering intermittently throughout Summer and into Autumn.
Daphne blagayana D. blagayana is another evergreen prostrate shrub with very fragrant creamy white flowers in early Spring. There are reports of colonies over 5 m across in cultivation but our personal experience of this beauty leaves a lot to be desired.
Daphne bhoula 'Jacqueline Postill' D. bholua - semi deciduous shrub flowering from early Winter. Vigorous growth, reported to grow to 2 m in cultivation. Profusion of very fragrant pink flowers over 20 mm across four weeks before odora starts flowering. Several selections have been made of which 'Jacqueline Postill' is pictured here.
Daphne x burkwoodii D. x burkwoodii is a deciduous hybrid of D. cneorum and D. caucasica bearing sweetly scented pink flowers along the terminal 100 mm or so of the previous season's extension in mid-Spring. Variegated leaf forms are also available.
Daphne genkwa D. genkwa. - a deciduous shrub with undoubtedly amongst the most beautiful flowers within the genus and reported to grow as a weed in its native Japan. We have not been able to get this gem to grow satisfactorily, and propagation has not been easy. Flowering season is around 6 weeks after odora starts.
Daphne gnidium D. gnidium. - rarely encountered in the garden, and admittedly without a great deal of charm, this is a summer flowering shrub with creamy white flowers in mid-Summer; no discernable fragrance.
Daphne longilobata D. longilobata - semi-evergreen shrub with copious white flowers in late Spring followed by seed set.
Daphne mezerium D. mezereum - deciduous shrub sporting very fragrant purple flowers in late Spring followed by poisonous berries that are favoured by birds.
Daphne x napolitana flowers D. x napolitana - a hybrid of unknown parentage, this is an evergreen with narrow shiny leaves usually seen 0.6 m high, although larger plants have been recorded. Main flush of flowers in Spring followed by a secondary flowering in Summer in some years.
Daphne odora D. odora - the most common species encountered in gardens, flowering from mid Winter to early Spring; bears very fragrant flowers of purplish-white on a spreading evergreen shrub to 1 m. This will be the standard used for comparing relative flowering dates.
Daphne pontica D. pontica - evergreen Spring flowering shrub with green/yellow flowers.
Daphne tangutica flowers D. tangutica - evergreen species with a main flush of mildly fragrant white flowers 20 mm across in Summer and a secondary flowering in mid-Winter; seldom without flowers.

Other species and hybrids that are believed to be in Australia include cneorum, collina, x eschmannii, feddei, x houtteana, x hybrida, jezoensis, oleoides, petraea x caucasica, petraea x collina, retusa and x Rossettii.

Margaret Hibbert's Aussie Plant Finder, 2004 edition contains some sources for these daphnes.

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