For those of us bewitched by daphne and the magical power of its fragrance, daphne shrubs are impossible to resist. Daphnes may not be the most robust garden plants, and they may make you work to meet their demands, but your senses will convince you they are worth it. Here are some of the best daphnes for year-round interest.
Discover Andy’s list of the best daphne varieties below.
Winter flowering daphne
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’
An evergreen daphne cultivar with leathery, mid-green leaves that is strong growing once established. Large clusters of mauve-pink flowers cover the daphne for weeks from midwinter into early spring. The plant’s fragrance is powerful, sweet and delicious, even on cold days. This daphne was raised at Hillier Nurseries by propagator Alan Postill and named for his wife. Height 1.8m.
Daphne mezereum f. alba
A deciduous daphne shrub with upright stems and small, narrow green leaves. The starry, highly fragrant daphne flowers cluster on stems in winter before the leaves appear, and are often followed by yellowish berries. This daphne plant needs chalk soil to thrive. Height 90cm.
Daphne odora Rebecca (= ‘Hewreb’)
A surprisingly robust form of Daphne odora with green leaves, boldly edged with creamy gold. A showy foliage plant it has the bonus of fragrant winter flowers. A better garden plant than previous cultivars with a similar variegation. Height 1m.
Daphne bholua ‘Darjeeling’
A semi-evergreen daphne shrub with tan-coloured stems and pointed mid-green leaves. Clusters of fragrant, pale-pink daphne flowers, which fade to white, appear from early winter. The original daphne variety was raised at RHS Wisley from seed collected in Darjeeling. Height 1.8m.
Daphne bholua ‘Limpsfield’
Rich purple-pink daphne flower edges merge into white faces. The daphne variety blooms from midwinter and is heavily fragrant, it is a good evergreen daphne shrub to grow close to the house in a sheltered position. Height 1.8m.
Daphne bholua ‘Peter Smithers’
An evergreen or semi-evergreen daphne shrub. In midwinter, clusters of deep, purple-pink buds open to paler blooms, which then become darker with age. This daphne variety was selected at RHS Wakehurst Place from seed Sir Peter Smithers collected in Nepal. Height 1.8m.
Spring and summer flowering daphne
Small, deciduous daphne shrub, which blooms from late spring well into summer, sometimes into autumn. The clusters of white daphne flowers are fragrant and often followed by yellow fruits. This daphne variety is best grown in dappled shade on moist, acid soil. Height 1.2m.
A small, spreading, evergreen daphne shrub that is happiest under the light shade of trees and tolerant of heavy clay soils. Glossy green leaves show off the large clusters of fragrant, yellow-green flowers that are produced freely all over this daphne plant in late spring. Height 60cm.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Astrid’
A rounded, bushy daphne shrub with narrow, blue-green leaves finely edged with creamy yellow. Clusters of fragrant, pink daphne flowers, appear from late spring through to midsummer. A good shrub for foliage interest. 60cm.
A dwarf daphne shrub with prostrate branches and narrow evergreen leaves. The large clusters of sweetly fragrant, pink flowers appear in mid to late spring. Often tricky to establish, this daphne variety needs a sheltered, open situation on chalk soil. Height 15cm.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Lavenirii’
A cross between Daphne cneorum and Daphne caucasica that was raised in France in 1920. This daphne has clusters of extremely fragrant, pale-pink flowers, darker in the centres, from late spring well into summer. A spreading daphne shrub, it grows best on alkaline soil. Height 60cm.
Daphne x rollsdorfii ‘Wilhelm Schacht’
A daphne variety that’s bushy and upright in habit with glossy, evergreen leaves this small shrub has particularly showy clusters of highly fragrant, purple-pink daphne flowers in mid-spring. Grows on alkaline or acid soil. Height 45cm.
Where to see daphne
Brandy Mount House, Alresford, Hampshire SO24 9EG. Tel 01962 732189.
Open by appointment. Home to National Collection of Daphne, held by Mr Michael Baron.