Daphne for Iowa Landscapes

Not only is Daphne a goddess in Greek mythology, it is also a goddess-like shrub in the landscape.  Daphne is a genus with more than 70 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs.  Many of the species are native to Asia, Europe, and North Africa.  Many species are adored for their attractive and fragrant spring flowers.

Popular Species

Scientific Name

Flower color

Height x Spread

Comments

Daphne x burkwoodii

Pinkish white, fragrant

3-5 ft x 5-6 ft

Several popular cultivars with variegated leaves

Daphne caucasica

White, fragrant

4-5 ft x 4-5 ft

Deciduous shrub

Daphne cneorum

Rosy-pink

1 ft x 2 ft

Popular rock garden plant

Daphne mezereum

Rosy-pink

3-5 ft x3-5 ft

Semi-evergreen leaves

 


Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackii.' Photo courtesy of Cynthia Haynes. 

Environmental Conditions

While daphnes are well-worth growing in any landscape, they are also noted as a temperamental or sometimes challenging genus to grow well.  Sudden death of daphne shrubs for no apparent reason is common.  Ideal light and soil conditions are essential for best growth.

Light – Daphne plants perform best in partial shade.  Ideal conditions include a couple of hours of direct light in early morning or late afternoon with shade during the middle of the day.

Soil – Daphne roots insist on moist, well-drained soils throughout the year.  Roots rot quickly in poorly drained soils. Poorly drained soils in winter or early spring seem to be especially harmful or lethal.  In fact, planting with the root system slightly high is recommended, regardless of soil type.  A light layer of mulch can be used to cover slightly exposed roots.

When site conditions are ideal, plants are long-lived and valued for their small stature as foundation plants.  They are also highly prized for their slow growth, fragrant flowers, and resistance to insect pests.  But like any goddess, these plants require extra planning and preparation prior to planting.  Gardeners must make sure suitable soil and light conditions are met to keep daphnes thriving in the landscape.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 9, 2021. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.