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Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones 4-10, 12, 15-24, 31, 33
Partial Sun
Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (‘Marginata’)

Variegated Winter Daphne
Thymelaeaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs

DAPHNE

Although some daphnes are easier to grow than others, all require fast-draining soil and careful summer watering. They are generally more temperamental in California than in the Northwest.

Plants respond to heavy pruning but rarely need more than the occasional snip to correct their shape. Cut back to lateral branches or to just above obvious growth buds. You can cut budded branches of deciduous types for forced bloom indoors.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Daphne odora

From China, Japan. So prized for its pervasive floral perfume that it continues to be widely planted despite its unpredictable behavior—it can die despite the most attentive care, or flourish with little attention until you invite all your gardening friends over to admire it, at which point it promptly succumbs without warning just to show you who’s in charge.

Very neat, handsome plant, usually to about 4 ft. high (occasionally 8–10 ft. high) and 6 ft. wide. Rather narrow, 3-in.-long leaves are thick and glossy. Nosegay clusters of charming, intensely fragrant flowers—pink to deep red on the outside, with creamy pink throats—appear at branch ends in winter.

This species needs much air around its roots, so plant in porous soil (as you would rhododendrons). Always set plant a bit high, so the juncture of roots and stems is 1–2 in. above soil grade. Where soil is heavy and poorly drained, grow in a porous, organic soil mixture in a raised bed or container. In Zones 18–24, transplanting an existing D. odora often fails—digging cuts roots, the plant suffers, and water molds get at it. Transplanting has a somewhat better chance of success in Zones 4–9, 14–17.

Plant this daphne where it can get at least 3 hours of shade each day around midday. If possible, shade soil around roots with living groundcover. A soil pH of 7.0 is right for it (important in Zones 4–6). Feed right after bloom with a complete fertilizer but not acid plant food.

During the dry season, water as infrequently as plant will allow. Little or no water in summer increases flowering next spring and helps prevent death from water molds.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

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‘Aureomarginata’ (‘Marginata’)

More widely grown than the species. Leaves are irregularly edged in creamy yellow.

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