Daphne Odora ‘Aureomarginata’


Some shrubs are said to be finicky but worth the trouble, especially when they perfume the late winter air with a jasmine-like scent. Winter Daphne, Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’ has that spotty reputation, so it was with trepidation that it was nestled near the garage wall shortly after that structure was built in the Fairegarden.


Spotted at a big box store before the shelves there were lined with colorful annuals, it was sitting back in the back with the forlorn woody plants that had been neglected since November’s rush to get cut Christmas trees lined up for the holidays. It was the foliage that attracted the eye, shiny dark green with a creamy crisp edge, unaffected by waves of rain, snow and ice that make up winter weather in southeast Tennessee.


We are at the coldest edge of the hardiness zone range for the Winter Daphne, as it is called, but the variegated leaf cultivar is said to be easier to grow and less demanding than the green leaf species. The ever elusive well drained yet moist, humusy soil is a bit of a stretch here, but the good drainage we have in spades on our sloping property, even though the soil is red clay. The little plant was carefully placed in a hole with home made compost mixed in with the clumpy clay, under a young pink dogwood tree that would provide summer shade in years to come. Extra water was given the first season and a large stone was placed near the trunk to prevent heaving and squirrel digging in addition to holding moisture and shading the roots. Then we waited.


Books, magazine and online sources claimed these shrubs are short lived, dying suddenly with no warning just as they were reaching the vision after about four years in ground. Not a good marketing technique to say the least, but some gardeners are stubborn and will take on a challenge with Taurean determination. The search for winter interest required the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ to be given a chance to enliven the environs here.


Let us count the years, planted lovingly in 2002, this is the ninth birthday for our Daphne, named for a female figure in Greek mythology. Daphne was a nymph who transformed into a plant to escape Apollo’s unwanted advances; hence her reputation of elusiveness. Maybe we were not so aggressive towards her and she is happy to be left undisturbed. In reality, think well before placing your own Daphne, she does not like to be moved at all.


Placement should consider being close enough to enjoy the fragrance and flowers, planting near entryways or close to the edge of pathways. An Eastern exposure to protect from summer sun and winter wind burn is best, but some sun will produce better flowering. Smallish and with a rounded shape, growing to a mound about three by three feet so far, it is said that Daphne can grow a little taller and a lot wider if happy. No pruning is necessary.


The downside, if it can be considered such, is the difficulty I have found in capturing the beauty of the blooms in a photograph. It is always too bright, too dark, too windy for my inadequate talent with the camera. Some years the leaves are spotted and unattractive, allowing only closeups. There are always so many other flowers opening at the same time to showcase on the blog, brilliant daffodils and other early bulbs, the witch hazels and others, so Daphne’s glamour shots get cast to the floor. Not so this time. While the images are less than stellar, this is her moment of fame.


Here are the plant facts gleaned from various sources:

zones 7-9
protected sun, partial shade to full shade
slightly acidic, very well drained soil
extra water to establish
deer resistant
all parts are poisonous

This evergreen daphne is wonderfully fragrant, with its sweetness carrying on the air in March and April. It’s also a very pretty shrub, with long, narrow leaves edged in creamy gold. Its flowers are small and waxy-looking, and they emerge from attractive purple buds.

History
Winter daphne is native to China and has been described in that culture’s literature and pharmacopoeia for a thousand years. It was also depicted on a Japanese scroll in 1309. The plant was named by Thunberg who first saw it in 18th century Japan and described it in his work, Flora Japonica. The plant was first introduced into Britain via Kew in 1771. The genus contains about 50 species.

Flower/Fruit: Rosy purple buds open rose pink; flowers in late winter to early spring; fragrant; seldomly produces red fruit
(ours has not produced berries that we have noticed) Flowers range from pink to white to deep red, and leaves are green edged with gold. Needs fast-draining soil, so use in rock gardens and containers. Grow in borders near walkways or under windows where you can catch their perfume. Since they grow well in full sun or light shade, you can plant them under trees or on the north side of the house. One problem with these plants is that they sometimes die suddenly for no known reason. Mulch to keep roots cool in summer.

Give Daphne odora ‘Aureamarginata’ a go, if your conditions allow, and be sure to treat her with the respect we all deserve.

Frances

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35 Responses to Daphne Odora ‘Aureomarginata’

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have read the first part of the requirements of this beautiful shrub many times and wish that I could grow it. My heart sinks when I read the zone lines. ~~Sigh. It is not meant to be but when I see lovely descriptions and beautiful photos I almost feel that I can smell these brave little blooms. I have enjoyed the offering this morning of this dreamy plant.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for visiting and admiring Daphne even if it just outside of your zone reach. It is a sweetheart that is not as well known as it should be. :-)
    Frances

  2. Carol says:

    Taurean determination? That’s a new one on me. She is a beauty, just as elusive to photograph as her namesake.

    HA Carol, you know, bull headed! Thanks for dropping by. :-)
    Frances

  3. Randy Emmitt says:

    Frances,
    This year the daphnes don’t seem to have as much aroma as last year. Guess it is all about the amount of rain. Glad your have been so long lived.

    Hi Randy, thanks for visiting. I tried sniffing and thought it was just my stuffed up nose not picking up the scent. I do remember previous years being able to do so. Perhaps warmer temps will help release the perfume, that seems to be the way the witch hazels work. Better to attract the pollinators when the weather is warmer, there are more of them out and about. :-)
    Frances

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi Frances,

    It is a beautiful shrub but I cannot grow it in zone 5. However, as a replacement, I have Viburnum Carlesi Compactum, leaves not as showy, but the flowers smell and look wonderful.

    Eileen

    Hi Eileen, thanks for stopping by. Those Viburnums are fabulous and have the benefit of fall color that the Daphne cannot manage. :-)
    Frances

  5. Les says:

    Worth any and every effort! I found the mother and aunt of all Winter Daphnes this weekend at a local house-museum. The big one was about 3′ tall by 5′ wide and her sibling only slightly less. I could smell them well before seeing them.

    Ah, good to know, Les. Reading up on the Daphnes, it seems there are some places where it is very happy and rewards the lucky by growing quite wide. I need to go give it another sniff test, thanks. :-)
    Frances

  6. Jean Blanton says:

    This was my first posting from Fairegarden and what a wonderful start. I have 2 daphnes and never have I smelled the wonderful scent more strongly. Maybe we should measure our daphnes in total years of pleasure rather than the life span of one plant. I have 2 of these shrubs in my gardens now but I’ve have enjoyed their attributes for over 9 years and can’t imagine being without one or more.
    Thanks again for a beautiful start to this day. I look forward to being here often.
    Jean

    Hi Jean, thanks for visiting and welcome. How wonderful that you have two Daphnes and they are perfuming your grounds! May they live long there and continue to prosper. :-)
    Frances

  7. So lovely and fragrant! The blooms are so pretty.

    I really miss my daphne that lasted 3 years– I will replace her in a year or so as my garden matures with more tree foliage to protect from the hottest part of the summer days.

    Hi Cameron, thanks. The blooms are prettier than my meager photo attempts show. The color and shade confuse my camera, but I am glad you are planning on replacing yours when there is ample protection from that hot sun. :-)
    Frances

  8. No Daphne here, but the Viburnums fit the bill. Carlesii is a fav of mine and I use it where ever I can because of the sweet smell. My grower has fields of them and they are amazing all in bloom.

    Hi Donna, I am so glad you have the Viburnums for the sweet fragrance. We have an unknown early blooming Viburnum that has escaped my attempts at identification that blooms early and smells heavenly. I wonder if it is the Carlesii? It is well over ten feet tall and six feet wide in deep shade.
    Frances

  9. She is beautiful. I’m afraid she would not like it here though. I will enjoy her at your home instead. :)

    Hi Dee, thanks for visiting and enjoying the Daphne vicariously. :-)
    Frances

  10. My Kids Mom says:

    We had one in our backyard when we bought our house. We could smell it out front by the street when it bloomed. It didn’t make it through last winter (making it more than 12 years old) so with my front yard changes I just put two of them in- one on each side of my front door. They may only be 12″ tall, but they each are offering up 2 or 3 blooms this spring already. And I know that because I can smell them a mile away!

    They seem to be somewhat uncommon, but if they’re a bit sheltered from wind and weather, I think they’re better than gardenias. Which is what I put in the backyard spot when I removed the dead daphne….

    Hi Jill, thanks for adding to the conversation here. I am sorry for the loss of the mature Daphne, but so glad to hear you have replacements with buds already in place. Way to make the adjustment quickly, my kind of gardener! :-)
    Frances

  11. Don’t you love to defy what the experts say? I do. This Daphne has been in my garden, for 7 years, in the absence of shadow in Helen’s Haven’s western sun. But just in case, I’ve planted two if one just up and dies. H.

    I do, Helen, yes I do! I am so happy for your Daphne’s success and that you are getting to enjoy it by the front door. Having a backup is a great idea! What a strange thing, for a shrub to up and die for no reason!
    Frances

  12. OK…your post has convinced me to try again! My last daphne was a delight while she lasted (many years, actually). The heavenly scent at this time of year meant more to me than anything else to come out of the winter garden…especially brought indoors in a vase.

    Hi Wendy, thanks for visiting. I hope you can find another Daphne to fill your home with perfume in late winter. I think I can smell it now… :-)
    Frances

  13. gail says:

    Dear Frances, Just when I had decided the reason she didn’t bloom this year was last years drought~I discover, and I thank you my dear, that the real reason is that she was dug up by a chipmunk and had to be replanted. She’s sulking…so maybe next year she will bloom and perfume my garden again. xxoogail PS I so appreciate her “shiny dark green with a creamy crisp edge” foliage, too.

    Hi Gail, I am so sorry for your vandalism at the hands of the evil varmints! I hope your Daphne recovers to give you future blooms and that delightful scent. I know what an able sniffer you have! :-)
    xxxooo
    Frances

  14. Marguerite says:

    A job well done spotting this plant and growing it so well! Those leaves really are eye catching. Just a little cream to catch the eye but not overwhelming.

    Thanks Marguerite. It took some time before Miss Daphne looked like much, several years of stickdom, but she is now quite fetching. I agree completely about the variegation, very subtle, just right! :-)
    Frances

  15. I think you have done her justice Frances, and she deserves it, what a lovely plant. I’m not usually a fan of variegation, but that is so subtle I am rather taken. Another shrub for the “one day” list, as I don’t currently have anywhere for her that would mean I could appreciate her scent. I’m glad she made it off the cutting room floor!

    Hi Janet, thanks so much. I don’t care much for shrub variegation either, usually they look ill, but this creamy edge is just right and takes this Daphne from bland to breathtaking. I cannot do her justice with my camera, she is much more lovely than these photos show, but thank you for those kind words. :-)
    Frances

  16. Charlotte says:

    More wonderful pictures Frances … and Daphne is the most gorgeous plant!

    Hi Charlotte, thanks. Daphne has been blooming and looking pretty for several years here without being showcased on the blog due to my ineptitude with the camera. She deserves to be more widely planted by those living in the proper zonage. :-)
    Frances

  17. Kathy says:

    Too bad you can’t send fragrance over the internet. I can’t grow it, therefore I can’t smell it. I will have to try that Viburnum again. It expired in a drought before it ever bloomed.

    Too bad there is no smell-a-blog plug in, Kathy! Not that I would be able to figure out how to install it, perhapss with your able assistance. I have an early Viburnum that might be similar to the ones people are describing, the scent is head snapping! You need another, for sure! :-)
    Frances

  18. Janet says:

    I have the GREAT desire to have a Daphne, though with this clay I know she wont be happy. I will figure out a place and start ammending the soil for a couple years to make a nice place for her…..I WILL have one.

    Janet, we also have clay soil, especially over on the side of the garage where there was excavation to build the garage. Awful thick solid red clay. I added compost to the hole when the Daphne was planted and has added soil conditioner as mulch a couple of times. It takes a while to get going, plant now, is my advice. :-)
    Frances

  19. Rose says:

    Wow, what a beauty! She must have been very happy to have you rescue her from the big box shelves; she certainly seems to be thriving in your garden, Frances. Obviously, I can’t grow this Daphne in my garden; I’ll just have to admire yours…along with the Pink Muhly:)

    Thanks Rose. Daphne has turned out to be a lovely girl after a few years of stickdom. Maybe someday you can see her, and the muhly in person! :-)
    Frances

  20. I have been growing winter daphne, the straight species with green leaves, in zone 6 for almost 20 years. The shrubs just succumbed last winter when they were hit by falling white pine branches. Not only do they not like to be moved, they don’t like to be disturbed at all. If they get bent over by snow or falling branches, they often die suddenly. I believe it’s because pathogens then enter their system.

    Hi Carolyn, thanks for adding in here. I am so sorry you lost your Daphne to the falling branches. I will not do anything in the way of pruning and offer protection to mine. It is under a pink dogwood and near hellebores.
    Frances

  21. Lesley says:

    Gorgeous!

    Thanks Lesley. :-)
    Frances

  22. Karen Thews says:

    I live in Laurel, Maryland zip code 20723. Some sites say I live in zone 6 but some say zone 7. Do you think the Daphne odora would survive in my climate? I’d love to plant some around the foundation on the north side of my home.

    Hi Karen, thanks for reading. It is hard for me to say whether the Daphne would be a good choice for your foundation. You might speak with a good nursery owner, or local garden clubs about that. If it were my house, I would probably not depend on that alone as the foundation planting, since the research says it can be short lived. Using it as a replaceable specimen would be the safer course. Good luck! :-)
    Frances

  23. Leeza Dunbar says:

    Hi there,
    On the North Shore, Vancouver, Canada. The scent brought me to this wonderful Daphne in late February. Analysis paralysis “picking the best one”. Have it in a beautiful container on my patio by my sliding door. Blooming since February 20th and we are now May 1st. Blooms starting to finish…that scent! Live in a townhouse … fragrance stops people dead in their tracks! Was reticent – am a new gardener – never had a garden or patio and so never owned a plant until 14 months ago (though grew up with a family of avid gardeners). Admittedly “fussed over”, hopefully it will be happy here in the years to come.

    Hi Leeza, thanks for visiting and welcome. It sounds like you are a true gardener, it is in your genes! :-)
    Frances

  24. Michele says:

    Hi! So glad to read your story. My Daphne Ordora died suddenly over this past winter, but I have had it since I moved into my house in 1992… and it was here a few years before that. So, yes, mine lived for OVER 20 years!! It was in a great north-eastern spot, next to the house, next to a huge camelia. It was a happy camper (well, at least until it died suddenly – but I’m guessing that was simply old age). I have my next Daphne Odora that I am planting today in the same spot. I love, love, LOVE it!

    Hi Michele, thanks for sharing your story. Twenty years is fanatastic, congratulations, but I am so sorry to hear of the loss. May your new Daphne live just as long, if not longer!
    Frances

  25. paula says:

    we bought three daphne’s and want to plant along a neighbor fir shrub trees hedge. Will their roots affect our daphne’s?
    We live in Vancouver WA. Thank you for your respond. Paula

    I am not sure how the Daphne roots will do with the large trees, but would suggest extra water to get them established.

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  27. sue says:

    My parents had Daphne for so many years in zone 6, Busan Korea. I grow up smelling the flowers so I am little disappointed the fact that they have short life and up to zone 7 (maybe 6). I live in zone 5 now and love to have the plant!!! In Korea, we used to call ” fragrant to the thousand miles”.

    Welcome Sue, and thanks for adding in here. I am sorry you don’t live where this Daphne will grow. What a lovely name for it!
    Frances

  28. I took a Daphne to my sister for her new garden in Birmingham. She and my brother-in-law had beautiful plantings in New Mexico for many years but weren’t familiar with this lovely plant. I can’t wait for her call after the buds open and she gets a whiff of that delicious fragrance. I got one for myself at the same time to grow in Atlanta to replace the one that “up and died.” We’ll see how long we can keep these going. Your beautiful photographs and detailed planting advice are just the inspiration we need.

    Hi Georgie, thanks for visiting. I am so happy to have inspired you with the Daphne story. So far, so good with ours, but I fear any year it could also *up and die*. In 2012, it is loaded with buds, more than ever, perhaps thanks to all of this winter rain. Good luck to you and your sister with the Daphnes. Worth the effort!
    Frances

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  32. valorie says:

    here in portland oregon, planted 2 of these about 6 years ago, one now 3×4, the other about 5×4, didnt know they were finicky and they have been wonderful and fragrant, in a protected spot, along a walkway, they make the long gray days of oregon march more hopeful that spring will come. Hope they keep going!

    Glad to hear of your success, Valorie!

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  34. Lulugemini says:

    I have loved daphnes since I was a little girl. I planted an odora that flourished for 10 years before I had to move. Don’t know if we can start them from cuttings or not.??? The fragrance is like no other, in my opinion. I also love the plumerias in Hawaii. I want to purchase an odora online for my daughter-in-law’s birthday, but I can’t find any in stock online. We live in Northern California.

    I hope you can find an odora for your daughter-in-law’s birthday. If you do, try to take some cuttings, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck!
    Frances

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