Carolina Garden: Winter Daphne

Winter Daphne may be the sweetest bloomer in your winter garden, but it can also be one of the most difficult to grow. Prized for its fragrant clusters of blossoms, as the name implies, the Winter Daphne blooms in the darkest depths of winter. While I can appreciate the sweet smelling blossoms, for me the real beauty is in the redish-pink buds. In the week or so before the blooms open, the red clusters of buds begin to swell. At this point the flower is at the height of its beauty. As beautiful as Winter Daphne can be, it can also be the source of great frustration. Young plants need constant moisture, but can not tolerate over watering. (Unless you have an irrigation system, I would not recommend this plant.) Daphne is also intolerant of root disturbance, which makes it a poor candidate for transplanting. Daphne can be susceptible to disease and like oleander, Daphne is toxic to humans and pets. To cap it off, Daphne is a short lived shrub. Even healthy well maintained plants have a life span of 8 to 10 years. So if you work hard and do everything right, you‘ll still end up with a dead plant.