Planting And Caring For Winter Daphne

Despite the remarkable variety of gardening myths about its requirements, Winter Daphne is very hardy and easy to grow.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...


Cultural Preferences


Soil Preferences

Winter Daphne will thrive a wide variety of soils, including amended clay. It prefers a lightly moist, humusy, sandy, well-drained soil. As with so many other types of ornamental shrubs, constantly soggy or wet soils can be a killer. So just make sure to plant your Winter Daphne in well-drained soil. When watering, water only as needed to maintain a damp soil. During winter Daphne will rarely if ever require supplemental water. 


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Winter Daphne, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. 

To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions and possibly a need to add some moisture retentive organic matter. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Winter Daphne grow best in a slightly acid to neutral soil ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.


Testing Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Winter Daphne, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. 

You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Preferences

Winter Daphne thrives in deep shade to part shade. Morning sun with afternoon shade or all-day dappled shade is fine. Avoid exposure to direct afternoon sun.



How To Plant A Winter Daphne Plant In The Ground

Scroll down for container planting instructions


PLEASE NOTE: Because established Daphne plants do not like to be moved, take time to choose the planting location where your Daphne will permanently reside and grow.


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and as deep or not much deeper than the root ball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility, and porosity of the soil in the planting area, it may be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in heavy clay soil mix bagged top soil or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil to enhance porosity and ensure good drainage. When planting in a sandy, quick-draining soil amending with top soil or peat moss will help with moisture retention and also supply plants with vital nutrients. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained soil there may not be a need to amend soil.


Step 3

Daphne plants do not like to have their roots disturbed. So, to remove your Winter Daphne plant from the nursery container it was grown in it might be best to use a snipping tool to carefully cut the container away. That said, if you can very carefully lift and remove the root ball from the container without causing damage to the roots you can do it that way.

CAUTION, PLEASE NOTE!  There is no need to loosen feeder roots on Daphne plants before planting. Daphne do not like to have their roots disturbed or damaged, which can cause stress and possible death of the plant.


Step 4

How you plant your Daphne might depend on the soil drainage. Before planting a Daphne, we strongly advise testing the soil drainage in the planting area. See: How To Test Soil Drainage

Well-Drained Soil: When planting in a well-drained soil, or one that drains at at least 1 inch per hour during the soil drainage test, set your Winter Daphne in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is slightly above ground level to allow for settling.

Moderately Draining Soil: When planting in soil that drains more slowly, at 1/2 to 3/4  inch per hour during the soil drainage test, set the plant in the planting hole so that 2 to 3 inches of the root ball is above ground level. It may be necessary to place some of your backfill soil mixture in the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.

Poor Draining Soil: If the soil in the planting hole takes more than a day to drain, which means the roots of a plant will be standing in water for a day or more after heavy rainfall, take measures to improve soil drainage or select another plant species more tolerant of wet soils.

Step 5

After setting your Winter Daphne in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight while using your other hand to begin backfilling the soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. Be careful to disturb the roots of the plant as little as possible while backfilling your soil mixture around the root ball. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue backfilling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.

Note:  If you are planting with the top of the root ball higher than ground level, as shown in the planting illustration above, taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level. 


Step 6

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. To stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Winter Daphne with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.

Note:  Allow soil to dry out before watering again. See Daphne watering instructions further below on this page.


Step 7

Apply a thin, 1" layer of shredded wood mulch or bark, or a 1-2" layer of pine straw, around your newly planted shrub. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of the shrub as this could cause problems with the bark.



How To Plant a Winter Daphne in A Container


It has been our experience that Winter Daphne do not really like growing in a container or pot. The plant seems to suffer during the heat of summer when their roots are exposed to warmer air temperatures. That said, gardeners further North might have better success growing them in pots. If you live north of USDA Zone 7a, where Winter Daphne is not cold hardy, plants must be grown in pots that can be overwintered indoors. 

Winter Daphne plants growing in pots appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy or wet soil is problematic. Therefore, when planting a Winter Daphne in a container or pot, we recommend using a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof, in a container with a drainage hole(s). To ensure good draiange, you can add 20% perlite or pumice to the soil mixture. 

Choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 4 inches or more in rim diameter than the root ball of your Winter Daphne. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the flower and foliage color of your Winter Daphne, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you plave gravel or other materials in the bottom of the container lay the fabric over it.


Step 2

To remove your Winter Daphne plant from the nursery container it was grown in it is best to use a snipping tool to cut the container away. 

CAUTION:  There is no need to loosen feeder roots before planting. Disturbing the roots can be problematic.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the shrub in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2" below the rim of the container.

Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.

Note:  Allow soil to dry out before watering again.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips to soil surface for decoration.



How To Grow and Care for Winter Daphne

Feeding - Watering - Pruning


How To Fertilize Winter Daphne

Winter Daphne are light feeders. We recommend feeding lightly after flowering with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer or a natural, organic plant food. Plants growing in container can be fed lightly in spring with a slow-release or water soluble fertilizer listed for use in containers. 

Soil pH

Winter Daphne grow best in a moderately acid to neutral soil ranging from around 6.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

Testing Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Winter Daphne, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. 

You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




How To Water a Winter Daphne

Winter Daphne are very drought tolerant shrubs that require little if any supplemental water when established. As with so many other ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can be a killer.

Tip:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliar diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet. 


At Planting Time

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Winter Daphne with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


During the First Active Growth Season

Newly planted Winter Daphne will need some water to establish themselves, but go light with the hose. You should never have to water your Daphne plants every day. After a good deep soaking, depending on soil type, drainage in the planting area, and weather conditions, it might be days to weeks before a Daphne will need water again. Therefore, always make sure check soil moisture with your finger or a moisture meter and provide water only if the soil around the plant has become dry or slightly damp. 

During the cooler dormant season, when plants are not actively growing, Daphne will rarely if ever require water. That said, if during the winter the soil is dry due to a prolonged drought, and severe cold temperatures of below freezing are forecast, it's a good idea to soak the soil, which helps to protect the roots from freeze drying.


Thereafter

When established, Winter Daphne are very drought tolerant. Little or no water for established plants during the dry season should encourage flower production for the following year and help prevent root rot and other harmful plant diseases. Drooping leaves during a drought could be a sign that your Winter Daphne needs water. That said, wet soil can cause wilting leaves. So always check soil moisture before watering. 



How To Prune a Winter Daphne

Because Winter Daphne does not heal well over cuts into mature wood (branches) heavy pruning is best avoided. Prune only to remove a damaged or stray branch that is spoiling the shape of the shrub. Make your cut just beyond the point of breakage or a quarter-inch above its origin (where it intersects another branch).


Plant Long & Prosper!

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